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Amazon Echo (5th gen) wishlist: All the features I want to see
Today’s smart speakers owe a lot to the original Amazon Echo, so every new flagship model is anticipated by industry watchers — it tends to set the bar for whatever follows. The 4th gen Echo, released in 2020, kept up that track record. Nearly three years later, it’s time to work out what we want from a 5th gen model, especially with pressure mounting from companies like Apple, Google, and Sonos. Here’s a wishlist of what I want to see.
Dolby Atmos and other home theater improvements
In spite of what its spherical shape might suggest, the current Echo doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Because the standard is increasingly common, however, and slowly gaining content on services like Amazon Music, there’s an incentive to bring it to hardware beyond the Echo Studio ($199 at Amazon). Support makes even more sense when you consider the option to pair existing Echos with a Fire TV streamer.
Something we’d also like to see is the ability to use an Echo 5th gen with third-party streamers and TVs, say via an HDMI or optical port. That’s less likely than Atmos, given the material expenses of adding ports, and the benefits (for Amazon) of keeping people locked into the Fire TV ecosystem.
A clock and indoor temperature display
A clock is a minor perk on any smart speaker, so normally it’s not something we’d go out of our way to mention. We’re highlighting it here because Amazon sells a clock-equipped version of the Dot, and it seems weird that you can’t pay a little extra to get the same option on a higher-tier product, especially one that’s more likely to be a centerpiece.
As for indoor temperature, there’s a room sensor built into both the Dot and the current Echo, and it’s strange that you can’t access this temperature data without asking for it or opening the Alexa app. If Amazon does make a clock-equipped version of the Echo 5th gen, it would make sense to include a temperature readout as well.
Quick audio handoff
One of the unique features of Apple’s HomePods is the ability to switch audio from your iPhone to the speaker (or vice versa) by bringing the two devices close together. It sounds like a party trick, but if you’ve ever been listening to something and wanted to finish it somewhere else, the appeal is obvious.
Making this happen on an Echo 5th gen could be difficult. Amazon would probably need to add a dedicated wireless chip, then somehow sync data between a variety of services and a variety of different phones. There’s a chance the tech could come to Android devices, but there’s even less hope for the important iPhone market, since Apple keeps a notoriously tight leash over iOS and how its NFC and UWB (ultra-wideband) chips are used.
Fully custom wake words
Though Amazon is leading the way when it comes to alternative ways of triggering voice assistants, that’s not saying much. Apple, Google, and Samsung don’t offer any customization, so Amazon automatically wins by letting you change Alexa’s wake word to “Echo,” “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Ziggy.” That’s still a mediocre selection — particularly Ziggy, which may avoid accidental triggers, but sounds like someone at Amazon was a fan of reggae or ’70s newspaper comics.
There are a few legitimate reasons for restricting options. Though most smart speaker commands are processed via cloud servers, wake words are always processed locally for a quick response — meaning the simpler things are, the better. Words must also be long enough to be distinguishable while simultaneously hard to confuse for something else. Limiting user choice ensures that customers don’t get frustrated when an Echo refuses to answer to the name of their favorite Dune or Harry Potter character.
We are living in 2023, mind you, and with other advancements in tech, it feels increasingly arbitrary to call our “personal” voice assistants by a name someone else picked. Alexa’s existing wake words don’t work well for everyone, and surely there’s some way of allowing broader customization while keeping the guard rails intact.
Which upgrade would you want most on a 5th-gen Amazon Echo?
Will there be an Amazon Echo 5th gen?
Almost certainly, whether sooner or later. Whatever form it takes, there needs to be a continually updated standard Echo model to anchor the rest of the lineup. The only way that would change is if Amazon abandoned the Echo brand, or smart speakers entirely. Typically there’s a new Echo every two years, and of course, we’re beyond that timeframe now.
Amazon held its next Devices and Services event on September 20, 2023. We were expecting an Echo 5th gen announcement, but the company only announced a new Echo Show 8.
Since there was no announcement, it’s likely the smart speaker won’t be appearing in 2023. But that’s not to say it’s the end of the line for the Echo (5th gen). Amazon could announce it at its next event. Have a look at the Echo’s release date history:
- Amazon Echo 1st gen — November 2014 (invitation and Prime members)/June 2015 (public)
- Amazon Echo 2nd gen — October 2017
- Amazon Echo 3rd gen — October 2019
- Amazon Echo 4th gen — October 2020
Should you wait for the Amazon Echo 5th gen?
Not necessarily. If you’re looking to get into the Alexa ecosystem as soon as possible, the 4th gen Echo ($99 at Amazon) is still a solid smart speaker with both Matter and Thread. Amazon will probably continue to support it after the 5th gen model ships, and even continue to sell it until stock runs out. That’s been the case with other Echo products.
If you’re just upgrading existing Alexa speakers, or there’s no rush to begin building a smart home, we’d suggest waiting until after Amazon’s September 20 event. There could be additional advances (see our wishlist below), and if you can afford to wait, you’ll maximize the return on your investment.