Amazon’s has announced Alexa-powered, wireless earbuds along with the Echo Frames smart glasses and Echo Loop ring at the company’s annual hardware event yesterday.
The tech showcased in Seattle is a way for Amazon to offer a more portable Alexa experience. It’s no surprise Alexa voice assistant comprises a central part of the functionality, not just of Echo Buds but of all devices announced at the gathering.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
It was widely rumored Amazon entry into the hearables space would come with some fitness tracking functionality baked in. Unfortunately this did not pan out.
It is probably be difficult for Amazon to enter the already crowded fitness tracking space. Particularly as it would also mean they would need to come up with some sort of an activity tracking smartphone app for collating the data and viewing trends. The company’s answer to the likes of Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds therefore focuses on Alexa functionality, sound quality and delivering a premium experience.
Amazon says each bud is fitted with two outer microphones and one inner microphone. Privacy settings in the Alexa app allow you to mute these mics. The premium balanced armature drivers ensure the buds deliver crisp sound and clear vocals.
When on the go, the Bose Active Noise Reduction technology allows you to tune out outside distractions. This can be switched on and off with a simple double-tap.
Of course, the sweat resistant (IPX4 rated) buds provide hands-free access to Alexa. Users are able to use their phone’s existing plan to access features through the Alexa smartphone app. This includes anything from controlling music with just your voice to getting directions or accessing Alexa skills. If this is not your cup of tea, you can tap and hold the hearable to access your phone’s voice services such as Siri or Google Assistant.
Like much of the competition, battery life is around 5 hours of music playback or 4 hours of call time with just the earbuds. This goes up to three additional charges for a total of 20 hours of battery life with the case. A simple 15 minute top-up will provide you with 2 hours of listening time.
The $129.99 Echo Buds are available for pre-order for delivery in October. Included in the package are three different sized ear tips and wing tips.
The Seattle gathering also saw the launch of glassed called Echo Frames. These look like regular specs but come with audio functionality built-in. No camera or screen, though.
Amazon says the lightweight (31 grams) Alexa-enabled specs use directional microphones and speakers to focus the audio input and output toward the user. There’s also a filter to keep notifications to only the essentials. After you get an alert, simply swipe the temple to listen.
The specs are designed as another hands-free way to access Alexa while on the go. All of this functionality works via the Alexa smartphone app and your existent phone plan. Users can also fit Echo Frames to function like prescription glasses.
The Echo Frames are available by invitation right now for $179. After the introductory period, their price will go up to $249.99.
Amazon’s last wearables entry is an Alexa-enabled smart ring. Echo Loop comes with two microphones built-in and the smallest speaker seen so far on an Echo device. Other tech has been miniatured as well to provide users with vibrating notifications for notifications. These can be customized for different contacts. The ring will also allow you to accept or reject calls, but not to control music.
The titanium piece of jewelry’s has a physical button which users can press with their thumb to access Alexa. A tiny vibration will confirm the ring is listening. A long press of the button will provide you access with Siri or Google Assistant.
The water-resistant Echo Ring comes in a small, medium, large and extra large size for $129.99. This will go up to $179.99 after the introductory period. You can apply for an invitation on Amazon’s website. If it’s granted, the company will send you a link to order a free fit kit to ensure you can choose the appropriate size.
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