New Amazon Echo Plus has ZigBee smart home hub built in, priced at $150

At a surprise press event on Wednesday Amazon unveiled the Echo Plus, the newest and most premium iteration of the company's famed tabletop smart home device.

The Echo Plus looks a great deal like the original Echo — tall, slender, plastic shell — which is an interesting choice given that it just updated the Echo's look with interchangeable covers to better match users' interiors. Internally, however, it's definitely upgraded: not only does it have all of the improved features of the new Echo (integrated Dolby sound, better voice recognition), it also has a ZigBee smart home hub built into it to better and more easily connect to a wider range of smart home devices.

When you're ready to connect your Echo Plus to your family of smart home products, all you have to do is say, "Alexa, discover devices." The Echo Plus is compatible with everything from locks to light bulbs, and won't need apps or skills in order to function. To really emphasize that point, Amazon is is shipping every Echo Plus with a Philips Hue light bulb so you can really maximize the use of your new device directly out of the box.

Echo products aren't the only things getting an upgrade. Beginning next month, Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, will have a few new features as well. According to the company, these include:

  • Alexa routines: Routines allow users to combine multiple actions under a single voice command. For example, if you say "Alexa, good morning," Alexa could turn on your lights, start your kettle or coffee maker, and give you your daily news briefing or the weather forecast. This can even be customized so that certain responses to commands happen on certain days, so your "Good morning" command will result in a different series of actions on the weekend than it does on weekdays.
  • Improved smart home groups: You now no longer need to remember specific smart home devices in order to control them. You can now place your Echo and whatever devices you desire into smart home groups, so instead of saying "Alexa, turn on the kitchen overhead light" you can just walk into the kitchen and say "Alexa, turn on the lights."
  • Call anyone: Now instead of just being limited to calling others with Amazon Echo devices, you'll be able to call anyone within the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All you have to do is ask Alexa to call someone in your smartphone contacts list, and it will make the call. You can also speak a number aloud to Alexa, so even individuals or business that aren't in your contacts list will be reachable. Calls to 911, however, are not supported.

The Echo Plus is available for pre-order starting today. It will be available in white, black and silver and is priced at $149.99, which is a very good deal considering the original Echo was notably more expensive at launch.

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  • This really needs Z-Wave
  • Two things: which flavor of Zigbee does this support (LightLink, HA, the dumpster fire of other ZigBee?) The inclusion of hue says lilghtlink. Two: do you really want your home automation to miss actions if someone streams a 4k movie, the ISP is fighting with a peering entity, Amazon sneezes, etc? Clouds are wispy, ephemeral objects, not something you build on.
  • Someone might want to tell all of the multinational, billion dollar companies, including one of the largest banks and the largest online retailer, running their critical IT infrastructure on Amazon Web Services that you don't build on a cloud. It seems your view of what the cloud is might be in need of updating.
    Two of your three examples seem to be more focused on the unreliable nature of home internet connectivity rather than limitations of the "wispy, ephemeral" cloud. That being said, if your home automation doesn't work because you do not have Internet connectivity, I would agree that that's a problem and why some automation systems are combining the advanced features of "always connected" with advanced features accessible via workloads running in the cloud with capabilities pushed inside the devices themselves.
  • Blah blah blah, Amazon has hiccups, and when they do, aws gives no f@x about your down time. ...I will stick with my smartthings hub for my smart hub
  • You do realize that smartthings becomes a barely functioning zombie without the internet, right? You can't even control things from your phone/tablet via local wifi.
  • Based on this post SmartThings uses AWS.
  • My smoke alarm turns on every bedroom light, exterior light, and a couple interior lights and plays a verbal alert on the doorbell. My doors lock themselves at night. My pipe heaters come on if the exterior temp sensor goes below 25F. I don't want any of that to be unavailable because any one of the ten critical pieces of infrastructure, other than the home automation controller itself, happened to be down. The big companies use AWS for systems that talk to the outside world. AWS is great for that. And it mitigates the risks of what is bouncing off their corporate firewalls. DDOS attacks against their AWS web presence doesn't impact their email or bank-to-bank communications. What they don't do is run factories, building management systems, security systems, or other automation systems from the cloud. Because even if those things SOMETIMES talk to the outside world, their fundamental reason de etre is not dependent upon talking to the outside world. Home Automation is not something that needs to be on the internet. It can be enhanced by data available on the internet (weather forecasts, access to your calendar, etc) but if the internet is down, your thermostat should not stop working, your lights shouldn't stop working and your safety routines should not stop working.
  • Maybe when it gets to 20 BUCKS
  • haha...hilarious!
  • I wonder if the sound of this thing comes close to a Sonos Play:1 yet. 'cuz once i boost the bass and treble of my Sonos speakers, their sound blows me away for such a small form factor. if the new Echo is even close, then i might sell all my Play:1s+Dots for these in every room instead.
  • Since it comes with its own hub, would you still need to install that panel thing into your walls or can you just plug in the smart bulb & have it working?