Anker’s $35 Smart Speaker With Built-in Alexa Claims Better Audio Than Amazon’s Echo Dot

Popular accessory company Anker launched its own low-cost smart speaker with built-in Alexa on Wednesday called the Eufy Genie. Costing $35, the Genie is a little bigger than Amazon's Echo Dot, which retails at $50, but claims to offer stronger bass and double the volume of Amazon's equivalent device thanks to a 2W speaker.

The Genie's list of features pretty much tally with Echo Dot's abilities, so it can play music, control other smart home devices, order products, answer questions, set calendars, report the weather and news, and more.


According to Anker, it's also possible to use the Amazon Alexa app with the Genie to access over 10,000 skills and services, such as Pandora, Domino's Pizza, Uber, ESPN, NPR News, and more. Future updates from Eufy are said to include the ability directly control Spotify with your voice, and Alexa messaging and calling.

The Genie also links up to other smart products under Anker's Eufy brand, which include a robotic vacuum cleaner, air purifier devices, and a range of domestic lighting. According to The Verge, Anker also plans to introduce a $40 version of the Eufy Genie that includes Bluetooth support, which might let it connect to external speakers for playing music.

The Eufy Genie is available to pre-order off Amazon today but doesn't ship until August 16. Further details on the Genie and Anker's other products under the Eufy brand can be found on the Eufy website.

Note: Amazon is an affiliate of MacRumors and we may benefit from clicked links in this article.


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Facebook Smart Speaker Coming Next Year With 15-inch Touch Panel

Facebook is planning to release its own smart speaker to compete with similar connected devices offered by Amazon, Google, and Apple, a report out of Taiwan claimed on Tuesday.

However, instead of voice recognition functions in the vein of Siri or Alexa, Facebook's speaker will focus more on displaying visual imagery via a 15-inch touch panel, according to sources in the supply chain.

Amazon's Echo Show was the first smart speaker to feature a display

The device will be manufactured by Pegatron for release in the first quarter of 2018 and has already begun small volume pilot production at plants in China, said the sources. The touchscreen is said to be supplied by LG Display using in-cell technology, while the chassis is constructed from a magnesium-aluminum-alloy.

Market watchers predicted high growth for Pegatron going into the second half of the year, with the manufacturer already fulfilling iPhone orders for Apple as well as Surface and Xbox One orders for Microsoft.

Amazon is reportedly working on a successor to its popular flagship Echo speaker for release later this year. The company hopes to steal the spotlight from Apple as it prepares to launch its music-oriented HomePod speaker, costing $350.

Research firm Strategy Analytics claims worldwide smart speaker shipments reached 5.9 million units in 2016, 4.2 million of which were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2016. The smart speaker market is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2022.

(Via DigiTimes.)

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tags: Facebook, Amazon Echo

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Amazon Working on Echo Successor to Rival Apple’s HomePod

Amazon is reportedly working on a successor to its Echo connected smart speaker for release later this year in a clear attempt to one-up Apple and its HomePod speaker, which is due to launch this December.

Sources who saw a working unit spoke to Engadget, claiming that the new Echo will improve on the first speaker "in every way", being shorter and slimmer than the original, with rounded edges and a cloth-like covering preferred over the current Echo's plastic shell and flat ends.


Perhaps unsurprisingly given Apple's focus on the HomePod music experience, Amazon is aiming to significantly improve the sound quality of the next Echo, according to sources. The company's new flagship smart speaker will feature multiple tweeters as opposed to just one large one (Apple's HomePod packs in seven tweeters).

Amazon is also reportedly enhancing the new Echo's far-field microphone technology, but it's not clear how. The current Echo has a seven-mic array, while the HomePod has six and Google Home has two, although the software running the mics significantly dictates their listening quality.

Pricing remains unknown, but Amazon's new Echo is likely to significantly undercut Apple's HomePod, which will retail at $349 and go up against the likes of Sonos in the premium speaker market. The existing Echo costs $180 as a reference.

First impressions of Apple's HomePod were largely positive following its unveiling in June, with journalists agreeing that the 7-inch tall device easily beats the Sonos Play:3 and 9-inch-tall Amazon Echo in terms of pure music playback quality. The HomePod initializes by playing 360-degree audio and listening back so that it can dynamically adjust sound output to fit environmental acoustics. Apple claimed it honed the technology over many years, so Amazon's next smart speaker has plenty to live up to.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: Amazon Echo

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Amazon Echo Smart Speakers Gain Room-to-Room Intercom Feature

Amazon is releasing a software update for its Echo range of smart speakers that enables households with multiple Echos to use them as room-to-room intercoms (via TechCrunch).

Once the new feature is set up, users are able to select a speaker in a specific room and communicate with it one-to-one - to call the kids to dinner from the kitchen Echo, for example.


To enable the function, users must first give a distinctive name (such as a room) to each Echo in their household and enable the Drop-In feature using the Alexa app.

The intercom system works through household groups created during the setup process, meaning it's not limited to speakers on the same Wi-Fi, so it's possible to communicate with Echo-owning friends or relatives in a different area code, for instance. Users can also use the feature away from home using the Alexa app.

The Drop-In feature first appeared on Amazon's new Echo Show with integrated display, with some reviewers finding the video aspect a little intrusive. Similarly, there doesn't seem to be a way to block the intercom audio on the standard Echo range, so it's worth keeping this in mind before enabling it.

The update is rolling out to the Echo family of speakers this week.


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Amazon Echo Show Reviews: Privacy Concerns, Sound Improvements, and Video Calling as Killer App

Ahead of the launch of the Echo Show this Wednesday, June 28, Amazon has given review units to a few sites so that they can test out the new Echo and see how its 7-inch touch screen adds to the traditional Amazon Echo experience. Amazon revealed the $230 Echo Show earlier in May and bills it as having all of the features of the traditional Echo, with the addition of a display to enhance user interactivity.

According to The Verge, one of the best aspects of Echo Show is that, "you basically never need to tap the screen for anything, unless you really want to." Instead of adding an array of touchscreen-required actions that overcomplicate the interface, the company focused on adapting the abilities of the previous Echo models to work with a touchscreen.


While there were some moments when the touchscreen's "secondary importance" caused UI annoyances, the site largely admired Amazon's decision to keep the voice control focus of the Echo line with Echo Show.
Are there things I don't love about the Echo Show? Of course. I think it's pretty homely and I think that the sound quality could be better for the price. But the improvements over the original Echo are big enough that it's my favorite smart speaker right now.

From nearly any other company, adding a screen would have resulted in feature-itis of the worst kind. By holding back, the Echo Show feels like it does more. Its strength is in its simplicity.
In its review, TechCrunch described Echo Show's video calling feature as the "killer app" for many users, allowing calls between two Echo Show devices, or between an Echo Show and the Alexa smartphone app. After entering a phone number, the Echo Show displays a list of other Echo owners from your own personal contact list, and from there you can directly call their Echo.

Image via The Verge

The site noted that the screen is far too small for long movie sessions (currently only supporting video from Amazon Prime), and described its resolution as "middling," but in video calls the Echo Show's 7-inch touchscreen makes the most sense. Still, both TechCrunch and The Verge did find Echo Show's "Drop In" feature slightly intrusive, as it lets selected friends and family pop into your Echo Show and see your home whenever they feel like it, but it's not activated by default.
It’s a lot easier to use than Skype (though, to be fair, most things in this life are), but it’s currently limited to Show users, which means Amazon is going to sell a lot of these to family members looking for a simple way to keep in touch. There’s also an odd Drop-In option, which takes the whole picking-up-the-phone bit out of the equation, so select friends and family can communicate directly with little warning. I suppose there’s some value for users looking to periodically check in on loved ones, but the whole thing is too intrusive for my tastes.
Wired also referenced worry about Echo Show's always-watching camera, but ultimately sees potential in the device's future, particularly once Amazon begins adding in more "skills" for the Echo Show. The site continued an opinion shared in multiple reviews posted today, which is that the Echo Show's speaker is better than that of the original Echo's, but "it's no Sonos."
Still, I find the Show’s potential fascinating. The Alexa ecosystem has grown big enough that I suspect Netflix and Hulu will soon make video skills, most smart-home manufacturers will support the new device, and games and apps will pop up all over the place. Alexa’s voice recognition works well enough to make all of this work, and developers can access the camera, the screen, the microphone, and the speaker. The Echo Show is basically an always-on, plugged-in smartphone, which could become hugely powerful.
Amazon's Echo Show is the latest in the company's line of smart speaker systems, following the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Look. Apple is gearing up to finally enter the same market, with an announcement at WWDC this year for the "HomePod." Apple said that its speaker is more focused on high-quality music playback than its smart speaker rivals, while also offering Siri-based AI features.

Check out more Echo Show reviews from the following sites:
- Business Insider
- Buzzfeed
- CNET
- Engadget
- TIME
- Bloomberg
- Gizmodo
- USA Today
- SlashGear
- The New York Times


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Amazon Reveals $230 Touchscreen ‘Echo Show’ Launching in June

Amazon today debuted an all-new touchscreen Echo device, which it's calling the "Echo Show," following a report from yesterday that said the company was gearing up to debut the new Echo as soon as today. As was expected, the Echo Show is a smart home speaker system that has all of the features of the basic Echo system with an additional 7-inch touchscreen.

With the addition of a touchscreen, Amazon said that users will be able to watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, check on security cameras, swipe through photos, view weather forecasts, make to-do and shopping lists, and more. Far-field voice recognition, eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation allow users to be heard from anywhere in the room, as well as over loud music coming from the Echo Show itself.


One of the biggest additions with Echo Show is a new video chat experience that allows users to make hands-free calls to friends who also have an Echo Show, or who use the Alexa smartphone app. A Feature called "Drop In" lets users quickly contact or send messages to other Echo Show devices to do things like let someone know it's time for dinner, or check in on a child's nursery.

The Echo Show will connect to smart home products like Hue and Wink, and allow for simple daily tasks like timing food in the kitchen and catching up with the news.
For news and information you can see and hear, just ask Alexa for your video flash briefing from CNN. Curious about the latest movie trailers or a need a how-to video from YouTube? Just ask.

Echo Show helps keep you organized at home. Start a timer in the kitchen and watch as it counts down, or easily see and manage your family’s calendar. Sign in to the Alexa App to take your to-do and shopping lists with you. Just add an item to the list from home, and whoever is out shopping will see it added instantly on their Alexa App.
The Amazon Echo Show is the latest in a long line of Amazon smart home speakers, following the original Echo, Echo Dot, and most recently the Echo Look. While Amazon sits on top of the market for these voice-controlled speakers, more companies are looking to add similar products into their line-ups. This week, Harman Kardon teased the upcoming launch of a speaker with Microsoft's Cortana built in, with an aesthetic very similar to Echo.

Apple has long been rumored to be getting into the smart home speaker market as well, with plans to launch a device that would be visually similar to Google Home and have deep Siri integration, as well as the usual Apple services like Apple Music and iCloud. Rumors about such a device began around this time last year, and Apple is now believed to debut the Siri smart speaker as soon as WWDC in June.

Although a screen on the Siri device has not been mentioned in rumors, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller recently mentioned that having a screen available suits more user-friendly situations than a device that exclusively uses voice controls. "So there's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen," Schiller said. "So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations."

The Amazon Echo Show is available to pre-order right now in black and white for $229.99 and will begin shipping June 28. Those who purchase two Echo Show devices at once can save $100 off of the order with a special promotion that Amazon is debuting for the launch of the new speaker.


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Apple VP Phil Schiller Implies Voice-Activated Smart Speakers Could Benefit From a Screen

Gadgets 360 published an interview with Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller this week that could shed some light on Apple's plans for a dedicated Siri-based voice-assistant for the home. Rumors have swirled in recent weeks about Apple's plans to unveil an Amazon Echo-like smart connected speaker, possibly as early as WWDC in June, so Schiller's thoughts on the topic could potentially relate to the way Apple is approaching the design of its Echo rival.

During the interview, Schiller demurred when asked what he thought about Amazon's Echo and Google Home, but his comments clearly imply that the two speakers leave a lot to be desired: "My mother used to have a saying that if you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all." More revealingly perhaps, Schiller took pains to distinguish between different usage scenarios for voice assistants: handsfree, such as while driving, when simple voice-activation is convenient – but limited – and most other occasions when the availability of a screen is preferred.

"We think it's important that there are times when it's convenient to simply use your voice when you are not able to use the screen," said Schiller. "For example, if you're driving [and] you want Siri to work for you without having to look at the screen, that's the best thing. Or maybe you're across the room, and you want to ask Siri to change the song you're listening to."

So there's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations. For example if I'm looking for directions and I'm using Maps, Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that's really convenient but it's even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I'm going to do.
Schiller continued his argument for voice assistants with screens using the example of photography and photo sharing. "With all the social networking apps that are now embracing photos more and more, well, it doesn't work really so great in voice-only assistants," said Schiller. The same goes for games, he said, calling them the "biggest category of all".
I have yet to see any voice-only games that, for me, are nearly as fun as the one that I play on my screen. And so I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they're gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this.
Schiller ended his comments on the topic by calling the dual role of voice-assistants "an interesting discussion", especially with respect to "when each is appropriate, and what they can do in our lives".

It's unclear how Schiller's comments fit in with the recent uptick in rumors that Apple is working on a Siri-based smart speaker for the home. Often-reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the product will double up as an AirPlay speaker and feature a custom W1 Bluetooth chip for easy pairing, while Sonny Dickson has suggested the device will run a variation of iOS and have a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls. However, none have claimed Apple is working to integrate a screen into the device.

By contrast, recent alleged leaks have suggested Amazon's next-generation Echo could have a built-in touchscreen and camera with the potential to support phone and video calls.

In the Gadgets 360 interview quoted from above, Schiller also spoke about other topics, including Apple's Swift programming language, and the company's app subscription model as it relates to developers and users of the App Store. You can read the full interview here.


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Apple’s Siri-Based Smart Speaker Has ‘Over 50% Chance’ of Debuting at WWDC in June

Apple's widely rumored Siri-based smart speaker and home hub has an "over 50 percent chance" of being announced at WWDC, scheduled for June 5-9, according to often-reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities.

The device is rumored to have a "Mac Pro-like" concave design (Image: iFunnyVlogger)

Kuo said Apple's smart home product will likely launch in the second half of 2017 and cost more than the Amazon Echo, $179. The device will supposedly support AirPlay with "excellent acoustics performance" from one woofer and seven tweeters. Kuo said its performance will be similar to the iPhone 6/6s.

An excerpt from Kuo's research note obtained by MacRumors:
We believe there is an over 50% chance that Apple will announce its first home AI product at WWDC in June and start selling in the ]second half of 2017] in order to compete with the new Amazon Echo models to be launched […]

We expect Apple’s first home AI product will have excellent acoustics performance (one woofer + seven tweeters) and computing power (similar to iPhone 6/6S AP). Therefore the product is likely to be positioned for: (i) the high-end market; (ii) better entertainment experience; and (iii) higher price than Amazon Echo.
Last week, leaker Sonny Dickson likewise said Apple's smart speaker could be announced as early as WWDC. He said the device will run a variation of iOS with unspecified Beats technology, in addition to a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls and speaker meshing covering the majority of its surface.

Apple's plans for a smart home device and Amazon Echo competitor were first revealed by The Information in May 2016, and Bloomberg reported that the device had entered prototype testing in September.

The latter report said Apple's smart home device would be able to control appliances, locks, lights, and curtains through Siri voice commands. It added that some of the prototypes in testing have facial recognition sensors, in line with a CNET report claiming the device could have a built-in camera.

Kuo said Taiwan-based Inventec will be the exclusive speaker supplier, including both the woofer and tweeters.


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Apple’s Echo-Like Smart Speaker With Siri and AirPlay Could Debut as Early as WWDC

Apple is widely rumored to be working on a Siri-based smart home device with a speaker, and Australian leaker Sonny Dickson has shared new details about its possible design and features on Twitter and with MacRumors.

Apple's smart speaker could take design cues from the Google Home

Dickson said that Apple is currently "finalizing designs" for the Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor, which he expects to be marketed as a Siri and AirPlay device. "It is believed to carry some form of Beats technology," he added, while noting that the device will run a variant of iOS software.

Dickson later told MacRumors that the device, allegedly codenamed B238 internally, will feature a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls. His source, which he told us is "someone inside Apple," described the device as "fat" like the Google Home with speaker mesh covering the majority of the device.

Dickson was told Apple's smart speaker could be unveiled at WWDC 2017 in early June, but as always, the company's plans could change.

In September 2016, Bloomberg reported that Apple's smart home device had entered prototype testing, including both a larger and a smaller model in line with Amazon's current Echo lineup. However, at the time, the report cautioned that Apple's early efforts do not guarantee that a finalized product will be released.

The report said Apple's smart home device would be able to control appliances, locks, lights, and curtains through Siri voice commands. It added that some of the prototypes in testing include facial recognition sensors, backed by an earlier CNET report claiming the device could have a built-in camera for facial recognition.

Dickson is best known for leaking various iPhone and iPad parts from overseas sources, such as these iPhone 5c rear casings in 2013, but his latest information supposedly comes from a source directly within Apple, an area where his track record is less established. His sources have proven incorrect at times.


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Amazon’s New ‘Echo Look’ Camera Has Machine Learning to Help You Make Better Fashion Choices

Amazon today announced the expansion of its popular Echo line with the $200 Amazon Echo Look, a device that packs in all of the typical Echo functionalities and adds on a hands-free camera with built-in LED lighting that can give users an edge on their wardrobe choices. With Echo Look, users can take full-body photos and videos using their voice, and view the content on the connected Amazon iOS and Android apps.

Thanks to the Echo Look's depth-sensing camera, users' outfits pop in the foreground while the background is blurred, making it easier to see what they're wearing. Photos can be saved to an ongoing "look book" that will log what users wear every day so as to not duplicate outfits, and the pics can be shared easily on social networks or through texts. Taking a video allows users to quickly replay the clip on their phone so they can see their outfit from every angle in the moment, making it easier to decide on what to wear.

With Echo Look, you can take full-length photos of your daily look using just your voice. The built-in LED lighting and depth-sensing camera let you blur the background to make your outfits pop, giving you clean, shareable photos.

Get a live view in the Echo Look app or ask Alexa to take a short video so you can see yourself from every angle. View recommendations based on your daily look and use Style Check for a second opinion on what looks best. And, because Alexa is built in the cloud, she’s always getting smarter—and so will Echo Look.
Echo Look also comes equipped with a machine learning feature called Style Check, allowing users to take two pictures of two separate outfits and compare the two in order to make the best choice. Combined with advice from fashion specialists, Style Check gives users a percentage bar of what outfit works better in the moment, and what fits better on each individual user.


Otherwise, Echo Look functions like any other Echo device. Users can set alarms, listen to the news and audiobooks, get traffic alerts, control their smart home devices, check the weather, and more. With the launch of Echo Look, Amazon now sells the Echo in three iterations: the traditional Echo ($179.99), the Echo Dot ($49.99), and the new Echo Look ($199.99). An official release date for the Echo Look has not yet been announced, but users interested can sign up for an invitation on the device's Amazon page.


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