Why You Can’t Buy a New Echo Dot with Clock Today and What to Expect for the Amazon Alexa Product Launch Event Tomorrow
- Echo 3rd Gen and Echo Dot with Clock are not available on Amazon.com right now despite being very popular products. That shortage could be easily explained if Amazon plans to launch new 4th gen Echo products tomorrow at its big product event.
- Echo Buds are clear breakout hits but they are strategic for Alexa’s mobile ambitions. These are likely to get an upgrade.
- Expect to see new services related to media and mobile. These are areas for growth in Alexa use.
- All that and some more predictions about what to expect at Amazon’s product launch event tomorrow.
Searching for Alexa-enabled products on Amazon.com right now offers some interesting results. Example one is Echo Dot with Clock. This is Amazon’s entry-level smart speaker with a digital time display on the side and was the biggest hit of Amazon’s 16 products revealed at its September 2019 launch event. By Black Friday 2019, Echo Dot with Clock was sold out and shipping dates quickly slipped from late December to 2020.
At some point, this device was back in stock, but you cannot buy it new today. The only option listed on Amazon.com is for a refurbished model shipping in late October. A quick trip to the official Echo Dot with Clock product page offers this common message: Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this product will be back in stock. Good luck finding that page though. It won’t show up in Amazon search because it tends to only provide results for products that are available to order. Has Amazon discontinued Echo Dot with Clock?
More Alexa Products Go Missing or Get Discounts
It’s not just Echo Dot with Clock that appears to be in short supply. Go ahead and try to find a regular Amazon Echo smart speaker. Again, you will find some refurbished options for the 3rd gen model. One is showing a ship date of November 4th. Interestingly, there are still a few of the original Echo 2nd gen model in heather gray fabric. But no new 3rd gen for the base Echo or Echo Plus models.
Also, interesting is that the Echo Buds were on a steep discount last week — down to $89 I recall. But, they are back up to the list price of $129.99 today. This product has over ten thousand ratings so there were clearly a number of customers for it but the discounting often precedes a new product upgrade as Amazon attempts to sell out of the existing inventory.
Echo Show 8 and Show 5 are also discounted today on Amazon.com but they are only showing $5 of savings. Echo Show 10 is not on discount and shows a shipping date for tomorrow. Listings in Amazon’s shopping site won’t tell you about entirely new products that you can expect to see but they often offer insight into where you might see updates or discontinuation.
What We are Likely to See Tomorrow
Based on what we are seeing on Amazon.com, what we didn’t see much of at Alexa Live, comments from some voice industry professionals, and the times we live in, I am expecting Amazon to make a statement in the five areas below.
- 4th Gen Echo, Plus, and Dot models
- New Echo Buds with active noise cancellation
- A number of announcements related to Ring
- An integration with smart TVs and/or new Fire Sticks
- A big focus on new services (e.g. entertainment, cooking, mobile)
New and Improved Echo Devices
The Echo and Echo dot are now both in their 3rd gen. Amazon also announced that Echo smart speakers will become Sidewalk service gateways earlier this week. That sounds like it requires a hardware upgrade. A 4th gen Echo portfolio for the smart speaker category seems inevitable. The lack of inventory availability on Amazon.com makes it seem even more certain. It is not clear to me that Echo Studio will get this upgrade. The product appears to be performing well as is so an upgrade isn’t really required but it might make sense if all of the devices need to be harmonized.
A feature that may also be included is increased secruity and privacy controls at the device level. This likely would require a new chipset for more on device processing. It would be another reason to upgrade the entire portfolio. If the Echo Show devices see an upgrade, this will likely be the driver. Dave Kemp of Oaktree Products suggested a new Echo Show may arrive with a camera that follows the user around the room to bring Amazon to feature parity with smart displays from Facebook and Google.
Agree with you Bret that Ring will be a big focus.
I think we’ll see a new smart display that’s similar to Portal’s camera tracking tech and optimized for video chat (maybe partnership with Zoom?)
Also betting on Echo Buds 2.0 w/ ANC.
— Dave Kemp (@Oaktree_Dave) September 23, 2020
New Echo Buds
The challenge for Amazon with Echo Buds is the consumer reviews only tally a 3.7-star rating. In some circumstances that might cause Amazon to give up on a product altogether. Consider that competing offerings such as Samsung Galaxy Buds have a 4.4 to 4.6-star rating for its various models and the AUKEY version for half the price has 4.5 stars. However, the wireless earbuds segment is very important strategically for Amazon. It is a gateway to mobile access for Alexa so Amazon will press ahead.
Moving forward likely means adding active noise cancellation as Dave Kemp suggests and working through some of the issues early adopters complained about online. I was thinking of a wholesale replacement but Jefferson Graham of USA Today said maybe Echo Buds Pro with ANC is more likely. We’ll see. I suspect the first version was pushed out a little prematurely and a refresh is in order to deliver a true 4+ star experience from users.
Ring in the New Product Features
As Jeff Graham also said, “of course there will be a lot about Ring. They spent a billion dollars acquiring them.” Smart home was a good category before COVID-19 lock-downs. It is even hotter now that everyone is at home more and using their smart speakers with higher frequency. The home security space is also highly competitive and getting more crowded every day. Ring needs to innovate to stay competitive or stay ahead depending on your perspective.
I will be interested to see if they mentioned Doorbell concierge this year. This is the service where Alexa will answer the door for you and interact proactively with visitors. That may lead to offering instructions about where to leave a package or sending a message to the homeowner. That is pure assistant functionality that was promised in Q1 2020. Except, it never arrived. Will we hear more about this. I doubt it but if Amazon really wants to differentiate this would be a good step bringing unique Alexa functionality into Ring.
New Smart TV Integration Features
This may be a new Fire TV product, an accessory to TVs such as Fire TV Stick, or a webcam for Zoom calls or drop in with your family. All of these would make a lot of sense as people are spending more time at home. Making your living room more capable for any type of media consumption and adding video chat would be timely given that many places are still in some form of shelter-in-place policy and the weather is getting colder.
New Services and Customizations
The consumer voice platform competition is no longer about devices. Amazon and Google both have full portfolios (or full enough) and there are relatively comparable offerings. Just about every consumer has a foot in both ecosystems. So, their existing features aren’t necessarily decisive. Where were are seeing a push toward differentiation is in services. Amazon has deep integration with Food Network for cooking. Google just announced Disney+ is now available on its Nest smart displays. Media, media, media. It works when coupled with voice assistants so it is a logical place to extend. Expect a couple of media service announcements for sure.
User customizations are also likely to make an appearance. Google has custom voices from time to time featuring celebrities such as John Legend and Issa Rae. Amazon has a new Samual Jackson wake word option in addition to the actor’s voice. We might see another voice from Amazon and other types of customizations that personalize the user experience.
What I’d like to see is an Alexa that remembers more about previous sessions so the experience is continuously optimized and repeat interactions aren’t treated as if they were first-time occurrences. I’m not expecting this, but it is a long-overdue feature where Samsung’s Bixby provides a useful model to emulate. Skill resumption which was announced at Alexa Live over the summer has elements of this but users will really want more than session persistence.
The Unexpected but Wildly Interesting
Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald told me he’d like to see a multi-assistant set-up. No one is really expecting this but it would make sense. Amazon just had a new announcement about the growth of the Voice Interoperability Initiative and it has, in the past, shown Alexa working with Cortana. Plus, Alexa works alongside Magenta, Djingo, and Facebook Portal. This would be a good time to show more progress on this front.
Mark Tucker is hoping for an Alexa-enabled smart watch or bracelet. There is Alexa integration to the Fitbit Versa 3 but Google owns that platform now so it is probably not a long-term play for Amazon. The forthcoming Halo is kind of like a bracelet. However, it doesn’t include Alexa. That suggests maybe an Alexa-enabled band might have been held back for the product event.
Regardless, wearables is the segment that Amazon made the biggest splash with in 2019 introducing Echo Buds, Echo Frames (smart glasses), and Echo Loop (a voice interactive ring). A watch would be a nice complement to this portfolio. If it does arrive, expect it to have a big fitness tracking angle and be very price competitive. Watches have very limited visual UI options. It is a place where Alexa could really shine.
One more thing to look for related to Frames and Loop. They are still in closed beta. If they are not announced this week as moving to general availability that will be a sign that the early beta user feedback was not strong enough. It is also likely to signal there ultimate demise. But, maybe we’ll be surprised. I’m just expecting our surprise to be with some new services for media and mobile. Let the games begin.