Amazon.com is looking to an ageing technology to continue its push to digitise and connect the home: the landline phone.
At an event in Seattle in the US on Wednesday, Amazon unveiled a US$35 (R475) device, the Echo Connect, that plugs into existing home landline phone jacks. The other end connects to Echo speakers so people can use their voice to ask to make calls and chat hands-free. The system can make and receive calls as well as make calls to emergency phone numbers, Amazon said.
Amazon also announced that its Echo speakers will receive support for making standard phone calls. Previously, using Alexa Communications, Echo speakers could only make calls between other Alexa devices plus smartphones running the Alexa app. Alexa voice calling and messaging will be available on devices made by other companies, Amazon added.
The Echo Connect will be released in the fourth quarter in the US and it will come to the UK next year.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its popular Alexa-powered Echo speaker that the e-commerce giant said has better sound.
The new speaker has a dedicated woofer and tweeter for improved music playback as well as a new set of far-field microphones to better hear what users are saying, Amazon said. The new version comes in six different colours.
The new Echo costs $99, a significant price drop from the current model’s $180 price. It’s available immediately from Amazon’s website, said Dave Limp, who runs the company’s Alexa and Echo lines. There will also be a two-pack available that saves consumers $50.
The better sound takes on new speakers from companies including Apple and Google. Apple will release its HomePod speaker with Siri integration and loud speakers for Apple Music later this year, while Google is expected to unveil a smaller Home speaker in October. — Reported by Mark Gurman, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP