Amazon held the 2023 version of its Devices & Services event, and as expected it featured a parade of new smart home products that will start appearing next month in advance of the holiday shopping season highlighted by the Amazon Early Access Sale (a.k.a. Prime Day 2) next month and then Black Friday in November.
The event wasn't just about hardware — Amazon also showed off some improvements to Alexa based around generative AI. The end result should be conversations with the digital assistant that sound more conversational — Alexa will also start adding "ums," pauses and laughs to make conversations feel more natural. An Eye Gaze feature, coming later this year to the Fire Max 11 tablet, even lets you control preset actions with your gaze.
It's the hardware, though, that leads off any Amazon event, and there was plenty on display today (September 20). Here are the highlights.
New streaming devices: Fire TV Soundbar is $119 and pairs with Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks to offer Bluetooth audio. In addition, the $49 / AU$79 Fire TV Stick 4K features a 1.7GHz processor, and supports Wi-Fi 6 and 4K Ultra HD streams; you can get a Fire TV Stick 4K Max version for $59 / AU$119 that offers Wi-Fi 6e, 2GHz quad-core processor, Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ and Dolby Atmos Audio.
Fire TV update: Fire TV is getting a new search mode aimed at helping with discovery. Also, there will be a new Continue Watching row added to the interface. Buy a new Fire TV device, and you get six months of the MGM Plus streaming service for free.
eero routers: The eero Max 7 is a $599 Wi-Fi 7 mesh router delivering speeds of up to 4.3 Gbps and wired speeds of up to 9.4 Gbps. It will also come in packs of two and three to offer Wi-Fi 7 connectivity throughout your home.
Blink products: The Blink Outdoor 4 Floodlight Camera pairs with a Blink Outdoor 4 camera with a floodlight in a $159 package. There's also a new Blink Sync Module Pro that's aimed at letting you place your Outdoor 4 cameras further away for better coverage in large homes. That's coming next year as a $49 add-on.
New smart controller: The Echo Hub smart home controller provides an 8-inch screen for controlling smart home devices and viewing your security cameras in one place. It costs $179 / AU$329. You can read more about it in our Echo Hub hands-on preview.
Echo Frames: The latest generation of Amazon's smart glasses boost battery life to 6 hours and feature a redesigned audio architecture to direct more sound to your ears. The speech processing technology is also getting improved wake-word performance. The new Echo Frames will feature seven different styles, starting at $269, though no release date was given. Read our Echo Frames hands-on review for more!
Other announcements include new Fire HD 10 Kids tablets, a Pro series for Ring stick-up cameras and the Echo Show 8 smart screen. Read on for more details.
Today’s event is most likely the swan song for Dave Limp, who has headed up Amazon’s Alexa division for the past 13 years. Limp said he was planning to retire, and just last week, it was announced that he was going to be replaced by Microsoft's Panos Panay, according to Bloomberg.
It’s been a rough year for the Alexa division; it lost around 2,000 employees in cutbacks, and the group itself axed a few of its devices and services, including the Amazon Halo, Halo Rise, Amazon Glow, and Amazon Drive. So, we expect this year’s event to be a bit more subdued than usual.
Last year, the company announced 14 products in about an hour, which was a lot for us to keep up with. This year, we estimate we’ll see about 10 new things.
No Amazon event goes by without the company updating one of its flagship Alexa-powered smart speakers. Last year, it was the Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock that received a refresh, both of which got audio improvements, an accelerometer that let you tap the device to pause/play music, and the ability to act as Eero Wi-Fi extenders. The Echo Dot with Clock also received an updated display that shows things like artist names and titles, and calendar events.
This year, it’s the full-size Echo’s turn for an upgrade. The fourth-gen model came out in 2021 with a spherical design, as well as new features like a built-in motion sensor, Zigbee and Matter support, and eero built in, too. While we don’t think the Echo is going to have a major redesign, we are interested to see what new features will be added. Hopefully, the full-size Echo will get a display like the Echo Dot with Clock.
Another Amazon device that’s long in the tooth is its Fire TV stick, which also hasn’t been refreshed since 2021. Last year’s Amazon event saw the debut of the 2022 Fire TV Cube, but we think Amazon is going to focus on its less-expensive streaming devices this time around. We’re reasonably hopeful that whatever new model is released will have Wi-Fi 6 and improved HDR capabilities. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which also came out in 2021, did have Wi-Fi 6, but was discontinued by Amazon.
Moving on to smart displays: It will be interesting to see what Amazon does here. It just released the 2023 Echo Show 5 in June of this year, but the Echo Show 8 hasn’t been updated since 2021. The original 10-inch Echo Show has also been discontinued, and the Echo Show 10 and Echo Show 15 are both two years old as well. The Echo Show 15 did get a Fire TV upgrade last year — which makes it an amazing smart TV for your kitchen — so we could see the same upgrade come to the Echo Show 10.
For those who don’t know, Amazon is Ring’s parent company. So all the Ring Doorbells and security cameras that patrol your home? Yep, those are the kinds of things that could be announced during Amazon’s Devices and Services event.
While it’s hard to say how a security camera can innovate, we are still waiting for the drone-like Ring Always Home Cam to become available to the masses. We last saw it at CES 2023, but Amazon hasn’t provided an update on when people can actually buy one. Maybe we’ll get some good news during today’s event.
Another company owned by Amazon is Blink, which also makes a bevy of budget home security cameras, such as the Blink Outdoor 4. Blink tends to play at the lower end of the market; most of its devices cost $100 or less. Unlike most of its competitors, Blink’s cameras don’t use rechargeable batteries.
However, the company has patented a low-power transmission technology, so that the batteries in its cameras will last for up to two years. And, because of the cameras’ small size, it’s easy to place it almost anywhere around your house.
The Blink Outdoor 4 just came out, and the Blink Floodlight Cam is also pretty new, so if we had to wager on a new product, it would be a new video doorbell, as its current model is two years old, and doesn’t support package detection.
We've arrived and checked in at the event, ready to see what Amazon has to offer later today. Just as a reminder, the event starts at 11 a.m. ET and is happening live from Amazon’s HQ outside Washington, D.C.
As is usual for Amazon, they are not streaming the event live so you won't be able to watch it — but we've got you covered for all the top announcements as they happen.
During last year’s Devices and Services presentation Amazon announced the Kindle Scribe, the first Kindle that worked more like a Fire Tablet than an e-reader. Priced at $339, introduced a new premium tier of Kindle devices. Around the same time, a value-centric Amazon Kindle (2022) hit the market for $99, meaning there’s a model for every budget.
Still, the best Kindle you can get right now is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021). Two years later, perhaps it could see a refresh. E-readers make great gifts in the run-up to holiday season, after all.
While we’ll certainly see new hardware revealed during today’s event, Amazon could use the opportunity to announce new Alexa skills and features. Alexa comes standard on all Echo speakers and smart displays, but the familiar AI-based voice assistant could be due for some updates. The AI industry has blown up in the past year, after all.
In past events, Amazon announced features like Amazon Sidewalk, Alexa Guard, Alexa Together and Alexa Roadside Assistance. Hopefully now we’ll see the company take its AI to the next level in one way or another.
We're less than 20 minutes away now and after a brief tour of Amazon's HQ2 we've settled down into front row seats to see what's coming up.
If you're just joining us then we've got a full round-up of what’s expected here to get you up to speed. The official kick-off time is 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT/4 p.m. BST) and while it should be a more muted event than last year, there'll still be plenty of new products to see.
Something that’s not expected to see a refresh is the Amazon Kindle Oasis which hasn’t seen an upgrade since 2019. Despite the fact it’s one of the best Kindles, the premium e-reader is still rocking a microUSB port for charging and data transfer. We expect the EU government would have something to say about that after forcing Apple to drop the Lightning charger.
And we've begun! We're treated to a video of people and animals doing funny things in front of Ring cameras and Alexa devices, like bears dancing in the snow, kids talking to Echo speakers, raccoons stealing things from porches, and more.
Dave Limp is the first out on stage, as his final Alexa devices event. (Panos Panay is going to take over his role). He starts by talking about Alexa and artificial intelligence.
"With generative AI, it's now within reach."
Customers have conected more than a billion devices to Alexa.
The first device announced is the new Echo Show 8. It now has an edge-to-edge display, a centered camera, and now has spatial audio processing into it. In addition, a new room adaptation technology will fine-tune its playback based on the room it's in - much like what you can get on the Apple HomePod 2.
Using computer vision, the home screen will change based on your proximity - if you're far away, you get more basic, generalized info. Move closer, and you get more personalized info. Additionally, it will give you 40% faster responses from Alexa.
The rear of the new Echo Show 8 also looks to be more rounded than the previous model.
The Echo Show 8 will be available for $149, which can be pre-ordered today, and will ship next month.
Limp then talks about the five foundations of its Alexa language model.
It needs to be fast - if there's a long pause between when you ask it a question and it responds, then it's not effective.
It also needs to be accurate. One of the challenges is that Alexa lives in the real world, not on your computer. Has been optimized to work with APIs so when you ask it to turn on the lights, it does so correctly.
Personalization - has to be customizable to everyone who uses it in your home.
Personality - It has to have some personality, so it's amusing.
Trust - you have to be able to trust it with your information.
Limp then gives a little demo of how the new Alexa works. He engages in a conversation, which is more, well, conversational. There are a few lags, as the internet here is a little slow. And, the new Alexa AI is still being tested, so there are
Limp asked Alexa what its favorite football team is. "I'm from Seattle, so my favorite team is the Seahawks. Go 12th man!" responds Alexa. The Assistant then asks Limp if he's planning to have any friends over to watch the game, then gives some recommendations for things to cook, and then composes a message that Limp could then send as an invitation to his friends.
Now on stage is Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Amazon Artificial General Intelligence.
Another new advantage of the new processors is that you no longer need to say "Alexa" to continue your conversation. Now, if the device detects you're looking at it, or that you're nearby, it will automatically interpret your questions without requiring you to say Alexa.
Alexa will also add more human-like conversation skills, such as the ability to string together more complex sentences, adding little pauses, ums, and laughter.
Heather Zorn, Vice President of Alexa, is next on stage to talk about how Amazon is working with developers to better integrate this new Alexa into third-party skills. Two examples she cited are work with Volley, a voice game developer, and BMW.
Another example is the Splash app, which lets you make music and modify it using your voice - for example, to make a song longer.
Zorn also announced two new accessibility features coming to Alexa.
Alexa can't understand everyone's voice, and not all of our customers can use our touchscreens," she said. Using tech to become more independent.
Eye Gaze on Alexa - lets you use Alexa with your eyes - can use your gaze to control preset actions. Will be available later this year on the Fire Max 11 tablet.
Call Translation - US customers will be able to have their calls translated into one of 10 different languages.
In addition, Amazon is rolling out Alexa Emergency Assist, a Hands-free help. Just says "Alexa, call for help!" and you'll be connected to 24/7 emergency response, who will also have data on where you live, your medication, and so forth. It will also automatically reach out to your emergency contacts, so they know something is wrong. This service will cost $5.99/month, $59/year.
Back to hardware: Amazon is launching the Echo Pop Kids, which will come in Marvel Avengers and Disney Princesses themes. It looks like it has a protective bumper, and will come with six months of Kids+ service for free.
Additionally, Amazon is also launching the Fire HD 10 Kids and Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablets for $189.99, which can be preordered today.
New Echo Frames! What a spectacle. These new smart glasses will have up to 6 hours of battery life on a charge, which is 40% longer playback than the last generation.
A redesgined audio architecture will directs more sound to your ears, and be more balanced, with less distortion. And, a new speech processing technology will improve wake word performance.
The new Echo Frames will be available in 7 frame styles, including blue light, sunglasses, and prescription lenses. They will start at $269.99. Customers can sign up to be notified when they'll be available.
On to Fire TV. Fire TV's new search model will make it easier for you to better discover something you might want to watch. So, for example, you can say "Search for a comedy starring the lawyer from Breaking Bad" or "I liked Better Call Saul. Are there any movies like that?" Search is based on your profile and your watch history.
Also coming to the U.S. later this year: A continue watching row will also be added.
Starting today, customers get 6 months of MGM+ with the purchase of any new Fire TV device.
Look out, Roku: Amazon has just announced three new streaming devices, starting with the Fire TV Soundbar, which will cost $119.99.
Also, a new Fire Stick 4K will have a 1.7GHz processor, and support Wi-Fi 6 and 4K Ultra HD streams. It's available for preorder for $49.99.
And, the Fire Stick 4K Max will have Wi-Fi 6e, 2GHz quad core processor, Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ and Dolby Atmos Audio. It's available for preorder for $59.99.
Amazon is also bringing the Fire TV ambient experience to more of its devices, so your TV will display calendar events, weather, and other widgets when you're not actively watching something.
You'll also be able to create AI-generated art using your voice, that will show up as a screensaver. That will roll out later this year with Fire TV with ambient TV experience
Blink is introducing one new camera, as well as a couple of accessories to make its current products more useful. The Blink Outdoor 4 Floodlight Camera pairs the new Blink Outdoor 4 camera with, you guessed it, a floodlight mount. Blink says that the battery-powered device, which is available for preorder for $159.99, should last up to two years with a pair of AA lithium batteries.
Not enough battery life for you? Blink also announced a new battery extension pack for its Outdoor 4 camera, which can double its battery life, up to 4 four years. This will also allow users to record longer clips, use audio more often, and to boost settings, such as night vision. The Battery Extension Pack is available for pre-order for $29.99.
The reason Blink cameras can last so long on a charge is thanks to their unique wireless setup, where the cameras communicate with a module that’s connected to your Wi-Fi. This module, called the Blink Sync Module, also allows you to save recordings locally, rather than in the cloud. Today, Blink is releasing a new base station, called the Blink Sync Module Pro, which will let you place your cameras even further from the Module, which will be especially handy for those with larger properties. (Blink did not say how much further the range would be). The Sync Module Pro will be available next year for $49.99.
Ring is beefing up its line of Stick Up cams (those without built-in lights) with a Pro series that has improved motion detection, as well as enhanced audio, thanks to dual microphones and noise cancellation. 3D Motion — a feature on some of its higher-end video doorbells — will give you a better idea of where someone is on your property.
As with Ring’s other Stick Up Cams, the Pro line will be offered in three power options: Battery, Plug-in, and Solar. The Battery and Plug-in models will cost $179.99, and the Solar model is $209.99. All are available for preorder today.
Ring is also beefing up its app, so that you can now also activate and deactivate Ring-related Alexa routines directly from its app, rather than having to go into the Alexa app. You’ll still need to use the Alexa app to set up the routines, though.
Something that will be really helpful for those with a lot of smart home devices is Map view - A map-like view of your house to manage your smart home. You can create a visual map of your home to see where every device in your smart home is, and control them. It will be available for customers in the U.S. later this year.
And, for those who want a smart home controller, Amazon is introducing the Echo Hub, an 8-inch touchscreen that lets you control all your smart home devices, view your security cameras, see the Map View. It has Thread and Matter support, plus a USB-C connector for power over Ethernet. It also connects locally to certain smart home devices. Echo Hub has an infrared sensor to detect when you're close or far away.
The Echo Hub will cost $179.99, and will be available later this year.
Amazon is bringing Wi-Fi 7 to its eero mesh routers with its new eero Max 7. The company’s latest eero device can deliver wireless speeds of up to 4.3 Gbps and wired speeds of up to 9.4 Gbps thanks to Wi-Fi 7.
It’s also fully backward compatible with your existing eero devices which means you won't’ have to get rid of them and can instead, use them to further build out the coverage of your mesh network.
The new eero Max 7 is fully ready for multi-gig internet with two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Amazon is also positioning its latest mesh router as a hub for all of the best smart home devices as each unit has a built-in Zigbee radio as well as Matter support to make it easier to quickly connect new devices.The eero Max 7 will be available soon in a one-pack for $599, a two-pack for $1,149 and a three-pack for $1,699.
Dave Limp is back on stage to wrap things up, and to thank everyone he's worked with. And that's the end of our live blog of the Amazon event! Stay tuned for our hands-on posts of the new devices launched today.