Amazon Debuts Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker A Year After Echo Tap’s Demise
Amazon has released a new, portable smart speaker, but only in India. The Echo Input (Portable Smart Speaker Edition) is the first portable smart speaker produced by Amazon since the Echo Tap was discontinued at the end of last year.
The new Echo Input shares the name of the plug-in device Amazon announced during its hardware show in 2018 that adds a microphone and access to the Alexa voice assistant to regular speakers. Unlike that Input, the new device is a full smart speaker like the Echo Dot, designed for carrying around a home from room to room. The device includes a battery that can keep the speaker playing music for 10 hours straight, according to the product description. The new Echo Input costs 5,000 rupees, which is approximately $70. There’s no schedule listed for expansion to other countries, but it’s not likely Amazon will ignore other markets for its device, especially if it does well in India.
It’s not clear why Amazon is starting its sale of the Echo Input in India, but it may be because of the failure of the Echo Tap. The Tap was Amazon’s third smart speaker and came out in early 2016. The device was called the Tap because users originally needed to actually push a button on it to awaken Alexa. While that did save on battery life, it was enough of a limitation for Amazon to upgrade the firmware in early 2017 to enable voice activation like its plugged-in devices. Nonetheless, it did not sell well enough to last beyond the end of 2018. The Tap does not rest alone in the hall of failed Amazon smart devices, however. The Echo Spot smart alarm clock and Echo Look smart speaker/camera combination are also on the pile. Both are on their way to vanishing as evidenced by the way they are fading away from Amazon’s website.
Amazon’s decision to make another mobile smart speaker is not surprising. Other companies have been jumping into making variations on the theme this year, suggesting there is a real market for them. Bose revealed its Portable Home Speaker this fall, followed barely a week later by the Sonos Move. The two devices, which cost $349 and $400 respectively, can be networked into a speaker system in a home, or support a voice assistant via a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone when outside the range of Wifi. The cost and the design of the new Echo Input are notably different from what Bose and Sonos are offering. The potential pool of buyers for a $70 device is not going to be the same as the one for a $400 option. Testing the waters in India first could be Amazon’s way of improving and ironing out any flaws in the Input before it goes global, saving it from the fate of the Echo Tap.