As I reported on Sunday, Amazon has added many new features to the Echo in the year plus since it launched, including smart home integration, Spotify, IFTTT, and support for playing Audible audiobooks and Kindle ebooks.
Amazon has added many features to its $179 in-home digital concierge, but for its next trick Amazon will be taking something away.
The WSJ reports that Amazon will be launching a new Echo model in the next few weeks which will be smaller, cheaper, and portable. Codenamed Fox, the device will likely only vaguely resemble its predecessor:
Meanwhile, Amazon is hoping it can repeat the cult success of the Echo device, potentially attracting the same customers who helped make its $50 bargain-priced Fire tablet a winner during the 2015 holiday season.
The new Fox device is designed to fit comfortably in the palm of a user’s hand, like a beer can, the people said. It calls to mind Apple’s popular Beats Pill portable speaker, though Amazon’s version rests vertically on a surface, these people said.
Unlike the Echo, which must always be plugged in to listen for voice commands, Fox can be charged on a docking station and responds to voice command only by pushing a button, a necessary compromise to preserve battery life.
Amazon has of course declined to comment on this rumor, but even without confirmation I think this rumor is almost certainly true. The leaked details make too much sense for them to be false, so that just leaves me one question:
Will it have a screen?
When I first heard this rumor, it immediately conjured up visions of the iPod Touch. I know that everyone is comparing the Fox to portable speakers, but when I think of voice-activated, handheld devices, my mind turns to the Siri-equipped iPod Touch.
That strikes me as the ideal design for a portable device that responds to my voice. It’s small, light, and has a screen to display info or let me play games.
The one possible shortcoming of the iPod Touch is that it has no built-in speaker. The Echo has several, and the Fox will likely have at least one .
But I am also hoping the Fox will also have a sizable screen, and run Android. I think that would make it a more useful digital assistant, don’t you?