Echo Show 5 Heats Up the Battle for the Nightstand. Will the New Smart Display Replace Echo Spot?
Amazon unveiled the Echo Show 5 today, the latest entrant into the smart display voice assistant market. The competition for market share in this space is heating up, with Amazon, Google, and Lenovo all rapidly releasing variations on the theme in an effort to expand the reach of their voice assistant ecosystems.
The Echo Show 5 fits into the entry-level end of that smart display market, with a 5.5-inch display and a price of $90. That’s significantly less expensive than the second generation Echo Show, which has a 10-inch display, and a $230 price tag. Like its larger cousin, the Echo Show 5 includes the Alexa voice assistant and the ability to connect and interact with other smart home technology.
The size and cost of the Echo Show 5 draws an obvious comparison to others on its diminuative scale. In particular, consumers are likely to weigh it against the Google Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub) and the Lenovo Smart Clock.
One semi-rival for the Echo Show 5 comes from Amazon as well, the Echo Spot. While both appear to aim for the same nightstand users, the $130 Echo Spot hasn’t received an update on it since it launched nearly two years ago. The Echo Spot’s unique circular screen, which challenged some developers, may be a reason why Amazon appears to be gently nudging away the Spot in favor of the Echo Show 5 as its in-house competitor.
Google, Amazon’s main rival in this space to date, attempted to take the lead in late 2018 when it came out with the Google Nest Hub last year. The $130 device is frequently discounted to $99. However, the newly rebranded Nest Hub didn’t include a camera which prevented video chat or “drop-in” functionality.
Similarly, the Lenovo Smart Clock, which also uses Google Assistant, is only slightly less expensive at $80. Those price points are essentially irrelevant when consumers are deciding on what to buy. The features and brand loyalty will make the difference. And the Echo Show 5 looks to have taken some of the best from both products.
Like the Lenovo Smart Clock, the Echo Show 5 includes a sunrise alarm to naturally brighten as the alarm time approaches, which the Nest Hub lacks. Meanwhile, the Echo Show 5 and the Nest Hub can play videos, while the Smart Clock cannot. Amazon’s new device is also able to interact with a wider array of gadgets made by other companies, while the Nest Hub can only use Google products for uses like video feeds and call and chat apps.
On the other hand, Google’s native integration with YouTube is an advantage when it comes to showing videos and how-to guides. Amazon is integrating wikiHow and other guides into its services, and its browser can still access YouTube manually, but there’s no denying how comprehensive YouTube is, and therefore how useful a native integration with it can be for people.
The Rise of Smart Displays
Smart displays have become a popular addition to many smart speaker households. Voicebot’s Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report for 2018 found that the percent of smart speaker owners that also had a smart display leaped from just 2.8% at the beginning of the year to 13.2% at the end.
Amazon was the first to deliver a product in the smart display category and at the end of 2018 held two-thirds of the market with Google Assistant enabled devices making up the rest. Smart displays represent another product segment that Amazon would like to maintain its leadership position. The unexpected appearance of Echo Show 5 may signify that the product team didn’t think Echo Spot was a strong enough form factor to stave off market share erosion or it a least needed a complementary solution that more closely matched the Nest Hub design but with added features.
Leaning in on Privacy
One feature that both of the Echo Show 5’s rivals lack is an HD camera. For those with privacy concerns, that’s a feature, not a flaw. Amazon recognized that potential issue, however, and included a physical shutter for the camera, and a button to disconnect the microphone and camera. Amazon also debuted a new command to delete voice recordings with a voice command to coincide with the Echo Show 5 announcement. The new command applies to all Alexa devices, but it’s worth noting that it arrived with a device meant for the bedroom.
The voice assistant device war is continuing to heat up, and the fine differences between the devices highlight just how invested the major tech companies are in this field. It is another example of how we can see the industry has moved to a second phase that is more focused on niche features and form factors than capturing new users.