The Amazon Echo has become the centre of many smart homes, with users controlling everything from Philips Hue light bulbs to fully-fledged Crestron systems. The problem with the set-up has always been that users still need an array of hubs in order to get Alexa speaking to the various smart home devices. Thankfully that’s a problem no more, as the new Amazon Echo Plus is a fully-fledged Zigbee smart home hub.
The Amazon Echo Plus was officially unveiled at a surprise hardware event, where the company also unveiled the second-generation Echo, and is the first to offer built-in support for controlling hundreds of smart home devices through its support of Zigbee.
Zigbee is already one of the most widely used communication protocols in the modern smart home, supported by the likes of Honeywell, Philips, SmartThings, Belkin, IKEA, Lutron, Osram, Panasonic and Samsung – meaning Amazon’s Echo Plus can already communicate with many devices released by those companies.
A Design Like One Other
Unlike the new Amazon Echo, the Echo Plus isn’t really a radical new-look device, in fact, it looks almost identical to the old model. It has the same 360° audio support, the same cylindrical shape, and the same rotating volume ring at the top. It does feature Amazon’s second-generation far-field microphones, however, and it also boasts Dolby sound.
While the exterior of the Amazon Echo Plus is almost identical to the old model, Amazon completely gutted the inside to make way for a Zigbee hub. The company was keen to note that the inclusion of this hub means users can now control smart home devices without the need for additional skills, hubs or apps. All that’s needed is that users ask Alexa to ‘discover devices’.
Everyone Likes A Freebie
To get users started, the Echo Plus will come with a free Philips Hue smart bulb, making the device an easy sell to consumers just dipping their toes into the world of the smart home. The inclusion of the Philips Hue bulb is also good sell for Amazon, as its new speaker is cheaper than the old model – although only barely – and includes a freebie.
Those in the UK can purchase the Echo Plus for £139.99, which is £10 cheaper than the old Echo. The Philips Hue bulb alone is worth £14.99, meaning users are only paying £125 for a smart speaker and Zigbee hub. In the US, the Echo Plus can be picked up for $149.99 including a Philips Hue bulb, although that’s a limited time offer, with the RRP set to be increased to $164.98.
Like the new Amazon Echo, the Echo Plus is available for pre-order right now, although it won’t be shipped until October 31.