Amazon's fall 2020 hardware event may not be in person, but we were there to cover it live as it unfolded. Not only were we introduced to a whole bunch of new Echo, Ring, and Eero devices, but we learned about Amazon's new and ongoing privacy, sustainability, and machine learning and AI initiatives.
All of this news comes fresh on the heels of recent announcements about the Amazon Sidewalk program, as well as the holistic Halo band health tracker.
As usual, there are a lot of devices and initiatives to report. You can order or pre-order some of the new devices now, while other devices are expected later in the fall around Prime Day 2020, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: All-new Echo (4th Gen)
Ever since the original Echo debuted in late 2014, the device (and the category at large) has been dominated by cylindrical-shaped speakers, but no more. The fourth generation, All-new Echo, sports a spherical design that reminds us a bit of the failed Nexus Q. Still, unlike the Google product, this new Alexa device is sure to be a huge hit.
The All-new Echo comes with improved sound, a built-in Zigbee hub with Amazon Sidewalk support, and an all-new AZ1 neural edge processor which promises 20 times less power consumption and two times faster speech recognition. The All-new Echo is available now on Amazon for $100.
Amazon's new spherical 4th Gen Echo has a more inviting design, improved speakers, and adds the Echo Plus's Zigbee smart hub and Sidewalk capabilities.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: All-new Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, Echo Dot Kids Edition
The spherical design cues from the full-sized Echo have been inherited by the smaller Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, and Echo Dot Kids Edition. Each Dot features a larger design than in generations past, with improved speakers and sound profiles.
The new Echo Dot Kids Edition is available for $60 and comes in two fun varieties — a cute panda and a terrific tiger. The devices come with one free year of Amazon Kids+ and now feature a special reading mode called Sidekick, which allows Alexa to read alongside your child, offering encouragement and support during the reading process.
Amazon's new Echo Dot is round, has a larger, more powerful speaker than the previous generation, and looks great.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)
After nearly three years, the largest Echo Show device got a much needed and impressive set of upgrades in the form of the Echo Show 10. Amazon said that the Echo Show devices were its fastest-growing category of Echo speakers, and that trend looks to continue once customers see what this new device has in store for them.
In addition to an improved display and impressive 13MP camera, this show can actually rotate 360-degrees to follow you and your voice, so that you can see what Alexa is displaying on the screen regardless of where you're standing in the room. It operates on a silent motor and features the same AZ1 neural processor, Amazon Sidewalk support, and Zigbee hub as in the regular Echo. You can control the camera in your Alexa app when you're not home, or you can set up Alexa routines to put the device in "sentry mode" to scan the room when you're away.
Amazon also said that the device can now handle group calls better than ever and works with Netflix. It is available for pre-order now for $250.
Keep the action on camera hands-free.
The Echo Show keeps getting beefier, but the real fun here is Smart Motion, which will have the screen and camera on the Echo Show 10 follow you around the room so that you can always see what's being displayed.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Ring Car devices
As impressive as the Echo and Fire announcements were, the star of this event just may have been Amazon's Ring division. Not content to just protect your home, Ring is expanding its line of products to cover your cars as well with three new devices.
The Ring Car Alarm is a device that plugs into the ODB port of your car and monitors for break-ins or tows. It has a built-in siren, and it will also send you notifications through the Ring app. The Ring Car alarm will retail for $60 and will be available in early 2021.
Ring also announced — you guessed it — a Ring Car Cam, which sits on your car's dashboard and continually records with dual-facing HD cameras. It has a siren that can scare off intruders, and it can also send emergency crash reports to notify first responders if you are in an accident. You can even say, "Alexa, I'm being pulled over" during a traffic stop, and it will automatically record audio and video of your encounter. It will be available in early 2021 for $200.
Finally, there is the Ring Car Connect, which will interface with existing in-car sensors and security systems, and can let you know if there are any issues or security concerns with your vehicle. It will first be available in Tesla cars next year and will cost $200.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Ring home devices
Perhaps the coolest (and creepiest) device announced at the fall 2020 hardware event was the Ring Always Home Cam. This is a drone camera that can be programmed to fly around your home to monitor every nook and cranny of your space. It can run on scheduled routines or on-demand, but the camera only records when it is in motion.
Ring's founder says that this device was "built with privacy top of mind," and that it will be loud, so you know when it is in use. The camera will record at 1080p and be available at some time in the future for $250.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Eero 6 routers
News of new Eero routers had leaked weeks in advance of this event, but we got confirmation of the new devices today. Eero introduced the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 mesh Wi-Fi routers, which will retail for $130 and $230, respectively.
Both routers come equipped with Wi-FI 6 built-in, and will also be Zigbee hubs and Amazon Sidewalk-enabled devices. The Eero Pro 6 will have tri-band connectivity, while the regular Eero 6 will support dual-band. Pre-orders are up now, and the devices will be shipping in November.
With Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and excellent value, the Eero 6 is the ideal way to upgrade your home Wi-Fi. You get two Gigabit ports, compatibility with earlier Eero devices, and up to 1,500 sq. ft. of coverage with each node.
The Eero Pro 6 is designed for enthusiast users, delivering tri-band connectivity and 2,000 sq. ft. of coverage from a single node. The built-in Zigbee hub lets you easily connect smart home products directly to the router, making it an even more enticing option.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite
It had been several years since new Fire TV Sticks were released, but that hasn't stopped the devices from becoming the most popular Fire TV products on Amazon with over a quarter-million 5-star ratings. Amazon announced a new Fire TV Stick with support for HD, HDR, Dolby Atmos, and an Alexa Voice Remote, all using 50% less power than the previous generation, for just $40. It also dropped an even more affordable Fire TV Stick Lite that comes with a simplified Alexa Voice Remote and what it calls the most processing power of any streaming media player under $30.
Amazon also announced a streamlined and simplified Fire TV experience, which is the most significant user interface change in several years. It will heavily feature family profiles, a new navigation bar, a new Alexa voice hub, and picture-in-picture. Also, Alexa voice responses won't take over the entire screen as they have before, making for better overall user experience.
Amazon's updated Fire TV stick is twice as fast as last year's model and comes with an updated remote for easier access to TV controls. It still only does 1080p, though.
Amazon's newest HDMI dongle is its cheapest Fire TV stick ever. At $30, the Fire TV Stick Lite dispenses with the additional TV controls of its mainline counterpart, but it still gets the job done.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Luna Gaming
If the Ring Always Home Cam was the most interesting device, Luna Gaming might be the most popular announcement of the day. Luna is Amazon's dive into game streaming services like Google Stadia, and it promises to work across Fire TV devices, as well as on major platforms like iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows.
The service will launch with over 100 titles to play from major developers like Ubisoft, and users can integrate the gaming experience with Twitch. The Luna+ subscription service will be available for $5.99/month.
Amazon also announced a Luna Controller powered by what it calls Cloud Direct Technology, which removes latency and the need for pairing, and has a low-friction thumbstick and comfort grips. The controller will cost $50.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: AZ1 Neural Edge Processor
Amazon has been a bit coy with its internal silicon in the past, but it loudly and proudly proclaimed the merits of its newest AZ1 Neural Edge processor at today's event. Featured in devices like the new Echo and Echo Show 10, the chip promises 2x faster speech processing and up to 85% lower memory usage. It will enable better on-device processing of queries so that they don't have to be uploaded to amazon's servers, making the user's interaction with Alexa faster and more productive.
One interesting example of this custom silicon and machine learning was demonstrated when an Amazon executive showed off Alexa's new self-learning skills. Alexa will now be able to ask clarifying questions and remember your responses to tailor future answers and actions. Her voice tone and modulation will also change based on how she senses your tone and conversation. These preferences will be learned user by user, which the company is touting as a major advantage of its AI.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Environmental Initiatives
The online event began with Dave Limp, Amazon's hardware boss, coming to us "live" from Amazon's Biodome building in Seattle. Mr. Limp started his comments talking about Amazon's Climate Pledge commitment and its sustainability efforts across its offices, facilities, and retail operations. He said that Amazon pledges to be a net-zero carbon company by 2040 and that it is already well ahead of schedule.
Mr. Limp touted the new Echo and Fire TV devices as the most sustainable ever, made from 100% post-consumer recyclable fabric and 100% recyclable die-cast aluminum. These devices are among the first to be included in the company's sustainable product program announced earlier this week.
Mr. Limp also said that more than half of the carbon footprint of its devices comes from when the devices are actually in use; in other words, the energy they draw from the grid. Amazon is pledging to match 100% of the energy that its Echo devices draw back into the grid from wind and sustainable energy projects it is funding. Amazon will be rolling out a new energy dashboard in the Alexa app so that customers can see how much energy their devices are drawing. With machine learning and AI, Alexa will proactively suggest routines that can take advantage of this data (like turning down the thermostat or turning off the lights automatically).
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Voice Profiles for Kids
In a sanity-saving measure, Amazon's new Alexa Voice Profiles for Kids means that any of your Echo or Alexa-enabled devices will be able to recognize your children by their voice and engage them with more age-appropriate responses and content. Now parents don't have to bother enabling Kids+/FreeTime Unlimited on each and every Echo device they own.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: New Privacy Initiatives
While reminding customers about existing features such as hardware switches to mute Echo microphones and shutters to cover Echo Show cameras, Amazon also introduced new Alexa voice controls. Users can now ask Alexa to "delete everything I've ever said." Amazon will be proactively encouraging customers to review their Alexa privacy settings, which they can do in the app or through their voice.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Alexa Care Hub
Alexa Care Hub is pitched as a way for families to be able to look after one another and stay even more connected. Subscribers can be alerted in their Alexa app when an elderly relative has been active/inactive with their Alexa devices, and they can get a feed of their loved ones' interactions with Alexa devices. Better still, users can ask, "Alexa, help," and Alexa can call or notify you as the emergency contact, wherever you are. Amazon promises that this is a secure system that both sets of users have to agree to opt-into, and can allow for older users a greater level of dignity and independence.
Amazon Fall 2020 Hardware Event: Alexa Guard Plus
Alexa Guard has been a free service that uses the microphones on your Echo devices to monitor for sounds like breaking glass or smoke alarms, and it can even connect with security systems from Ring and ADT. With Alexa Guard Plus, Amazon is extending this program into a subscription service. For $4.99/month or $49/year, customers in the U.S. can listen for even more sounds, and it can even reactively play sounds from inside your home if it detects that there are unwanted intruders afoot (dogs barking, etc.). Subscribers will also be able to access a live emergency response 24/7/365 through Alexa.
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