Amazon to take on HomePod with next-gen Echo

Devindra Hardawar, writing for Engadget:

Amazon is working on a new Echo that will improve on the first speaker in practically every way, a source tells Engadget. And, not surprisingly, it’s aiming to take some of the hype away from Apple’s HomePod.

The new Echo will be both shorter and slimmer than the original, almost as if it were three or four Echo Dots stacked on top of each other, our source claims. Amazon is also softening its design with rounded edges and a cloth-like covering, rather than the current Echo’s plastic shell and flat ends. And yes, it should sound better, too.

I get why Amazon wants to improve the Echo to take on the HomePod, but I just don’t think it’s going to work for them. I’ve listened to Apple’s HomePod at WWDC and it was pretty amazing—and even better when you connected two of them together.

Apple is going for a full fledged music listening experience with HomePod. Yes, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but the fact is, HomePod sounds really good.

Amazon is trying to do a cross between a digital assistant and a music experience. That’s not a recipe for success when taking on Apple and the HomePod.

  • Brad Fortin

    This will be about as popular as the Fire Phone, and about as good, too.

    • john doofus

      The Echo is at least a moderate success. Why would an improved version of it fail?

      • Prof. Peabody

        higher price?

        • john doofus

          Seems unlikely. Who understands pricing better than Amazon?

      • How many Echos have been sold? What sort of profit margin?

    • Meaux

      Or the Fire TV, which you can control with the Echo.

  • underscore

    I wouldn’t give HomePod too much credit until we see it…right now Amazon rules this space. And needing to drop $600+to have a pair o’ pods is a dealbreaker for the 99%

    • It’s not a product competing with the echo. It’s not designed to sell you soap flakes or spy on you. It’s for playing music and using Siri.

    • Prof. Peabody

      re: “amazon rules this space …” I disagree.

      I don’t think HomePod is competing in the same space as “smart speakers” even though the reviewers are sure it is.

      Currently, I’m thinking of buying a couple of HomePods and a few friends are also on board. None of us are buying it for the “smarts,” or to buy products on the internet. We are buying it for the (hopefully) awesome sound, as a home stereo system, and as an add-on for Apple TV.

    • rick gregory

      I agree with Peabody (!! 🙂 ). Right now they compete in different spaces. The Echo is a digital home assistant that connects to a LOT of things. The idea that it can talk to various different home automation and web services with different protocols is amazingly powerful. But it’s also successful because it started out reasonably priced and between the Dot and price drops, has gotten even more so. It’s an impulse purchase at this point, at least for the Dot.

      Homepod seems to fit in the Sonos Play 1 and 3 markets – serious midrange, standalone audio. Not audiophile stuff but a very good system for the broad middle of the audio market who want good sound but are looking to a) play their own music and stream and b) who don’t want a big rack of stereo gear. Add Siri and you get some of what the Echo does. It only talks to HomeKit automation gear which is more restrictive but there’s plenty of it out there and for people who are fully into the Apple ecosystem, that’s not a big limitation.

    • You don’t need two of them. It’s a room speaker, so suggesting youneed two at $600 is simply moving goal posts.

  • jonny evans

    Hello: Can I also point to that story earlier this week that claimed Amazon had stolen a march on Apple by selling a load of Echos cheap on Amazon Prime sale day. Let’s look at that again, see, the way I see it this is not what happened: What happened is Amazon sold a load of old v.1 Echo units for cheap to its most loyal customers and then leaked info that showed those customers the thing they bought was already on the way to obsolete. How do you think that goes? How does that reward customer loyalty? I argue Amazon just set the scene for HomePod and that’s that.

  • Simon

    Just because Apple is marketing the Homepod as a music device doesn’t change the fact that it is a voice assistant just like Alexa. It has Siri, so it is a voice assistant. And the Echo could be a great music device with a significantly improved speaker. You ask it for music and it plays music, so it is a music device.

    If Amazon releases a $200 Echo that is comparable in sound quality to the Homepod, which is quite conceivable, I would buy the Echo instead of the Homepod. Unless of course Apple’s Homepod has some interesting features they are currently sitting on.

    Aside from the quality of the speaker, the Homepod presumably won’t support Spotify. I personally don’t like having my own music collection mixed up with Apple Music, so I use Spotify. Apple Music caused me huge headaches the 2 times I tried it. For this reason alone I would take an improved Echo over the Homepod. If I switched to Apple Music I wouldn’t be able to use it on my current Echos, my Google Voice or the couple of Android tablets we have in the house.

    Apple waited way too long to enter this market. To make up for this they should offer some concessions, like opening up to 3rd party music services. If not, people like myself, who are invested in the alternatives, will stay away.