Amazon working on a smaller, cheaper, portable Echo

by: John DyeJanuary 11, 2016
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When Amazon originally launched their Echo device, some thought that this wasn’t necessarily a product released to profit, but rather an experiment with voice control technology and an effort to create a new stream of customer behavior data. However, the device was a surprise hit and has developed a kind of cult following. This unexpected success might be the reason behind Amazon’s decision to follow up the Echo with a portable version currently code-named Fox.

The original Echo is a cylindrical, voice-activated stand that is meant to be a semi-permanent feature of your living room, bedroom, or kitchen. Echo is always listening for you to say the name of it’s virtual personal assistant Alexa, who will respond to commands and provide information when requested. Alexa can take notes, set alarms, interact with smart home technology, do your shopping on Amazon, get you the weather info you need, play music, advise on traffic conditions, offer Yelp recommendations, and a slew of other tasks as well.

amazon logo 2 [aa] Wonderlane/Flickr

The Echo’s primary shortcoming, privacy concerns about Alexa’s always-listening feature aside, has been its $180 price tag. Some people have responded to the device with, “So, it’s like OK Google or Siri, but I have to leave it on the coffee table instead of literally having it on my person all day long?” The novelty of having a physically-stationary personal assistant just wasn’t worth the price for many users.

This seems to be where the Fox comes in. We don’t have any information regarding it’s price, but the Wall Street Journal reports that “people familiar with the plans” have said that it’s intended to be roughly the size of a beer can, rechargeable, and less expensive than its forerunner.

Ford Amazon CES 2016See also: Ford is working with Amazon Echo to let you talk to your car1

If your concerns were regarding the always-listening aspect of the Echo, you won’t have to worry about that with this smaller version: to save battery life, this version of Alexa would require a button to be pressed before she starts listening.

Both Amazon and Flextronics International Ltd., the manufacturer slated to produce the Fox, declined to comment on the device’s development.

What are your thoughts on the Amazon Echo? If you’re an owner, how has your experience with Alexa been so far? If you’re not an owner, would a more portable version of the device be a more attractive option? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • ctwrye

    Love my Echo. I can control my home lighting system with it. Every few weeks new features are added.

  • Laurie Elliott

    I didn’t know I needed my Echo. But I did. Love it (her)!

  • Teh Kao

    Love the Echo. Would hate to have to press a button to issue commands. It’s fine plugged in.