Unveils New Echo Products: What You Need to Know

E-commerce giant (NASDAQ: AMZN) hosted a busy product unveiling today, unveiling a slew of devices to refresh its lineup as we approach the busy holiday shopping season. This comes a few weeks after Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) big iPhone event, and a week before Alphabet subsidiary Google is having its own Pixel shindig on Oct. 4. The company is primarily beefing up its Echo lineup with new additions.

Here's everything that Amazon announced today.

A smaller, cheaper flagship Echo

Amazon is revamping its flagship Echo device, and the redesigned second-generation version is shorter and costs just $99. The new device comes in a few shell colors and aesthetic configurations, but importantly supports multiroom audio, allowing music to be streamed simultaneously to multiple Echos. This is an area where high-end rivals like Sonos have made a name. Amazon is even selling a pack of three Echoes for $150, or $50 per device.

Amazon says the new Echo has a new speaker architecture, dedicated tweeter, and 2.5-inch down-firing woofer for improved audio. The new Echo can also make phone calls through Alexa.

Apple is just a few months away from launching its HomePod smart speaker. The Mac maker introduced multiroom audio in its AirPlay 2 audio streaming protocol earlier this year, which third-party speakers can also implement. At $349, though, hooking up multiple HomePods throughout a home would quickly get pretty pricey.

A smart home hub

There's also the new Echo Plus, which is priced at $150. Alexa has become a hugely popular smart home platform, arguably the leader right now thanks to its first-mover advantage. Echo Plus is positioned as a smart home hub that will automatically discover and set up all smart home devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

The Echo Plus looks just like the original Echo, but has some internal improvements like second-generation far-field technology found in the new $99 Echo. Both Echo and Echo Plus ship next month.

A small device to enable landline calling

Amazon has been working on increasingly bringing communications features to Alexa, and by extension its Echo family. The Echo Show introduced earlier this year included Echo-to-Echo calling, but the company is taking it a step further with the new $35 Echo Connect.

Echo Connect's primary purpose is to make phone calls. The device is a stationary box that you plug into an Echo to turn it into a landline speakerphone.

An Echo to put anywhere

Not to be confused with the Echo Dot, there's now a new Echo Spot, a small compact device that includes a circular 2.5-inch display that Amazon says can be placed in any room. It could be placed on a nightstand or desk in order to deliver relevant information like weather alerts, calendar appointments, and more.

Echo Spot can also be used to make phone calls and send messages. The device starts at $130 and ships in December.

4K and HDR for Fire TV

Apple unveiled its newest Apple TV with 4K and HDR support just a few weeks ago, and Amazon is now introducing a new Fire TV with the same features. (The second-generation Fire TV set-top box that Amazon recently discontinued supported 4K.) The new Fire TV, which is more of a hanging dongle and costs less than half of Apple's offering at $70, comes with an Alexa remote and includes a new quad-core processor and improved Wi-Fi.

An important part of Apple's unveiling was that the Mac maker had negotiated with Hollywood to price 4K movies on iTunes at just $20 -- the same price point that new HD movies currently command. Movie studios were hoping to jack up the price of content by $5 to $10. Just a couple days ago, Amazon cut prices on 4K content. Amazon is notoriously aggressive on pricing and has no problem eating losses upfront if it has to, so I would expect Amazon to remain competitive on 4K content pricing, which is arguably more important than the device itself in some ways.

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