By Dan Moren
March 3, 2016 7:05 AM PT
The Amazon Echo family expands by two
Meet Dot and Tap. No, they’re not lovable cartoon characters—they’re new additions to Amazon’s Echo family of smart, connected speakers.
The Dot is essentially a small version of the existing Echo, just 1.5 inches tall, as opposed to the Echo’s 9.9 inches. From what I can tell, it has all of the features of the Echo, as well as two new tricks up its sleeve: it includes a standard 3.5mm audio output jack, letting you connect it to an existing set of speakers; and it can connect to Bluetooth speakers as well, so you can pipe music from online music sources—Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora—to better speakers. (The Dot includes its own internal speaker, but given the size difference, I’d guess it’s not as good as the Echo’s speaker, which itself wasn’t going to win any awards.) At $90, it’s half the price of the full blown Echo, but there is one catch: currently it’s only available to order via an Amazon Echo, thanks to apparently limited supplies.1 It ships at the end of March.
The Tap is, as rumored, a smaller portable version of the Echo—6.2 inches tall and 2.6 inches in diameter—complete with a rechargeable battery and charging cradle (you can also charge it via micro-USB). Despite sharing most of its siblings’ capabilities, though, it lacks one significant feature: you can’t address it by saying “Alexa”; instead, like a pre-6s iPhone, you need to tap a button on the side to trigger the voice assistant. Amazon says the battery should be good for up to 9 hours of playback, and the Tap will even announce to you when its juice is running low. It also has a 3.5mm audio input port, if you don’t want to connect an audio source via Bluetooth. The Tap runs $130, plus another $20 if you want the Sling case that makes it look like a waterbottle. Like the Dot, it ships at the end of March.
As my favorite gadget of 2015, I’ve been overwhelmingly positive about the Echo, and I’m intrigued to see what these new additions offer. Of the two, the Dot is probably the less exciting, although its lower price point is firmly within “impulse buy” territory, which could bring in new users who have been curious about the Echo. The portability of the Tap is interesting: at $130, it’s not cheap, but it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg more than comparable portable Bluetooth speakers (as Amazon’s product page is quick to note). I wonder if having to manually trigger Alexa will dull some of the appeal, but perhaps it’s better to consider this as a Bluetooth speaker with Alexa capability than an Echo you can tote around with you.
I’m also pretty convinced that within the next year or two, there will be a portable Echo with the voice-activated Alexa prompt. Amazon has been extremely diligent about bringing new features to the Echo, and I’ve definitely gotten attached to the device. Seems like these new models provide a good opportunity for Amazon to spread the love.
To forestall questions: Yes, I ordered one. In the name of science, people! ↩
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