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Amazon Echo (5th gen): Everything we know so far and what we 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. Two years later it’s time to ask what we can expect from the Amazon Echo 5th gen model, especially with pressure mounting from companies like Apple, Google, and Sonos. We’ve also got a wishlist of things we’d like to see.
Will there be an Amazon Echo 5th gen?
Almost certainly. Whatever form it takes, there needs to be a continually updated standard model to anchor the rest of the Echo lineup. The only way that would change is if Amazon chose different branding or abandoned smart speakers entirely. Normally there’s a new Echo every two years, and we’re technically beyond that timeframe now.
Check out: The best Echo speakers
When will the Amazon Echo 5th gen release date be?
Though Amazon revealed the 5th gen Echo Dot during a September 28 press event, it didn’t announce any other Echo hardware updates alongside it, bucking expectations. The company’s September events are its main vehicle for consumer device launches.
A refresh is probably due by the end of 2023. Amazon could choose to skip another year, but that seems unlikely if it wants to keep up with the rest of the smart speaker industry. Have a look at the Echo’s full 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
What features will the Amazon Echo 5th gen have?
Matter over Thread
One thing we can say with confidence is Matter over Thread. Amazon has already promised Matter over Thread for some existing devices, including the Echo 4th gen, so all that remains is for the company to offer it out-of-the-box in the next generation.
What are Matter and Thread? You can read more about them via our links, but in short, Matter is a newly-launched network protocol that lets accessories work across all major smart home platforms. You don’t have to worry if products like smart bulbs are explicitly compatible with your platform of choice — in theory, they’ll just work so long as they have the Matter logo. The standard also reduces the need for hubs, bridges, and internet access by enabling local mesh networks.
Matter over Thread should make the Echo 5th gen a cornerstone of many smart homes.
Matter can operate over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, yet it’s ideally meant to be used with Thread, a Zigbee-based wireless protocol. Many Thread products operate as their own low-powered “border routers” to which other Thread accessories connect. It’s already in accessories like the HomePod mini and Nanoleaf bulbs and light panels (see the image above).
With Matter over Thread, the Echo 5th gen will likely be a cornerstone of many smart homes, uniting accessories from hundreds of brands. The real question is whether you’ll eventually be able to use the speaker itself in Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant, not just Alexa — the option isn’t in Matter 1.0, but might come down the road.
Likely but not guaranteed is improved sound quality. That’s been common to every new Echo generation, and the 4th gen speaker took a sizable step forward, sounding better than any $100 product has a right to. It manages to get loud and bass-heavy while retaining plenty of clarity.
The Echo 5th gen will probably refine sound rather than make a dramatic leap, since at this point, it’s not clear how Amazon could do much better without also hiking prices.
One surprise with the 5th gen Dot was its support for Eero Built-In, a technology that extends your Wi-Fi network when you link the device with an Eero router. Each Dot can add an extra 1,000 square feet of coverage, albeit limited to 100Mbps and 10 additional connections.
Amazon has already added the same technology to the Echo 4th gen via an update, so expect that to be supported by default going forward.
What will the Amazon Echo 5th gen price be?
While the original Echo started at $180, pricing shrank to $100 for the 2nd gen model and has hovered there ever since. Amazon will probably do everything in its power to stick to a similar price for the Echo 5th gen, since $100 is an obvious psychological threshold that’s worked well so far. Amazon can even afford for it to be a loss leader, as there are plenty of branded services and accessories to make up the gap.
That said, the company is probably feeling the bite of supply chain issues and related inflation like most tech companies in 2022, so it might raise prices to compensate.
Amazon Echo 5th gen: What we 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 incentive to bring it to new Echo hardware. 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 its 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 HomePod mini 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
While 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. While 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 choices 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 2022, 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.