In brief: Amazon's hardware event is underway, and Echo fans have quite a few exciting announcements to peruse. To name a few, there's the all-new Echo buds, the high-end Echo Studio, the budget-friendly Echo Flex, and now, the latest version of the company's original Echo smart speaker.
It's the third iteration of the gadget, and its main improvements include an updated design and better audio capabilities. First, let's talk about the design: much like the 2nd-gen Echo, Amazon has opted to wrap their latest device in a fabric covering, which serves as a way to hide speaker holes while also looking quite stylish.
However, the 3rd-gen Echo differs from its predecessor by including rounded corners. Interestingly, its design is almost identical to that of the older, $150 Echo Plus. In fact, we've had a hard time naming even one aesthetic difference between the two (color options aside).
Both devices even include an identical product photo on their respective store pages, and their audio architectures are the same, according to Amazon. The retail giant says the 3rd-gen Echo includes a "3-inch woofer" and "increased back volume" for stronger bass, as well as clearer mids and highs. Perhaps the new Echo is, at its core, just a rebranded Echo Plus?
We've reached out to Amazon for clarification on the key differences between the two devices, but for now, the only notable distinctions we can find lie in cost and smart home functionality: the 3rd-gen Echo comes in at $99 versus the Plus' $150 price tag, and the latter includes built-in Zigbee smart home hub features (while the former does not).
Update: An Amazon spokesperson responded to our query. "If customers want a great sounding smart speaker and don’t need a smart home hub, we recommend the All-New Echo," the individual said. "If customers want a Zigbee smart home hub and temperature sensor for additional smart home functionality, we recommend Echo Plus."
At any rate, there isn't much else of note to mention about the new Echo; aside from its new "Twilight Blue" fabric color option. If improved audio and a more Plus-like aesthetic interest you, feel free to pre-order the device now directly from Amazon. It's expected to ship out on October 16, 2019.