Amazon says it is cutting the price of its Echo smart speaker to $100 from $180, improving the sound quality and upgrading its appearance with six new ”shells.” The announcement is the first of several Amazon is making at an event for journalists in Seattle. The next generation speaker, which is powered by Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, will have a dedicated woofer and a tweeter for the first time, as well as Dolby sound. ”We want to make sure we are building a product that everyone can use,” said David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services. The online retailer also announced a premium version of the device called the Echo Plus, which has improved sound and can act as the hub of a smart home and sell for $150.
The moves come ahead of a competitive holiday season in voice-activated gadgetry for the home. Google’s Home smart speaker sells for $129, while Apple’s HomePod, due out in December, will cost $349 and aims to deliver high-quality sound. Amazon also announced a new array of voice-powered devices, including an Echo Connect speaker phone for $35 that connects to a user’s home phone and Amazon Buttons, which are used for playing games and will be sold for $20 each. In a sign of the importance Amazon places on its new voice-powered assistant, the company said that more than 5,000 employees are now working on its Alexa system and related products.