amazon echo alexa hardware event 2021

Amazon Echo 5: wait, says Amazon

Each September, Amazon holds a hardware event where it launches new smart home gadgets. Last year the company announced a home robot, Astro, a 15-inch Echo Show and a lot of other devices. But it didn’t launch any new Echo speakers.

This year, it announced a new range of Echo Dots including the Echo Dot 5 with Clock and Kids editions.

With a built-in temperature sensor, better-sounding speaker and gesture control, the fifth-gen Dot is now effectively on par with the Echo 4.

But Amazon chose not to update the larger speaker. Which means there is no Echo 5 – for now at least.

At the event, we asked Amazon’s Dennis Stansbury why it was sticking with the Echo 4 and not also launching a fifth-generation model. He told us that – as ever – Amazon doesn’t comment on the future roadmap and that the company’s ethos is about “bringing enhancements to products and making sure that we’re innovating on behalf the customer. The standard Echo [4] is still a great product.”

In other words, Amazon thinks there are no meaningful improvements to be made to the regular model at the moment.

When is the Echo 5 release date?

Given the above, we have to assume that an updated model won’t be launched until 2023 now, and probably not before the end of the year at the next hardware event.

That’s good news for anyone who just bought an Echo 4, as it hasn’t been superseded. Also, Amazon announced that the Echo 4 is getting a software update on 20 October which will add support for Eero Built-in, meaning it will become a mesh Wi-Fi extender.

It also said that the Echo Studio is getting an update, and will now be available in Glacier White.

How much will the Echo 5 cost?

This is a tough question to answer at this stage, with no launch on the horizon.

In 2020 Amazon revamped the Echo range completely. The fourth-generation models adopted a new spherical design, and instead of an Echo Plus, Amazon decided to put the speakers and Zigbee hub from the previous-generation Plus into the cheaper $99.99/£89.99 model and simplified the range.

How much will the Echo 5 cost
How much will the Echo 5 cost

We think it’s likely that Amazon won’t change this price for the Echo 5 in the US, and keep it under $100 when it does eventually release the new model. In the UK, prices could jump from to £99.99. The economy isn’t in great shape right now and the Echo Dot 5 is more expensive in £ than $. However, a lot can change in 12 months.

What new features will the Echo 5 have?

In terms of design, and given that there are still no rumours or leaks, it’s hard to know if Amazon will keep the Echo 4’s design or not. When it launched the fourth-generation models, the company said the shape improves sound quality, which could mean that we’ll see an iteration on that design rather than something completely new.

What we’re expecting – partly off the back of announcements made at Amazon’s developers conference – are some new features:

Support for Matter

One feature that would definitely be included in any new Alexa device is Matter. This is a new smart home standard that’s been developed by Amazon, Google, Apple and many other companies. Its aim is to create proper interoperability between smart devices from different companies. This should make it far easier to use, say, Philips Hue lights with an Amazon Echo. It’s possible at the moment, but setup is hardly seamless.

For anyone following its development, Matter-enabled devices have been a very long time coming. But we could be mere weeks away from some of the first going on sale. The standard was originally announced in 2019 but various factors including coronavirus (plus other companies that wanted to get on board) meant it well and truly missed its ‘end of 2021’ launch target.

Matter isn’t necessarily a reason to buy an Echo 5, though, as Amazon has already said that most of its existing Echo products will get firmware updates that add Matter support.

Better sound

Amazon has improved the audio quality of Echos with each subsequent generation, so that’s one obvious improvement it will almost certainly make to the Echo 5.

It might choose to tick the 3D Audio box as well. Currently only the Echo Studio supports this, but Amazon is sure to want more people to use Amazon Music HD, and enabling its standard Echo speaker to playback spatial (and HD) audio would certainly help on this front. Maybe it will be the second-ever Alexa speaker from Amazon to support Dolby Atmos (after the Studio)

An optional clock

For three generations, Amazon has offered the choice of an Echo Dot with or without a clock display. It’s a surprisingly useful feature which can also show how long remains on a timer, and even the temperature. The Echo 4 has a built-in thermometer, but the only way to know what the room temperature is is to ask Alexa or use the Alexa app. A display would make this information more accessible, just as it now does on the Echo Dot 5’s higher-resolution display.

Amazon Echo 5: wait, says Amazon

More processing power

The Echo 4 has Amazon’s custom-designed AZ1 processor which enables Alexa to process a few key commands on the device itself without an internet connection, as well as a more natural-sounding voice.

Amazon wouldn’t have gone down the custom route unless it planned to develop the chip for future generations. Indeed, it did announce a much more powerful AZ2 processor which it has put in the Echo Show 15 and Echo Dot 5 range. Maybe that will also be used for the Echo 5, but it could get an AZ3 in 2023.

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