Amazon has gone big on Alexa and its Echo devices, which still hold 75% of the UK's smart speaker market (according to YouGov). The range is now large, from the inexpensive Echo Dot up to the pricier Echo Show with its big touchscreen.
If anything, the choice is a little confusing but we’ve outlined how the models differ in our ‘Which Echo should I buy ’ guide.
When is the Amazon Echo 3 release date?
It’s a little early to be asking, really. The Echo 2 came out in October 2017 so we wouldn’t expect it to be replaced until the end of this year at the earliest.
Even then, there’s no pressure on Amazon to launch a new model on an annual basis. There’s already a huge choice of devices, and that’s not including all the third-party models from other manufacturers.
However, there are quite a few benefits to having several Alexas around the house, so even current Echo owners could be tempted by an upgraded model.
How much will the Echo 3 cost?
Again, it’s too early to say and the price will depend on many factors such as whether Amazon goes for better sound quality or wants to drive prices down even more.
Google has matched the Echo Dot’s price with its own Home Mini, but it hasn’t cut the price of the bigger (and original) Home model which remains at £129/US$129.
New features we’d like to see in the Echo 3
There’s a lot to like about the Echo 2, and Amazon is constantly adding features and new skills to Alexa which – in this writer’s opinion – is currently the best voice assistant to have.
Despite this, the Echo 2 isn’t perfect. When it initially launched, many complained that instead of the promised increase in quality over the original, it actually sounded worse.
Fortunately, Amazon sent out a software update which managed to fix this and put the Echo 2 at least on a par with the bigger original.
So, first on our wish list is a step up in audio quality, specifically for music. Alexa sounds fine on the Echo 2 if you’re just listening to the headlines or a podcast or the radio, but it leaves you wanting when it comes to music.
Google has the Home Max and Apple has the HomePod for audiophiles, but both cost way more than the Echo. If Amazon was to compete with those speakers, it wouldn’t be with the Echo 3: it would have to be an entirely new model.
Assuming it sticks with the same compact size, hopefully it can still come up with some engineering trickery to coax more bass and volume from the woofer in the next model.
In the US, Amazon sells the Tap – a portable, Alexa-enabled Bluetooth speaker. We’re still not sure why this isn’t available in the UK, but it would be very useful to be able to take your Echo into the garden and use it when you’re outdoors.
Obviously, this kind of portability requires a battery. Whether that’s internal or some sort of attachable accessory, we’d love to see it on the Echo 3.
For now, you have to resort to an extension lead or a third-party device such as the NinetySeven Vaux, which gives the Echo Dot a battery and a better speaker.
Better voice recognition
The Echo 2 brought better microphones for better ‘wake word recognition’ but it still isn’t flawless. On occasion Alexa still won’t respond if there’s too much background noise (including when the Echo itself is playing music) and, contrarily, pipes up from time to time when no-one has even mentioned Alexa.
This could be both a hardware and software fix, but in any case, let’s hope that the next Echo has even better wake word recognition so it responds every time, and only when someone has specifically said “Alexa”.
One of Alexa’s biggest annoyances is that she’ll often start playing music when you asked a completely unrelated question, such as “Alexa, is fox hunting legal in the UK”. It’s almost as if the default response when she doesn’t quite understand you is to say “Here’s a station you might like” and start playing random music.
However, until these voice assistants are truly intelligent, we’ll all have to learn to live with such limitations.
Many of the features on our Alexa wish list (when the Echo originally launched) have already been implemented by Amazon, so it’s great to know that not only is it listening to customer requests but actively improving the assistant all the time.
For example, you can now play music across multiple Echos in sync. Plus you can ask Alexa in one room to play music in a different room.
Alexa can now send messages to other Echo users, and in the US she is beginning to be able to send SMS messages to phone numbers as well.
Again, a US-only capability is to recognise who is speaking and answer appropriately. This way, Alexa can handle multiple calendars, to-do lists and more. We’d love to see this rolled out in the UK and other countries as soon as possible.