After launching the Echo over a year ago, today Amazon announced two new additions to the lineup of voice-controlled smart hubs that house the company's personal assistant Alexa. Users will now be able to purchase a more portable version of Echo with Amazon Tap, and even expand the device's power into other rooms with Echo Dot.
The $130 Amazon Tap is a more rugged, pick-up-and-go alternative to the original Echo, housing built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the company's Alexa operating system. Instead of interacting with Alexa through always-on functionality, Amazon Tap requires users to tap the microphone button on the front of the speaker to access the service's voice commands. If connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot, users will be able to gain access to all of the normal, cloud-based features the Echo grants at home.
TechCrunch got a brief hands-on demo of Amazon Tap and came away largely satisfied with its sound quality and battery life:
Amazon demonstrated the sound quality to me before Tap went out today and I can say it did provide an impressive musical experience. Duel-firing Dolby speakers enable Tap to provide rich, 360-degree quality sound.
It’s also meant to tote around and comes with a pretty solid battery life for that purpose. A fully charged Tap will last for up to nine hours of playback or three weeks in standby mode.
Alternatively, Amazon also has created a new household expansion to Echo with Echo Dot. The small, palm-sized device will let users expand the capabilities of Echo to different rooms of their house for $90, or half of Echo's $180 price tag. Like the flagship Echo product, Echo Dot uses far-field voice recognition to respond to the inquiries of its user while simultaneously being able to detect commands specified towards it over other the din of a room.
Echo Dot still may run into issues if it's asked to perform actions in a separate room, and having two Echo devices in the same location may also cause problems. "Dot is meant for one area at a time," according to Amazon.
No specific launch date was given for Amazon Tap or Echo Dot, but the company is attempting an interesting release plan for the latter device: users will only be able to buy the $90 Echo Dot from an Echo itself or Amazon Fire TV. The $130 Amazon Tap will be available through the company's traditional online marketplace.