Alexa to gain a small family: A portable, less expensive Amazon Echo

As the Amazon Echo gains in popularity and smart home smarts, the time is right for a small, portable version that costs less money.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor
Sarah Tew

Could 2016 be the year where every room in a home has an Amazon Echo? Perhaps, based on a Wall Street Journal report: The outlet expects Amazon to debut a smaller, less-expensive and portable version of the Amazon Echo soon.

No sources were quoted by the Journal, which says Amazon declined to comment on the story.

However, the product idea makes sense. I keep my Amazon Echo in the home office and have long wanted additional units in other rooms of the house. The current hardware isn't ideally suited to move around though because it has to be plugged in for power.

The smaller, portable version, however, will run on batteries, according to the Journal. That solves one problem but may introduce another.

The "Echo Jr." as I'm calling it now will be used to push a button before speaking to Alexa in order to conserve battery life.

That's less than ideal: An always-on microphone is far better for asking questions, managing music playback and controlling smart devices around the house. Put another way: If I need to press a button, I might as well just use my phone or simply use the always-on functions of OK Google, or Hey, Siri.

There will be a purported docking port to charge the little Echo, however, so my hope is that when in the dock - and therefore running on corded power - the microphone will always be on and listening.


Ford is working to integrate its in-car systems with smart home packages.

Photo: Business Wire

While the Amazon Echo makes for a good information source and Bluetooth speaker, the real strength is in the platform Amazon has built behind it; particularly for smart home devices.

As I noted last week, Alexa was a star at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, even though Amazon didn't debut any new hardware or services.

Instead, third-party device makers and service providers are taking advantage of Amazon's Alexa Voice Services and the cloud platform that Alexa taps into. Adding smaller Amazon Echo devices that are less expensive than the big version can only help Alexa's smart home aspirations accelerate.

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