The Amazon 2019 hardware launch event was filled with new Alex-powered gadgets – 14 of them to be precise – and we got hands-on time with several of them.
It was a 90-minute fast-moving presentation, than spanned expected Echo speaker and screen refreshes to surprise announcements like the Echo Frames (glasses) to the Echo Loop (a smart ring).
The thing about Amazon events is that many of their products go on sale right away, with others up for pre-order. There’s only one Amazon hardware device we couldn’t find a way to buy just yet. We’re sure it’s coming.
Here’s a list of what Amazon announced and where to buy them:
- Amazon Echo Dot with Clock ($59.99)
- All-new Amazon Echo ($99.99)
- Amazon Echo Studio ($199.99)
- Amazon Echo Show 8 ($129.99)
- Amazon Echo Glow ($29.99)
- Amazon eero (from $99/£99)
- Amazon Echo Flex ($24.99)
- Retrofit alarm kit (from $199)
- Ring Stick-Up Cam ($99.99)
- Ring Indoor Cam ($59.99)
- Amazon Smart Oven ($249.99)
- Amazon Echo Buds ($129.99)
- Amazon Echo Frames ($179.99, invite only)
- Amazon Echo Loop ($129.99, invite only)
- Bonus: Samuel L. Jackson voice for Alexa ($0.99)
Amazon 2019 launch news stories
Amazon 2019 launch: as it happened
All times are in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
11:25 – PHEW. It’s over. That’s an awful lot of product. We’re going to race around and see what we can get hands on with and bring you our findings as soon as we can. Thanks for joining!
11:20 – Amazon’s only gone a put a ring on it! Beyoncé will be pleased. Introducing the Echo Loop, a smart ring which has two mics which can be activated by a button on the base of the device, working alongside your phone, and allows you to send messages to your home’s Echo devices.
The Echo Loop also includes a haptic engine for vibration feedback, which can alert you to notifications.
Amazon’s Echo Loop on-stage demo hasn’t worked, but it’s likely to be a non-final unit. It’ll set you back $129.99 and like the Frames, will be invite-only to start with.
11:18 – Hello Amazon Echo Frames! Yes, Amazon is getting into the smart glasses game with these 31g frames with stems which look kinda chunky if we’re honest. There’s no display, and no camera. Instead the Echo Frames feature discrete directional mics, allowing you to chat to Alexa hands-free when you’re out and about.
Sound from the built-in speakers is also discrete, allowing you to hear, but not others around you. The Echo Frames cost $179.99, and will be available via invite only – how exclusive.
11:15 – We’ve been waiting to hear about them, and here we go! Amazon Echo Buds confirmed – true wireless earbuds set to rival Apple AirPods. Available to pre-order today for $129.99, and shipping in time for Christmas.
The Echo Buds offer up to 5 hours of battery life on a single charge, and the charging case can take up total up to 20 hours between visits to a plug.
Amazon says: “each earbud has two premium, balanced armature drivers, inspired by those used by professional musicians. These deliver crisp, clear vocals, and dynamic bass.”
11:11 – Amazon Fetch, for the best doggy bois! It’s a pet tracker that uses the Amazon Sidewalk network to keep an eye on where your dog has got to. If your dog is near an Amazon Sidewalk connected device, you’ll get an idea of where it’s ran off to.
11:09: Amazon Sidewalk is a new low-energy network protocol using the 900Mhz wave to allow devices around your home to speak to each other. Should make for more secure and stable interactions for your devices, as well as being less of a battery drain for products that run off a battery. It’ll also mesh with other user’s Sidewalk-enabled devices.
11:06: Whodda thunk it? The Alexa Microwave is now the best-selling microwave on Amazon, and now adding to that explosion in Alexa appliance tech is a new Amazon Smart Oven. Convection cooking, air-frying, all with voice control in the new devices. And it’s a microwave too. It’s smart enough to allow you to scan a product’s packaging, and pre-program the oven to automatically cook it to perfection. Available for pre-order today for $249.99 (and that includes a free Echo Dot thrown in, too).
11:05 – A new Ring Indoor Cam is being introduced too for $59, along with a revised Stick Up Cam for $99.99. Big push on security and smart home functionality here at this year’s Amazon event.
11:00 – Now the Ring Retrofit Alarm Kit being talked about on stage. Lets you take an existing alarm system for your home that isn’t smart, and update it with Ring smart controls. $199 for the kit, $375 if you throw in a Ring hub, too.
10:58 – Another new Echo, the Echo Flex. No cables, simply just a plug that goes into the wall. Includes a mic and a small speaker (not optimised for music), but makes for a simple Alexa smart home access point that you can put almost anywhere. Includes a USB port for charging so you don’t lose a power outlet entirely. There’s a software and hardware API for it, and so there’s already motion sensor accessory that can be plugged into the bottom, as well as a Smart Nightlight add-on too. Very neat! The Echo Flex will cost just $24.99. A nice, small smart addition there. Accessories available for $14.
10:56 – Onto Alexa Guard now, Amazon’s security alert system. Alexa Guard being added to routines. Anecdotally been great for stopping crime, it seems.
10:55 – Alexa-enabled doorbells like Ring are getting more conversational too with Alexa Concierge, allowing those at the door to leave messages for you. Coming to Ring Doorbell Elite models first, rolling out next year.
10:54 – Alexa Hunches getting more pro-active – will let you know when smart device batteries are running low, or printer cartridges running dry, as well as suggesting auto-created routines for things you do regularly.
10:52 – Alexa support coming to ASUS, Tp-Link, Arris and Linksys Wi-fi systems, letting you talk to Alexa to turn off Wi-Fi access to specific devices. Example given, “Alexa switch off PlayStation Wi-Fi”, instantly making you an enemy of your Fortnite-playing children.
10:48 – Eero is partnering with Amazon for new, simple Wi-Fi solutions. An All-New Eero whole-home mesh Wi-Fi system announced. Can be set up in 10 or 20 minutes, should mean you’ll have no Wi-Fi black spots around your home. Available today for $99, coming to Europe later this year, with UK pricing for a three-pack system priced at £249.
10:46: ‘Certified for Humans’ is a new Amazon-initiative to identify stress-free set up smart home devices. A new ‘No Geeks Allowed’ team will test these devices to see if they meet the criteria, with a dozen newly-badged devices launching with Amazon’s ‘Frustration Free Set Up’ option. They all also feature silent over-the-air automatic updates. Alexa app carries out all set-up needs for these products.
10:44 – Echo Glow up next. A companion device which is a light – voice activated with fun modes such as ‘Dance Party’ that blinks in time with music, a ‘Campfire’ mode and offers tap controls to switch on and change color. Pre-order available today, $29 and shipping in time for Christmas.
10:42 – Next up, the Alexa Education Skill API – taps into school services, letting parents know how their children are performing at school, as well as checking in on homework schedules and more. Amazon just lost a few teenage fans!
10:41 – Alexa Communications for Kids is a new white-list service parents can turn on for their children’s Echo Dot Kids Edition devices. It’ll let you set up approved caller lists for your children, letting them call selected pals with their own smart speakers. That’ll save your telephone bills at least.
10:40 – Echo video and audio calling drop-in will now make a mosaic of all the people in your call. A lovely Brady Bunch-like view of callers.
10.35 – Food Network Kitchen will be a new service coming to Echo and Alexa, exclusively when it comes to voice services. This will give cooking classes and on-demand episodes of its upcoming shows. These instructional videos will be split into steps, numbered down the bottom, with Alexa also smartly knowing details of the recipe, letting you interrupt and get information overlaid on the screen. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay gives his endorsement through an Echo video call on stage. He’s got a lovely denim shirt on.
10:34 – Echo Show 8 has an HD, 8-inch display (naturally), with a privacy shutter for the camera, launching at $129.99, pre-order today and shipping in time for Christmas. Essentially your standard Echo Show’s little brother… but the bigger brother of the Echo Show 5. A size for everybody is the thinking here.
10.33 – Echo Show the fastest-growing Echo product. So there’s a new Echo Show! Echo Show 8!
10.31 – Fire TV has 37 million monthly active users, with Alexa a core component too. The Alexa Smart Screen SDK going up to version 2.0, so expect a richer experience on Sony TVs, Facebook Portal devices, and more.
10:29 – Fire TV now – all 4K Fire TV devices now support streaming of Dolby Atmos to one (or two in a pair) Echo Studio devices, as part of an update incoming. Echo Studio is now a proper home-cinema supporting option. Will auto configure for surround sound without much hassle.
18:23 – Now here we REALLY go. Introducing the Echo Studio, a Dolby Atmos-capable speaker, offering left-and-right overhead sounds. Works with your usual streaming formats, but will take better advantage of hi-res sources.
Three mid-range speakers left, right and top, with a direction tweeter at the front, with a 5.1/4 inch woofer in the bottom. Should give the impression of having multiple speakers in a space, with the mic assessing your surroundings to tweak the sound to your liking.
It’s quite a large device, and a brief demo (in sub-optimal space, granted) sounded loud and large and, potentially very good indeed.Still has the usual Echo light ring around the top, as well as some touch-control buttons on top.
It’s got Rick Ross’s seal of approval, and well, that’s enough for us. SOLD!
Atmos-enabled tracks (hundreds) from Universal, Sony and Warner Music Group will be available at launch.
Echo Studio will cost just $199, avaialble for pre-order today.
10:22 – Alexa Guest Connect being introduced for when you’re t a pal’s house. It’ll let you hook up for Amazon Music libraries when away from your own Alexa device. Good for social situations.
10:20 – Also being announced, the All-New Echo. Takes the sound architecture from last year’s Echo Plus, and puts it in the core Echo mode. New fabric design, including Twilight Blue. $99 – essentially a simple improvement of the Echo’s sound capabilities. Not much else revealed here, other than expect to find the sonic internals from the Plus in here now.
10:18 – Frustration Detection for Alexa up next. If your tone negatively changes when speaking to Alexa, the AI will apologise, and then make a save by fulfilling your intended request.
10:17: Neural Text to Speech is also going to offer a mode which mimics Samuel L Jackson’s voice! Like Snakes on a Plane – but… Alexa in your Bedroom? $0.99 to add the movie star’s voice to your speaker.
10:15: Alexa is getting more emotive, too – if you like your DJ to be a bit more excitable, be ready for Alexa to be a bit more perky when talking about the songs it is playing. It’ll also be able to mimic celebrity voices.
10:13 – Neural Text to Speech is being added to Alexa to improve the voice of the AI, with a more natural pace and tone. Machine learning is making Alexa sound more human. A multi-lingual mode for bi-lingual households is also being launched, letting your speaker talk in Spanish and English, French and English, and Hindi and English, for US, Canadian and Indian territories. respectively.
10:11 – Next up is Echo Dot. 1 billion “what time is it?” Alexa requests each year. So we’re getting a new Echo Dot… with a clock! It has an LED display on its outer fabric ring, with that display also showing outside temperature.
Tap the top, and you get “9 more minutes of blissful sleep!”. Echo Dot with Clock pre-orders open today, $59 dollars.
10:10 – Amazon adding an opt-in, rolling 3-month or one year auto-delete voice recordings, too.
10:08 – “Customers control their data.” Very much attempting to reassure those that are skeptical of Alexa’s privacy chops here.
“You can’t be private unless you allow customers to be in control [of their data].”
Recap: earlier this year Amazon Privacy Center was launched to allow users to see what their products record.
New utterances being added – “Alexa, tell me what you heard” will let you know what Alexa interprets. And (and this is great) an “Alexa, why did you do that?” command. A bit more transparency on how our AI works is always welcome.
10:06 – Talking about Echo’s hardware privacy efforts now too. Recording controls for Ring cameras and Echo Show devices being talked up, such as the toggle to switch audio recording off for Ring devices.
10:04 – Addressing Alexa privacy concerns on stage now. “Every piece of hardware, software and services we work on include privacy from the beginning.” The Alexa wake-word engine is being talked up here, as the company improves Alexa’s wake-word accuracy using machine learning. No more false-wakes when your buddies Alan and Elena come over.
10:03 – Alexa initially could only do 13 things, now it can tell jokes, reminders and so much more. Including making robot bears twerk! The future is NOW!
10.02 – And we’re off! Amazon reps on stage now – “We strive to be the most customer-first company in the world.” Amazon products start from a document called “Working Backwards From the Customer” to achieve their goals.
10:00 – A balmy set of greenhouse-warmed journalists settling down now. We’re expecting a lot from Amazon today – could be as many as 20 major announcements.