Amazon on Wednesday held a surprise announcement of a new Echo speaker seeking to ennoble its Internet of Things lineup by being more portable than the original Echo yet succeeding its overall design and capabilities. The speaker has a metal body which is clothed and comes in a choice of half a dozen shells like wood and fabric, the Seattle, Washington-based tech giant confirmed. Much like it's the case with the Google Home, the new Echo's shells are swappable, allowing you to change the general look of your gadget as you see fit. Multi-room audio is a big selling point of the new speakers which were specifically designed to take advantage of the functionality that Amazon debuted just under a month ago. The new Echo speaker will be available for purchase as of today, priced at $99. Amazon said that buying three will save you $50, €50, or £50, depending on where you're located, thus indirectly confirming that the gadget is also set to be immediately available in the UK and other parts of Europe.
New far-field microphones are also part of the package here, as is Dolby Audio support, and a dedicated woofer and tweeter, with the device itself seemingly being a smaller, more customizable version of the original Echo. The product is still being marketed as the Amazon Echo, with the company only adding an "all-new" adjective to it during its Wednesday announcement, though that phrase doesn't seem to be included in its official moniker. The price tag attached to the gadget and its overall physical footprint largely suggest that this is a product meant to be purchased in bulks or at least supported by several identical units or perhaps other members of the constantly growing Echo family like the newly announced Echo Plus and Echo Spot. What differentiates it from other members of the same lineup is that it's meant to be a more premium-looking offering which is simultaneously pleasing to look at and just as capable of blending into a wide variety of different interiors as its counterparts.
As part of its new product announcement, Amazon also revealed that Alexa is now capable of calling phone numbers in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, consequently becoming even more versatile by working alongside the Echo Connect, a new $35 device that allows your Echo-series speaker to become a landline phone. The Echo Connect will be available come this holiday season and will natively support the new Echo speaker, with Amazon's latest hardware offerings being unveiled just days before Google is expected to ennoble its own IoT lineup with the Google Home Mini and possibly some other devices. Likewise, the tech giant is now also better positioned to take on Apple's HomePod speaker which is set to hit the market in December, in addition to competing with more premium offerings from companies like Sonos.