New Echo Show 2nd Gen is Designed to be a Kitchen TV Replacement and Will Get YouTube Again
Amazon debuted the new Echo Show 2nd Gen this past week in Seattle and it is a significant step-up from the 1st Gen device that created the smart display category in June 2017. The screen is larger–now 10.1-inches compared to the earlier 7-inch model–and the sound is better. It remains the best implementation of voice navigation for a smart display, but these are not the factors that make the Echo Show 2nd Gen better in 2018. It is mostly about new content offerings.
I caught up with USA Today’s Jefferson Graham, host of the Talking Tech podcast, and he characterized the new Echo Show as Amazon’s product of the year. He suggested that in 2017, Amazon was still figuring out what would deliver a great smart display experience, but has made a big step forward with Echo Show 2nd Gen.
“[Echo Show] was a product that last year was a dud. It had a seven-inch screen. There was nothing to watch on it and it just didn’t go anywhere…Amazon will not sell the Chromecast in the Amazon store so Google says … you can’t show YouTube. And, now they have a workaround. They are putting a browser into Echo Show. They made Echo Show bigger. It is now 10 inches. It’s a kitchen TV replacement that has talking Alexa. It lets you make video calls and watch stuff on demand through your DVR. I think this is the Amazon product of the year.”
Graham isn’t the only person that thinks of this as a kitchen television replacement. Amazon senior vice president David Limp made a similar reference saying he had replaced his kitchen television with Echo Show 2nd Gen. The product’s Amazon.com page calls the device “your new kitchen companion.” There may be benefit to having a screen for your smart speaker in a variety of locations, but it appears everyone has figured out that the kitchen is the sweet spot.
Smart Displays Had a Slow Start with Consumers
Voicebot was the first to point out that survey data in the U.S. showed that few Echo Shows had been sold on the device’s first year anniversary. Only 5.9% of consumers had purchased a device. Despite that tepid adoption, Google partners Lenovo, JBL and Sony all committed to rolling out competing devices in 2018. And, it is widely expected that Google will roll out its own smart display next month. There is confidence that smart displays have a role to play in the voice product ecosystem. The first generation Echo Show model didn’t look as nice, but it’s biggest drawback was a lack of content. No YouTube and few third-party developers building with compelling visuals limited the original Echo Show’s utility.
The Big Change is Content Availability and YouTube Again
The Google Assistant-based smart displays are relying today on YouTube and search for most of their content. Echo Show hasn’t had these options since November 2017 when YouTube restricted access. However, Amazon announced that both VEVO videos and Hulu will join Prime Video and Twitch on Echo Show devices. It will also work with the new Recast DVR for cord cutters and that means you will be able to use it with an external antenna to get additional television channels.
Amazon also announced a web browser will be included with the device. That means YouTube access will be back. It won’t be a seamless customized app experience, but it is unlikely Google will be able to block YouTube from what it views as just another browser looking to access the video service. Amazon made no mention of the YouTube workaround, but you can be sure it was one of the motivations behind the new web browser feature. The browser also makes the device more versatile and able to support many more use cases.
Will this be enough of an update to get consumers to give Echo Show another look? The biggest benefit may be that Google and its partners will be promoting smart displays and causing consumers to look more closely at the category. Echo Show 2nd Gen will benefit from updated styling, a larger screen, more content and more attention from consumers looking for a screen to complement their voice-first devices.
Shipping on October 11th
Echo Show 2nd Gen is priced at $229.99 — the same price as the original Echo Show — and will begin shipping on October 11, 2018. As of this morning, there is a $100 discount when you purchase two devices. That is the really the sweet spot for smart displays because video calling through Echo Show remains the most compelling feature. Amazon is counting on consumers to pick up one for themselves and another for a family member this holiday shopping season.