A New Smart Clock Plug-In Adds Visuals to Amazon’s Echo Flex
Amazon has begun shipping a new Smart Clock attachment for the Echo Flex, bringing a visual element to the modular Alexa access device. The $15 USB plug-in, built by ThirdReality as part of the “Made for Amazon” program for third-party devices is another facet of Amazon’s revised approach to Alexa hardware after discontinuing the Dash Wand and Echo Look earlier this year.
The smart clock attachment goes with the Echo Flex’s minimalist style. The clock matches the color and shape of the Flex, with only a thin line indicating it’s a separate device plugged into the USB port on the bottom of the Flex. The front of the clock defaults to the local time, switchable between 12 and 24-hour formats using ThirdReality’s Alexa skill, and will display a timer countdown set up through Alexa. An in-built light sensor automatically brightens and dims the display, though the voice assistant can also adjust it on command.
The Echo Flex costs $25, so the new accessory provides a $40 smart clock. That’s two-thirds the cost of an Echo Dot with Clock, which is just an Echo Dot with a limited LCD screen. The Echo Flex doesn’t have the microphone and speaker quality of the Echo Dot, but the Flex and clock combo might be preferable as it takes up less space. Plus, the Flex is, as the name indicates, flexible. When Amazon debuted the Flex, it unveiled night light and motion sensor plug-ins as options. The single UBS port limits the Flex to using one at a time, but at $25, it’s easy to imagine Amazon trying to encourage people to buy a Flex for every room, switching around the accessories as desired.
The Flex also complements Amazon’s strategy over the last year or so to focus on adding features to its smart speakers and displays, while expanding the catalog of wearables and other specialized Alexa devices. Even the Flex can be seen as a hardware platform for third-party plug-ins like the Echo is for voice apps. That leaves no room for the Dash Wand and Echo Look, which straddle the line by focusing on a single room but a range of uses. As we have pointed out, Amazon has an eye on services in all of its Alexa-supported devices. It wants everything connected to Alexa to up usage of voice apps and software. The clock accessory enhances Amazon’s effort to get people to put Alexa devices all over their homes. In turn, the Echo Flex gives the company a chance to experiment with a lot of services without having to build every device, applying what it learns to the next generation of Alexa-enabled devices.