Two years on from the launch of the second-generation Echo Amazon has scheduled a hardware event for 25 September, just a couple of weeks after it announced its new Fire TV Cube at IFA. We'd bet the office on the idea that we will see a new Echo 3.
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 huge, from the inexpensive Echo Dot up to the pricier Echo Show with its big touchscreen.
If anything, there's too much choice, so we’ve outlined how the models differ in our ‘Which Echo should I buy ’ guide.
When is the Amazon Echo 3 release date?
Expected: 25 September 2019
Now, almost two years later, the Echo 2 has disappeared off sale on Amazon's UK website - the "Currently unavailable" notice is basically code for 'Discontinued'.
And that makes us think we're about to see a new model announced. It is still in stock and available to buy in the US, so it could just be a temporary lack of stock.
Another reason why we could be wrong is that Amazon has only just announced the Fire TV Cube for the UK, plus a sound bar and TVs with integrated Fire TV at IFA, where it could have also unveiled an Echo 3. However, the Fire TV is a different range to the Echo, so you could argue it wouldn't have made sense to lump it in with that particular launch.
Oh, and tiny thing, but there's an Amazon hardware event on 25 September. Hello Echo 3.
How much will the Echo 3 cost?
The price will depend on many factors such as whether Amazon goes for better sound quality or wants to drive prices down even more.
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, or if it's placed next to a TV) 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.
When more information surfaces, we'll update this article.