The Amazon Echo has become a cult gadget with consumers and critics alike, and has helped lay the foundations for the new and possibly highly-lucrative smart speaker market. After targeting the lower end of the price spectrum with the Echo Dot, Amazon is now reported to be going after the premium tier with a new Echo-like device featuring a built-in display.
Bloomberg reports that the new device under development by Amazon will be radically different from its current Echo smart speaker in both form and function, and could be announced as early as Q1 2017. It's thought that Amazon is keen to capitalise on the success of its Echo and Echo Dot devices and ensure it continues to hold an advantage over Google and other early rivals in the smart speaker domain.
The biggest change will be the addition of a seven-inch touchscreen, allowing for both voice and touch-based input. The display will make it possible for users to access information that's trickier to relay through Amazon's Alexa digital assistant or otherwise requires some form of visual information, such as weather conditions, news and calendar appointments. Users will be able to tilt the display so that it can be read from sitting and standing positions, sources told Bloomberg.
Amazon's premium smart speaker will be powered by an "optimised" version of the company's Fire OS, a forked version of Google's Android platform that Amazon currently uses for its range of Fire tablets and TV streaming units. The speakers themselves will be upgraded and will reportedly be louder and sound "much better" than the current Echo. An early model of the new model is said to feature speakers above and below the display.
Interestingly, Bloomberg reports that Amazon is also exploring a feature whereby users can "pin items such as photos on their speaker's screen akin to physically placing items on a refrigerator door." Our guess is that this will be akin to pinning widgets to a smartphone or tablet's home screen, potentially allowing users to place things like shopping lists and do-to lists on smart speaker's display where they can be easily viewed.
The new device will still be capable of voice input and output, and Amazon will continue to sell its current smart speakers alongside its new offering, which will be more expensive than the £120/$150 Echo and £40/$50 Dot. It's not yet clear whether the new device will be a continuation of the Echo brand or a new product line entirely.
When approached for comment, an Amazon spokesperson told IBTimes UK: "We don't comment on rumour or speculation."