Up until today, this clever gadget was only available by personal invite from Amazon. Today, Amazon has announced that it can now be purchased by anyone and the devices are shipping out for $180 as of July 14 2015.
“We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and experiences,” Greg Hart, vice president for the Amazon Echo, said in a statement.
The Echo catapults Amazon into the competitive market that, until today, was only populated by Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now. The three major rivals all work in smartphones to allow users to make calls, give directions etc. As it currently stands, Amazon’s Alexa software differs from the others as it is not installed into a smartphone (yet) and instead is in a plug-in speaker that stays in the home.
Working in the home, The Echo acts more like a dedicated hub for all of your smart devices; turning on a light using a Belko WeMo light switch for example or maybe play music across the house using Pandora, it can even order kitchen supplies from Amazon.com by simply asking it to.
A special feature of Echo is that the device can remain on all the time with the users able to activate Alexa by simply saying her name and then asking her to do a task. This offers many exciting possibilities for people that are bed/homebound. Of course, some of the features that The Echo offers can be replicated with a smart phone so only time will tell us whether this device can take over home management. I personally feel that the speaker is a much easier method for older people who struggle with smart phones, but it will be hard to tell what the demand will be for the Echo, since Amazon usually doesn’t reveal sales figures for specific products.
Now for some technical info. The Echo has seven microphones installed in the top of the 9.25-inch-tall (23.5 cm) tube-like speaker, which only comes in black at present. The volume ring on the top of the speaker will light up when you say “Alexa,” thus letting you know she is ready to accept your command, and, your children will love her as she will be happy to answer their average of 400 questions a day!