Amazon Echo is getting a major update
The Amazon Echo continues to be one of the most popular smart speakers on the market with millions shipped across the world.
The clever device received a major refresh late last year with an updated look and lower price but now it seems more features are being pushed out to this intelligent speaker.
Amazon has just announced two changes which will not only make this device sound a little better but also improve the overall experience.
So, if you now an Amazon Echo here’s what’s new.
THE ECHO WILL SOON SOUND BETTER
There’s no question that the Echo is a brilliant little smart speaker but one of its biggest flaws is that it doesn’t sound all that good.
Amazon is now boosting the Echo’s audio credentials with a new equalizer feature.
This upgrade will allow users to customise the way audio sounds from the Echo.
Bass, midrange and treble can be individually adjusted within a range of six decibels (dB).
Settings can be adjusted using the Alexa app for smartphones and tablets or by simply saying “Alexa, increase bass” or “Alexa, decrease treble”.
In blog post, Amazon developer Mike Maas wrote: “Today we are excited to announce equaliser (EQ) and sound mode controls for smart home entertainment devices, available today for customers in the US across the Amazon Echo family of devices, and on select Alexa-enabled devices built using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS).
“Now customers can personalise the tone of the audio playing on their speakers, AV receivers, and sound bars by simply saying, ‘Alexa, crank up the bass,’ ‘Alexa, turn up treble,’ or ‘Alexa, set TV mode’.”
The equalizer is available now in the US but it looks almost certain that UK Echo owners will be treated to improved sound in the autumn.
The equalizer may not be ready in the UK just yet but there is a feature that is available right now.
Alexa Cast is a new way for customers to enjoy tracks with it allowing Amazon Music subscribers to play music and/or control music playback on their Alexa-enabled devices from the Amazon Music app on iOS or Android.
With this new feature customers can easily transition the playlist they were listening to on their commute home from their Amazon Music app to Alexa devices in their living room when they walk in the door.
Even if you switch to voice controls, the Amazon Music app will match the progress of the music playback.
To get started with Alexa Cast in the Amazon Music mobile app, Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music listeners can update the app for iOS or Android today or download it from the Apple or Google Play app stores.
From there, simply go to the “now playing” view to find the Alexa Cast icon. Just tap the icon to bring up a list of all available Alexa enabled devices, select a device or group to start casting music to and begin playing music on your Echo device.
Alexa Cast has launched in the US, UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India and France.
A FEATURE TO RIVAL THE GOOGLE HOME
The Google Home is Amazon’s biggest rival and, with the search giant’s huge web knowledge, this Google-powered speaker does have some advantages.
However, Amazon is fighting back with a new partnership with Yext, a company specialising in business data that is distilled from the likes of Google and Facebook.
Yext attempts to bring users the most precise answers possible by partnering with businesses directly to ensure information is correct.
This means, in theory, if a business is closing early on a bank holiday it will notify Yext who would then work with Amazon to ensure hours are updated when a user asks their Echo.
The update is currently available in the UK, US and Australia among others but will both companies plan to radically expand the roll out in the future.
Announcing the partnership with Amazon, Yext said: “With this new relationship, consumers using Alexa for voice search can receive the most up-to-date facts about businesses—locations, contact information, hours of operation, and more—straight from the source: the business itself.”
The Google Home is one of Amazon’s biggest rivals
AUDIBLE ON THE ECHO
Starting this week, Amazon Echo users who are new to Audible (those who have never taken a trial before) can sign-up to a free 30-day trial simply by asking Alexa to start an Audible trial, or to start reading one of the 300,000 titles available in Audible’s catalogue.
Existing members are now also able to purchase audiobooks with their credits through their Echo device. Echo owners simply need to say: “Alexa, start (an/the) Audible trial…” – “Alexa, join Audible…” – “Alexa, read [book title]…”
Audible content includes more than 300,000 titles.
Amazon Echo Dot could be getting a refresh
AND FINALLY…IS A NEW ECHO DOT INBOUND?
Amazon refreshed its main Echo speaker last year but it didn’t touch the baby Echo Dot.
Now a new leak may reveal that the online retailer is planning to upgrade this budget smart device with a brand new look.
According to French website FrAndroid, the Dot is set to get a fabric design similar to its bigger brother.
Leaked photos, which have not been confirmed, claim to show this upgrade which certainly gives the Dot a softer and more appealing appearance.
We’ll wait and see if this rumour becomes a reality but Amazon could announce these changes later in the year.