Amazon on Thursday announced a new suite of Echo devices and a new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite. The new Echo devices were made from recycled fabric, aluminum and plastic, meeting requirements for Amazon's new Climate Pledge Friendly sustainability label.
The next-generation Echo devices have improved sound capabilities, and other features. The Echo Dot Kids will have new designs to appeal to children and a Reading Sidekick feature, which helps kids improve their fluency. Meanwhile, the Echo Show 10 will soon support Zoom video conferencing and allow users to watch Netflix, and customers can access a live feed of their entire room while they're away, the company said.
The new Fire TV Stick now features faster streaming, Alexa Voice Remote and less energy consumption. The updated Fire TV experience includes personalized profiles with content recommendations, the ability to connect and monitor other smart devices, like the Ring security camera, and access an Alexa Explore hub to find new recipes or see stocks, among other things.
Amazon is revamping its device families just in time for the holiday season. Last year, the e-commerce giant said that the Echo Dot was its highest-selling product globally during the 2018 holiday shopping season. Cyber Monday in 2019, which was also buoyed by sales of "a record number of Amazon Devices globally," was the company's biggest shopping day in its history, though the retailer declined to share specific figures publicly.
It's not entirely clear how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the holiday season, but a survey from BlackFriday.com and SurveyGizmo found that about 30% of shoppers expect to spend a total of $400 or less this holiday season. While that may seem like bad news for electronics, which tend to have a higher price tag, consumers have also been stocking up on products to make living and working from home more enjoyable, including video game consoles and computer products, boosting players like GameStop and Best Buy.
Smart devices have also slowly grown in adoption as consumers get used to the tech. Last October, a Visa-sponsored PYMNTS.com report found that 31% of consumers owned voice-enabled devices, and 31% of them use the technology to make purchases, an uptick from the year prior. But despite the slight rise of voice-enabled devices, experts warned that manufacturers need to address consumers' security concerns, improve the overall user experience and step up their voice search functionality to reach the technology's full potential.
With the Echo and Fire TV updates, Amazon appears to have taken some of those concerns to heart. The company's announcement mentioned that the Echo Show 10's audio-based localization and computer vision data are processed locally and securely within the device. The new Echo Dot will also operate with a new all-neural speech recognition model that should process requests faster. Meanwhile, Alexa will also be able to automatically recognize Fire TV users' voices and switch to their corresponding profiles, per the company announcement.