Amazon makes a big play for the smart home with the new $149 Echo Plus

The Echo is about to become a smart home hub

Not content with simply launching the second generation Echo – or a slew of other Alexa equipped devices –  Amazon is also looking to make a huge play for smart home dominance with the all-new Echo Plus.

The device looks like the original (old) model, but comes packed with a more advanced speaker; offering better bass and treble than the newly announced Echo for better overall sound quality.

The Echo Plus was built with Amazon’s “second-generation far-field microphones,” said Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices. It has the same 360-degree sound as the original Echo, but with one key addition: it supports Dolby sound.

The standout feature though is that it has a smart home controller built in. You will be able to tell Alexa to “discover devices”, and she will be able to detect devices on request using the ZigBee wireless protocol. It’s worth mentioning though that there is no Z-Wave compatibility built in, which means that the long time automation radio technology – compatible with hundreds of products from motion sensors to power outlets – will not be compatible with the Echo Plus (which means hubs like Samsung SmartThings or the open source Home Assistant might be a better fit for those who want a more compatible, powerful smart home).

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Amazon’s new smart home API will finally give more information about devices around your home, such as the state of devices – like whether a light is on or someone is at the front door – rather than just pushing a command for an action.

The Echo Plus will also be able to create automations and scenes across a range of devices, similar to what you expect from Samsung SmartThings or Wink. In a demo, Mr. Limp simply said “Alexa, good morning,”, which resulted in the lights in the room turning on, the shades going up, a traffic and weather report, and having a tea kettle turn on — all at the same time.

Amazon says that the Echo Plus doesn’t need apps or skills, it simply will work out of the box. Amazon says they have multiple partners already on board, including Philips Hue, Ring, Honeywell and more. In fact, each Echo Plus box will come with a Phillips Hue bulb included.

The Echo Plus will be $149. You can pre-order the device today at Amazon.

View the new Echo Plus on Amazon

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