India is a huge market for Amazon, and the retailer is investing upwards of $5 billion in the country toward building out its infrastructure and services. A key part of that vision is Alexa — Amazon's AI platform — so it's no surprise that the retailer has decided to launch its Echo family in the country. India is the first country in Asia to receive Echo products, and Amazon is kicking things off by rolling out three devices: the Echo, Echo Dot, and the Echo Plus.
Echo devices come in varying shapes and sizes, and the functionality also varies among models. Here's what you need to know about the Echo, Echo Dot, and the Echo Plus in India.
What's the same
There are a few things that are common among all three Echo devices. They all feature far-field microphones, which means you can ask Alexa a query from all the way across a room and get an answer. Alexa will also be able to hear you even when there's loud music playing.
As for Alexa itself, Amazon's virtual assistant can do everything from giving you a daily news briefing along with a list of your calendar appointments, traffic and weather information, and much more. You'll also be able to stream music from your favorite services (Saavn and TuneIn are live, Prime Music is coming later this month), and control Hue and Syska LED lights. The Echo devices also have controls at the top for volume playback and to turn off the always-on microphone, and there's also a light ring that indicates the device's status with colors.
All three Echo devices have far-field microphones and volume controls at the top.
And finally, you'll be able to order products on Amazon using your voice (how cool is that?). We'll have to wait and see how the feature works, because unlike the U.S., transactions in India need a second factor of authentication either via an OTP or your internet banking password. With Amazon getting into the payments game with Amazon Pay, it is possible the retailer will use the balance from your wallet when placing orders through Alexa.
Another feature all three Echo devices have in common is the ability to hook into Alexa's skills, through which you can personalise your experience by connecting the virtual assistant to third-party services. Skills allow Alexa to expand its functionality, and the virtual assistant can help you with everything from hailing a cab on Uber or Ola to checking the status of your flight, ordering food on Zomato, looking up cricket scores, getting the latest news headlines, and so much more.
Amazon has teamed up with several service providers in India, including the likes of NDTV, Times of India, Zomato, Saavn, Ola, Uber, Freshmenu, Byju, Sportskeeda, Cricinfo, Jet Airways, Hue, Syska LED, and more. For instance, you can say, "Hey Alexa, ask Uber to book a cab," and the assistant will do just that.
The second-generation Echo is the speaker that has the most design flair among the Echo products. Amazon switched out the tall cylindrical design for a more homely form factor that's shorter and stouter.
The Echo has Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth A2DP, 3.5mm out, and a 2.5-inch woofer paired with a 0.6-inch tweeter. You'll get 360-degree sound thanks to the down-firing woofer, and the speaker is tuned by Dolby. Given the design and the price — the speaker costs ₹9,999 — the Echo is the most sensible purchase for the Indian market.
You'll be able to customize the look of your Echo thanks to interchangeable fabric shells, with three color options available in India: Charcoal, Heather Grey, and Sandstone. Amazon has a few wood veneer options, but they're not available in the country yet.
The Echo Dot is the entry-level variant in the Echo family, and it's available in India for ₹4,499. The device itself resembles a hockey puck, and it does a decent job of blending into the background.
The Dot is essentially a miniature version of the first-gen Echo, with the speaker offering a single 0.6-inch tweeter. You're not going to have a lot of fun streaming tunes directly on the device, but you can hook it up to external speaker via the 3.5mm output jack.
The Echo Plus is the most powerful speaker of the lot, and at ₹14,999, it is also the costliest. The speaker is tall, cylindrical, and has an integrated ZigBee connected home hub, allowing it to connect to hundreds of products like LED bulbs and sensors that use the ZigBee protocol. It has Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth A2DP, and a standard aux port.
The Echo Plus has a robust soundstage thanks to a 2.5-inch down-firing woofer and an 0.8-inch tweeter. The audio is tuned by Dolby, and Amazon says the Echo Plus will be able to deliver 360-degree omni-directional sound. The speaker weighs 954g, and comes in at 235 x 84 x 84mm.
Amazon's introductory offer
All three products will be available in the country from the last week of October, but they're up for pre-order right now. To incentivize the launch, Amazon is offering a stellar deal on all three Echo devices, with a straight 30% discount along with a 12-month subscription to Prime.
Here's how much the Echo devices cost after the 30% discount:
The drawback with the introductory offer is that it's invite-only. To get a hold of an Echo device, you'll need to go to its product page and hit the Request invite button (you'll need to be signed in to your Amazon account). Once you do that, you'll get an email from Amazon confirming your eligibility. The email should take roughly around 15 hours to hit your inbox after you've requested an invite. Once you get the email, you can buy the Echo device of your choosing.
Deals like this don't come around often, particularly for Echo devices. The devices will be going on sale starting October 31, after which you'll have to shell out full price for them. So if you're looking to see what Alexa is all about, hit up the link below to request an invite.
Which Echo device are you looking to purchase? Let us know in the comments.
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