The Amazon Echo is bound for Britain, as Amazon finally announces the UK launch and release date of its digital assistant speaker.
At an event in London, Amazon confirmed that its long-awaited Amazon Echo speaker would be coming to the UK and Germany in autumn this year, as well as introducing a new white version of the product and refreshing its smaller Amazon Dot sibling.
In the UK, you can pre-order starting today for £149.99 , and in Germany for €179.99 euros. If you're a Prime customer, you can bag £50/€50 off if you order within the next two days.
Amazon Echo is a smart speaker that was launched for US Prime members back in November 2014. It eventually went on general release in the states in June last year, but there was no word on a UK release at the time.
When it launched, it had just 13 skills, but Amazon says this skill set has now grown to over 3,000. New UK partners include: Sky Sports, Uber, The Telegraph, Just Eat, TuneIn, Radioplayer, Jamie Oliver, The Guardian, Skyscanner, Spotify, Landrapp, National Rail, and BMW.
On the smart home front, there's also lighting support for platforms like Phillips Hue and Samsung SmartThings, as well as thermostat support for Nest, Hive, and Honeywell.
Here's what they look like in the flesh.
Echo features a digital assistant called ‘Alexa’, which is like Amazon’s version of Siri (Apple), Google Now (Google, and Cortana (Microsoft). Alexa responds to her name, and will help you get stuff done. Echo features include voice interaction, music playback, making lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing real-time information on traffic and weather.
"Echo is a piece of hardware that’s very low cost, but it’s connected to the cloud. And the brain behind Echo is Alexa. Alexa sits in the cloud and she’s always getting smarter,” said Dave Limp, Senior VP of Device and Services at Amazon, speaking at today’s event. "We have a team of over 1,000 people around the world including people here in the UK that are working on making Alexa better and better for customers.”
"When we see people using the results of all this hard work, they often use the word that it’s magic," continued Limp, adding that the voice team would not stop working until "Alexa is indistinguishable from a human voice".
The Echo’s original launch was marred by concerns over privacy, after some complained that the device could listen to private conversations in users' homes. Amazon was quick to respond, confirming that Echo will only stream recordings from your home when the wake word – i.e. ‘Alexa’ – is used.
However, it’s worth remembering that the Echo will always be listening out for ‘Alexa’, and so is technically always on. There's now a 'red-light' system that signals when the customer has turned the microphone off. This prevents the Echo from streaming audio to the cloud, stops it from listening to the 'wake word', and disconnects power from the microphone.
Amazon also announced a new version of the Amazon Echo Dot. The Dot was originally launched in the US back in March, but an "all-new version" will now be coming to the UK in both black and white colour variants. It's a smaller version of the Echo that can hook up to your existing speaker systems, and retains its larger sibling's 'Alexa' functionality.
The new Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation) costs £49.99 at Amazon UK. Better still, if you buy 10 of them, you'll get two more Dots free of charge.
What do you think of Amazon Echo? Let us know in the comments.