It’s tech keynote season, everybody. Coming off Apple’s iPhone 11 announcement last month, Amazon recently took the stage to lay out their own slate of products for 2019. And the lineup is hefty. The company announced 80 products to advance their line of Echo devices and other smart appliances. Some proved troubling (basically anything Ring is putting out right now) while others were more perplexing than anything. Amazon seems fine with embracing the experimental, but there were still plenty of toys worthy of addition to our lives as they become even more ingrained with smart devices. Here are the 10 we’re most excited about.
Speaking of experimental tools, let’s kick things off with the Amazon Fetch. The company’s answer to implanted tracking chips places a tracker on your pet’s collar that alerts pet owners when their furry friend moves beyond an established geofence. The sensor utilizes Amazon’s low-frequency Amazon Sidewalk network that allows devices to communicate across further distances. The Fetch doesn’t have a launch date yet, but Amazon is aiming to help keep your puppers safe and sound in 2020.
This souped up router is the first product announced after Amazon’s purchase of Eero earlier this year, and it packs plenty of functionality into a small package. The Eero sports a quick setup time, dual band radio and adaptive backhaul alongside specialized voice controls. Users will be able to turn off Wi-Fi for specific devices and activate guest networks simply by telling it to do so, making it perfect for those of us that constantly butt up against bandwidth caps. It’s available now for $99.
For those that thought the Apple Watch was the future’s arrival, Amazon just pulled their own “hold my beer” moment with the reveal of the Echo Loop. This ring allows users to keep Alexa in the palm of their hand on the go. It also connects to your phone, allowing you to take calls by holding the ring to your ear. It seems a bit silly, but it looks way more fashionable than most wearable tech. It’s currently only available by invitation, but anyone can apply. It’ll only cost you another $130 after acceptance to make your hand smarter.
Another invitation only item, the Echo Frames are the next logical step to the doomed Google Glass experiment. The smart glasses pack Alexa’s personal assistant capabilities without the goofy camera or display that relegated its predecessors to the Google graveyard. The device also supports nearly all eyeglass prescriptions, so you don’t have to sacrifice your eyesight in order to feel like Tony Stark (RIP). Applications are live for the $180 wearable.
Echo Studio is Amazon’s latest and greatest high-end in-home speaker. It includes all the normal bells and whistles (voice controls, compatibility with nearly every music streaming service) while implementing Dolby Atmos speaker technology for crisp, 3D audio. The speaker also boasts the ability to adapt to the acoustics of whatever space it occupies in order to provide the best personalized sound quality possible. It’s available for preorder now at a $200 price tag.
Amazon’s expansion into smart appliances continues with the introduction of the Alexa Smart Oven. The device packs a microwave oven, convection oven and air fryer into the same device. That alone makes its $250 price point a steal if its able to pull all three off well, but its Alexa integration makes cooking even easier. Users can scan barcodes on select products through the Alexa app to determine optimal cooking times. It can also be voice controlled through compatible Echo devices. This is the closest society has come to hands-free cooking, though you will need more than just the oven for it to reach its maximum ease of use level.
Space can be at a premium in many of our dwellings. But those that still want Alexa functionality in a compact space now have their best tool in the Echo Flex. The device plugs directly into a standard power outlet, and it’s no wider than a standard power outlet. Users can interact with it through a built-in speaker. It’s a great baseline Echo device for a cheap entry point ($25), and a motion sensor and nightlight add-on doesn’t cost much more ($14). Prepare to make your studio apartment brainy.
Amazon’s line of video-enabled Echo devices got an upgrade this year as well with the Echo Show 8. The device offers all of Alexa’s standard tools along with video call and messaging capability. Users can call up streaming video content, including the heavily promoted integration with the Food Network, and can monitor their homes by connecting it to a Ring security system. The device is currently available to preorder for $130.
Amazon’s answer to Apple’s AirPods have arrived. These wireless earbuds provide quality sound by packing two armature drivers into each earbud with technology that reduces ambient noise. They also feature a passthrough mode that makes it easier for users to hear what is going on in their surroundings. Its smart capability boasts surprising flexibility as it allows access to Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Clocking in at $70 less than Apple’s wireless earbuds make the Echo Buds that much more attractive.
Most notable across the 80 announced devices was Amazon’s increased commitment to preserving user privacy on their devices. Home Mode is the most stringent of these new tools. This option lets users turn off their Alexa-enabled devices’ ability to record audio and video entirely. It’s a welcome addition after a tumultuous few years dealing with the fallout from revelations that Amazon’s devices, like others from multiple companies, stored such recordings. The option now allows users that once feared such intrusions to finally feel comfortable embracing the increasing lineup of smart devices.
Brian Bell is a queer freelance writer covering tech, pro wrestling, esports, games, comics and TV. Co-host of the Mr. Videogames Super Show podcast. Find and follow him on Twitter @WonderboyOTM.