Amazon Debuts Echo Plus Speaker With Integrated Smart Home Hub

Amazon Unveils Improved Alexa Home Hub, Mini Spot Inc. debuted a new high-end version of its Echo speaker with a smart-home hub system built in, stepping up a fight with Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. for digital control of people’s homes.

The new Inc. Echo, left, and Echo Plus sit on display during the company's product reveal launch event in downtown Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Amazon unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its popular Alexa-powered Echo speaker that the e-commerce giant said has better sound. Photographer: Daniel Berman/Bloomberg

The new Inc. Echo, left, and Echo Plus.

Photographer: DANIEL BERMAN/Bloomberg

The upgraded device, called the Echo Plus, has better sound that older models and costs $150, down from the current $180 price, Amazon said at an event in Seattle on Wednesday. The smart home hub lets user more easily connect and control other accessories including lights, thermostats and locks, with their voice. This was possible before, but the set-up was more complicated.

Amazon executive Dave Limp said the Echo Plus will help make smart home accessories more mainstream. It will support more than 100 devices made by other companies, and will come bundled with a Philips smart light bulb, Amazon said. The new model will be available in the U.S., U.K., and Germany.

Alphabet’s Nest made the first serious foray into connected-home products when it launched its smart thermostat six years ago as a startup. The company now has connected doorbells, security cameras and smoke detectors, and it has tried to turn the thermostat into a control hub for other companies’ home gadgets, with mixed success.

Then there’s Google’s voice-controlled Home connected speaker, and the upcoming HomePod from Apple. The latter is mostly a music-streaming device at the moment, but it already has some ability to control other things in the home.

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