Amazon is reportedly developing the next generation of its Echo smart speaker, an Amazon Echo 2, and this version will be trimmer and all around better than the original Echo. What's more, it could give Apple HomePod a run for its money.
A source who saw a working model of this so-called Amazon Echo 2 spilled the details to Engadget (opens in new tab), and the smart speaker sounds to be a significant upgrade over the two-year-old Echo currently on the market that also comes in a smaller package.
In addition to more tweeters to produce better sound - a knock against the Amazon Echo now is that it's audio quality is sub-par - this new model will apparently shave down the Echo's (admittedly already slender) design.
This last detail may be an inspiration taken from the Apple HomePod, which has a softer, fabric-like look. The new Echo's design also sounds similar to the squat, curved design of Apple's first smart speaker, which was unveiled last month.
Price, set, match?
The mics of the Amazon Echo 2 are also reportedly undergoing a redesign, which presumably means more accurate readings of voice commands.
Though Engadget's source said some design features could change, this sounds to be a fairly close representation of what Amazon has planned for final release.
The new Amazon Echo release date is said to be in the fall, which would give it a jumpstart on the Apple HomePod, which won't release until December.
It's unlikely the Amazon Echo 2 will begin to touch Apple HomePod's price of $349, considering the current Amazon Echo price is only $179.99 / £149.99. Google Home, another small and sleek smart speaker, costs $129 / £129, though it's currently on sale for $99 (opens in new tab).
But it seems that Apple's target competitor might not be the Echo at all: Apple HomePod is likely to compete more closely with Sonos speakers at its price point and with its features. But the comparison to other smart speakers for the home is unavoidable, and one that could prove difficult for Apple to overcome.
It's not impossible, mind you, but customers may be left with a choice between high-end sound and lower prices, and as smart speakers improve on all fronts, the HomePod could find itself with nowhere to go.
Amazon just wrapped up its big Prime Day sale where it took 50% off the Amazon Echo price. Could this have been a way to clear out inventory before a fall Amazon Echo 2 release? We can't say for sure, but let's just say the smart speaker stars are starting to align around Amazon introducing an upgrade soon.