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Amazon Echo (5th gen) wishlist: All the features I want to see

A new model is overdue at this stage, so here's what we want to see.
By

Published onMay 20, 2024

A blue light ring on the Amazon Echo 4th-gen
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Today’s smart speakers owe a lot to the original Amazon Echo, so every new flagship Echo 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. Approaching four years later, it’s time to work out what we want from an overdue 5th gen speaker, especially with pressure mounting from companies like Apple, Google, and Sonos. Here’s a wishlist of what I’d like to see.

Dolby Atmos and other home theater improvements

Amazon Echo 4th gen in hand showing inputs
Adam Molina / Android Authority

In spite of what its spherical shape might suggest, the current Echo doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Since that 3D sound 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.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to link four, five, or even seven Echos into a true smart surround system. Only Sonos seems to be invested in that idea at the moment, so I’m not holding my breath.

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

The 5th gen Echo Dot with clock

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 Echo 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 Echo 4th gen, 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

Transfering audio between an iPhone and a HomePod mini
Apple

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

A 4th-gen Amazon Echo on a desk next to a smartphone
Adam Molina / Android Authority

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 is 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 2024, 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?

3986 votes

Will there be an Amazon Echo 5th gen?

An Amazon Echo 4 in a kitchen
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Almost certainly. 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, but of course, we’re well beyond that timeframe now. Amazon held its last Devices and Services event on September 20, 2023. We were expecting an Echo 5th gen announcement, but instead the company only announced an updated Echo Show 8. The next window is likely to be fall 2024, as you can tell from 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

There have been major shakeups in Amazon’s Alexa and devices units in the past couple of years, so who knows — the company could surprise us all with an early- or mid-year launch.

Should you wait for the Amazon Echo 5th gen?

If you’re looking to build a smart home for the first time, or just expand Alexa’s reach, I wouldn’t bother waiting at this stage. The 4th gen Echo ($99 at Amazon) is still a solid smart speaker, with Matter and Thread compatibility enabling a wide range of accessory connections. Amazon will probably continue to support the 4th gen after the 5th gen model ships, and even continue to sell it until stock runs dry. That’s been the case with other Echo products.

The only situations in which you should probably wait are if you’re upgrading from inferior-sounding Alexa speakers (like the Echo Dot or Echo Show 5) or you’re considering a switch to Alexa from Apple HomeKit or Google Home. As long as your current setup is functional, it’s probably better to hold out until you have the most future-proof product available.

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