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Amazon Echo (5th gen): Everything we know so far and what we want to see

A new model is overdue at this stage.
June 2, 2023
A blue light ring on the Amazon Echo 4th-gen
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Update, June 2, 2023 (04:12 PM ET): We have updated this Amazon Echo 5th gen hub with news about Amazon’s efforts with Alexa and generative AI.

Original article: 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 ask what we can expect from a 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?

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

There will almost certainly be an Amazon Echo 5th gen. 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. Typically there’s a new Echo every two years, and of course, we’re beyond that timeframe now.

When will the Amazon Echo 5th gen release date be?

Amazon Echo 4th gen mute switch
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Though Amazon revealed the 5th gen Echo Dot during a September 28, 2022, press event, it didn’t announce any other Echo hardware updates, bucking expectations. The company’s September events are its primary 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 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

Micron Shapes panels in a bedroom

One thing we can say with confidence is Matter over Thread. Amazon has already delivered Matter on many devices and promised Thread for some, including the Echo 4th gen, so all that remains is for the company to offer both out-of-the-box in the next generation.

What are Matter and Thread? You can read more about them using 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 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 networking.

Matter over Thread should make the Echo 5th gen a cornerstone of many smart homes.

Matter can operate over Ethernet and Wi-Fi, 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,” which bridge other Thread accessories and your Wi-Fi. The tech is already in accessories like HomePods, Eve sensors, 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, pairing accessories from hundreds of brands. The real question is whether you’ll eventually be able to use the speaker itself with Apple HomeKit or Google Home, not just Alexa — the option isn’t in Matter 1.0, but might hypothetically come down the road.

Improved sound

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 adding expensive new components.

Eero Built-In

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 ten 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.

No more Celebrity Personalities

One thing we know won’t come with the Amazon Echo 5th gen will be Celebrity Personalities for Alexa. Previously, Amazon offered the ability to buy celebrity voice packages, with Samuel L. Jackson being a notable example. This changed Alexa’s default voice to Jackson’s, among others. Unfortunately, on May 30, 2023, it was discovered that Amazon would discontinue this service effective immediately. To make matters worse, there are no refunds for customers who paid for a product they can no longer use.

Being that Amazon took this action, there will be no celebrity voice support for the Echo 5th gen when it launches.

Conversational AI

With conversational AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Bing Chat, and Bard dominating the mind space of today’s consumer tech industry, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Amazon has also been looking into the technology. In an interview with CNN, the Senior VP of Devices and Services at Amazon, Dave Limp, discussed generative AI and the possibilities it could have for Alexa.

“We’re not done and won’t be done until Alexa is as good or better than the Star Trek computer,” Limp said. “And to be able to do that, it has to be conversational. It has to know all. It has to be the true source of knowledge for everything.”

Although Limp doesn’t explicitly explain how the company will implement generative AI with Alexa, his words heavily imply that Alexa’s conversational skills will likely be enhanced by generative AI. Including AI with the virtual assistant would also help its ability to answer complex questions.

Will Amazon’s version of a chatbot make it into the next-generation Echo? We know that the company is currently working on ChatGPT-like search capabilities for its e-commerce store. As such, it’s possible it could find its way into the next Echo. However, at this point, there’s probably a better chance that it won’t launch with it if Amazon is still in the development phase.

What will the Amazon Echo 5th gen price be?

Amazon Echo Dot Alexa speaker with light ring turned on
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Although 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.

That said, the company is feeling the bite of supply chain issues and related inflation like most tech companies, so it might raise prices to compensate. Moreover, it reported billions in losses during 2022, much of that reportedly linked to Alexa. The company may need each speaker to turn a profit instead of serving as a loss leader.

Amazon Echo 5th gen: What we want to see

Dolby Atmos and other home theater improvements

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

Despite 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. 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

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 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

Transfering audio between an iPhone and a HomePod mini

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

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. 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?

2937 votes