Wowsers! Amazon just blew the doors off with new devices and features!

Wowsers! Amazon just blew the doors off with new devices and features!

“Wowsers”, of course, was an expression used by Inspector Gadget…which may be singularly appropriate here. 🙂 Amazon doesn’t like to call them gadgets any more, they are “devices”.

That makes sense, since some of these are actually practical, or at least can be.

With what was announced today in a surprise hardware announcement (which also had an important feature improvement), had one of the biggest line-up changes I’ve seen. It required Amazon sending out three press releases today. Oh, and they had a fourth one, that BMW and MINI will have Alexa in the car starting in mid-2018 in the USA, UK, and Germany.

I think there will actually be a lot more later this year…it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they tie something big into the 10th anniversary of the release of the Kindle November 20th (I’m working on something as well)…that may be why there wasn’t an update to the Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) today, but it may also be why we didn’t get Amazon auggies (Augmented/Virtual Reality hardware)…they may think of that as another revolutionary item, like the Kindle.

They announced new (and very different) Echo items, and a new Fire TV (as I’ve been saying they would, based on rumors). However, there were new features, too.

There is a lot to digest, and there may end up being more than one post…but let’s dive in!

Let’s start with what I think is the biggest life changer for people:

Echo Spot (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

What is it? A smaller, less expensive version of the Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*).

That means it is an Alexa-enabled speaker with a screen.

Voice-enabled, and you can make videocalls to people with Echo Spot, Echo Show…or the free Alexa App on a SmartPhone.

Having a small, always available screen is going to make it a big part of people’s lives…not just as a baby monitor or to watch the dogs (it does do the “drop in” feature).

However, and this is new, you can now voice call anyone (they do need a phone, but not an Echo) hands free.

You can speak their phone numbers if they aren’t in your contacts.

This will work with most North American phone numbers (although not 911).

What does it cost to call?

It’s free!

Yes, this means free phone calling to just about any phone number.

More details here:

Alexa Calling & Messaging (at AmazonSmile*)

Oh, and you have the choice to anonymize the call…not show your number, but that’s up to you. To be clear, you are not using your phone to make the call.

Obviously, it would be good to be able to call 911 hands-free, especially for people with some challenges.

You can, with an additional device:

Echo Connect (at AmazonSmile*)

That one is $34.99, due to be released December 13th (the Echo Spot is scheduled for release December 19th).

What does it do?

It connects to your phone number, so you can call any number you can call with your phone…911, international numbers, and so on.

There are two more big Echo devices…and then a raft of features I still need to discuss!

The Echo Tower has been redesigned, and the price has been reduced to $99.99!

Echo (2nd gen) (at AmazonSmile*)

There are new colors and new finishes, including an Oak Finish. New speaker tech, new microphone tech, beamforming technology, it’s only about six inches tall, and controls hundreds of devices.

You can save $50 on three of them by using the code ECHO3PACK…details here: Amazon help page (at AmazonSmile*)

However, in the past, controlling SmartHome devices also meant you had a separate hub.

Now, for the last big Echo device, you can get an Echo…with a built-in hub!

Echo Plus (at AmazonSmile*)

For $149.99, you’ll be able to control your SmartHome devices easily…oh, and they throw in (gently, I’m sure) Silver+Philips Hue Bulb (which is only available for a limited time…$14.99 value).

I think this may make some people into SmartHome people who have been afraid to try it.

Speaking of controlling your SmartHome…

There are two new features which will also work with the earlier generation (although they don’t mention the Tap) and the Dot, Show, and Plus. Not right away, though…they say next month.

Alexa Routines

This lets you group activities into one name…and you can invoke it by voice or by time of day and dat of the week.

So, when you usually get up, Alexa can already have the coffeemaker going, start your music, turn on the lights in the bathroom and kitchen, and so on.

That’s a big one!

Hmm…they don’t mention it playing a particular song, but you can see how that could be great…you could say, “That’s what I’m talking about!” and have a triumphant, stadium ready anthem play, lights flash on and off. There are a lot of possibilities.

Improved SmartHome Groups

This is another giant improvement!

You can now assign lights (for example) to a given Echo device. That means that you walk into the kitchen (where you have an Echo), say, “Alexa, turn on the lights,” and just the lights in the kitchen come on.


One more Alexa thing, and this really may add a new dimension.

Alexa Gadgets (at AmazonSmile*)

At this point, you are just signing up to be in the loop.

What they show us as representative is basically a set of trivia game buzzers.

You’ll be able to get two of those for $19.99.

My guess is, though, that we’ll start seeing things like wands you can wave to “cast spells”.

I’m signing up, and I’ll keep you informed.

Echo gen 2 and Echo Plus press release

Echo Spot press release

Whew! That’s enough Echo for this post!


Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

is better, faster, stronger than it used to be. 😉

Now it has 4K Ultra HD video (and it’s a bargain for that, at $69.99). It’s got more memory, HDR (High Dynamic Range, better voice control, a slim design (which can hang and hide between the TV)…it goes on.

One I’ll really like: single sign on for a number of services, including CNNGO. What that means is that it won’t keep asking you to verify who you are. I’ve been meaning to write to CNN about that: it’s really disruptive to step out of the shower, soaking wet, trying to get ready to go to work…and have to go down to another room where I have a laptop with the page saved to enter a code. I was going to suggest that they ask for the validation code at the end of a session, rather than the beginning, so I could enter the code when it was convenient for me. Now, though, that might not matter. 🙂

I think the Echo Spot will be perhaps the most popular item out of this list, but the Echo TV will continue to be popular.

I’m going to wrap up here, but it looks to me like they might have also refreshed more of the

Fire tablet family (at AmazonSmile*)

but I’ll have to double-check.

Later this year, I think we could see EBR announcements (again, perhaps tied into November 20th for the ten-year Kindle anniversary), and those Amazon auggies…

What do you think of these announcements? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)


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All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

10 Responses to “Wowsers! Amazon just blew the doors off with new devices and features!”

  1. Phink Says:

    I don’t need a hub myself because I use Wemo which does not require a hub. Therefore, I like the $99 one best. Since they came out with “Music Everywhere” I found my tap is obsolete. I thought about getting the new $99 echo to replace it for my bedroom because the tap sometimes has problems staying connected to my internet. Quite often I have to reboot it and it’s out of warranty.

    I think the echo spot is too expensive for me considering that for $100 more I could get the show with a much bigger screen and actually $50 more per item if I needed two or wanted to give one away to my adult child 8 hours north, or my other adult child 10 hours south. so we could use it to communicate. I love the bedside clock face on the spot but if I’m going to have a screen that size I’d just as soon not have a screen at all except again, the clock would be nice. Maybe after thinking about it longer I might realize that thinking is faulty. We will see.

    Disappointed there were no new EBR’s but you made a good point about November. Come on Immersion reading through Bluetooth (I’d love speakers but that’s just not going to happen), more font sizes, and an Oasis skin on a much cheaper version such as Paperwhite. That skin with auto flip looks like a fantastic way to hold an EBR with one hand out of the case, which is my preferred way to read on them.

    My life since the Oasis came out consist of two steps I repeat over and over for the most part. They are:

    1) (this step last 2 days to a week or so) Look at that Oasis every single day, watch You Tube videos about it every single day, argue with myself over what my Grandfather told me when I spent $90 on 2 pair of parachute pants in 1984 vs. the ‘you only live once’ mentality. He told me 33 years ago “a fool and his money will soon part.”

    2) Deciding the Oasis is ungodly expensive and something I don’t need. It’s a luxury I can certainly do without. (this step last months usually)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I may get the hub, partially to test it, but partially because I rely on a Wink hub now, that isn’t that reliable. I need to unplug it to reset it at least once very couple of weeks. Also, the Wink really is just controlling lights, and eventually, I might want an Alexa device to control a lot more. The new hub seems very flexible, in terms of its interoperability.

      I’m considering the Spot as well (I did order the new Fire TV already…our Fire TV stops a lot watching Hulu, which I’m guessing is a high demand app since the last upgrade). I can see applications for the Spot. I’m not satisfied with my current nightstand clock, but it would be more for video use…it seems small, but not that much smaller than a phone. It might be good to watch the dogs from work 🙂 and if I needed to travel with a video presence again, it would be easier than the Show.

      The Oasis was an easy choice for me, since they won’t sell it without animal leather, so it’s a no go for me.

      Oh, and as to a fool and money…it seems to me that if you only want money for things which are necessary, that’s pretty sad. Some people have little choice about that, but for those who do, fun counts. 🙂

  2. Jackie Says:

    Thanks for your informative summary! This is a lot of “new stuff” to take in.

  3. Get an Echo Dot for $10, an HD antenna for $5: bundle bargains! | I Love My Kindle Says:

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  4. Zebras Says:


    This fool and her money parted a little. LOL When Saturday Night LIve did their spoof for “Alexa Silver, I was in hysterics. So when I saw they had a silver option on the new compact model, I had to order it to surprise my husband, who still goes around calling out funny similar names to see what she will answer to.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      I did see that routine…glad the color works out for you. 🙂

    • Phink Says:

      I never watched it so I had to You Tube it. Of course I had to get out of my recliner and turn my office echo off first so she would not keep going off during it. Come to find out that might not have been necessary because it seldom used the word Alexa. That reminds me. A good feature would be “Alexa shut your mouth for 10 minutes” “I do not have a mouth but I’ll shut up for 10 minutes.” At this point it shuts down for that time.

      Oh, and it was funny. I enjoyed it. My favorite all time SNL skit though is the one with the tag line the narrator used “Play with your kids, so Peyton Manning doesn’t.” My least favorite is “more cow bell”. I have no idea why so many find that so funny. Oh well, everyone is different.

    • Phink Says:

      That $90 I spent for parachute pants would be worth about $2100 today if I had invested it in an average stock and let it ride since then not counting dividends. A good dividend might be double that.

      I do try to balance saving, investing, and having fun. These are not my words but I agree with “money is only good for 3 things. It’s good for making money, having fun, and giving away.”

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