Rather than going for a yearly cycle of products, refreshing its range of Echo speakers, Amazon has taken a different approach at its 2021 product event. It’s fair to say that, across all of its brands (Amazon, Ring and Blink), the company managed to throw in a fair few surprises along the way. Here’s everything you need to know.
New Amazon products
There we were expecting a basic refresh of the Echo speakers, but it looks as if the current range will be around for a while to come yet: it’s a move I approve of, as last year’s products are still perfectly good and don’t need a refresh. What Amazon did do was announce a slew of products, and we’ll start with the most surprising one: the Amazon Astro.
A smart robot on wheels, Astro is part Echo Show and part Wall-E. It’s designed to follow you around the house or patrol it while you’re out. It even has a periscope camera, so the robot can peer over the tops of counters. It’s a US-exclusive for now, starting at $999.99 for those that pre-register for the Day 1 Edition and climbing to $1449.99 for those that don’t.
There was the new Echo Show 15. This model has a larger 15.6-inch display, and is designed to be hung on a wall, although you can buy optional counter and under-cabinet mounts if you prefer.
Featuring a redefined interface, the Echo Show 15 can show custom widgets, including smart home control, sticky notes and a family calendar. It’s also got a camera in the front, which it can use to spot people using Visual ID (all processed on-device) and show custom information. You can pre-order now for £239.99.
For those in the US, there were three extra products. The Amazon Glow is an interactive projector and video-calling device that looks a little like a Walkie-Talkie. It’s designed for kids to interact with remote family members, combining projection, video and sensing tech, so that people can interact and play with kids from anywhere. Those that sign up for an invitation can buy Glow for $249.99.
Halo View is the new fitness tracker that has an AMOLED colour display. It will cost $79.99 and comes bundled with a year of Halo membership.
Fully taking on Nest, Amazon announced the Amazon Smart Thermostat, which will cost just $59.99. Designed by Honeywell, the thermostat does everything you’d expect and integrates with Alexa for automatic programming and control based on whether you’re at home or away.
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Blink is the smart security company bought by Amazon. It’s well known for its low-cost cameras that have long battery life. Joining the mix is the Blink Video Doorbell, which will have two-year battery life from two AA cells, and shoot 1080p video. It will cost just £49.99.
New Ring services
For Ring users, there was the announcement of two new features coming to select products: Package Alerts and Custom Event Alerts. Package Alerts is as it sounds, but Custom Event Alerts allow you to train your cameras to spot specific things, such as if you’ve left your garage door open or if there’s a car parked in the driveway.
For the US, there were a few new products. First, the Ring Always Home Cam (the drone camera) has finally got a release date. There’s a new Ring Alarm Pro, which has built-in Eero mesh technology and can provide internet backup via its built-in SIM and offline recording for the cameras that you select.
Ring Virtual Security Guard ups the monitoring and adds in professional monitoring: if your alarm goes off, the call centre can monitor your camera feeds and dispatch emergency services (fire, medical or police) to your home.