Amazon announced a string of upcoming products last month, among them is the Echo Flex.
The tiny speaker plugs directly into a power outlet. This allows you to take Alexa to areas of the house she might otherwise find awkward to access.
So, what is this budget device due to hit the shelves on November 14 and why should you care?
What Is Echo Flex?
Echo Flex is part software, part hardware.
To define this device, it pays to look at what Echo Flex isn’t.
The utilitarian box isn’t a smart plug since it doesn’t smarten up other devices.
To call this unit a smart speaker would be stretching the definition. We make no secret here at Smarthome that most smart speakers woefully underperform on the audio front. Echo Flex certainly isn’t a primary listening device. If you’re more interested in the soundscape, the forthcoming Echo Studio will replicate surround sound.
While Echo Flex might superficially look like a powerline adapter, it won’t do anything to strengthen your internet connection either.
So, if it’s not a smart plug and it’s not a smart speaker, what is Echo Flex?
What will it do and why should you add it to your shopping list?
Here’s where it gets interesting and here’s where Amazon’s USP really is a unique selling point.
By popping this compact unit into a power outlet, you’ll be able to take Alexa throughout the whole house, even into areas like lofts, basements, bathrooms, and stairways.
As an added kicker, there’s a full-sized USB port in the bottom enabling you to charge your phone or tablet without sacrificing another outlet. There’s also space for accessories to slot onboard. We’ll glance at this modular aspect below in more detail. In many ways, this is the most exciting element of Echo Flex. For us, it’s more about what this device could be than what it is when it comes out of the box.
We’ll walk you through the basics of the simple but effective Echo Flex so you can decide whether you’ll be pre-ordering.
As with any functional device, the design is decidedly secondary.
In terms of design, Echo Flex looks like a WiFi range extender or a powerline adapter.
You plug the unit directly into a power outlet and the glossy white box is designed with a slim, space-saving profile.
You get a pair of Alexa buttons enabling you to trigger your digital butler or mute the integrated mics.
Down below on the front side, you’ll get speaker grilles. You’ll also spot the trademark blue light showing that the omnipresent Alexa is listening.
Since you plug Echo Flex directly into the wall, you'll have no trailing cables to contend with. Just connect to your home WiFi network using the Alexa app and you’re ready to roll.
Echo Flex will be produced for the US and UK market initially with separate versions for each country, meaning you won’t be reduced to using an adapter.
You’ll get a 3.5mm line-out jack enabling you to harness more powerful speakers or even hook up Echo Flex to your stereo system. Although this is highly unlikely to be your preferred use case, it’s reassuring to have the option.
So, with Echo Flex set up and fully primed, what do you get from this device when it's in action?
Use the wake word and your new avenue to Alexa opens up.
You’ll be able to:
- Control compatible smart devices hands-free
- Play music
- Set reminders and timers
- Get news and weather updates
- Embrace Alexa’s continually evolving skills
The onboard mics essentially give you complete control of Alexa in just the way you’d expect from other Echo devices.
According to David Limp of Amazon Devices, Echo Flex is “not optimized for playing music.” Try listening to a song and you’ll be forced to agree. As we said, though, this is certainly not the intended use case for Echo Flex, so it makes sense to cut corners in inessential areas. This keeps the price down to the ridiculously low $25.
When you look at it, Echo Flex is fundamentally an Echo Dot in terms of functionality, except for the fact that it plugs directly into the wall. In this way, you’ll enjoy the convenience of Echo Dot with much more flexibility when it comes to placement.
Unlike any of the other current Echo devices, it packs a USB port down below. In power-hungry houses with smartphones and tablets everywhere, this is a valuable extra.
You’ll get all the smarts of Alexa in a unit that you can place absolutely anywhere with a power outlet.
Where Echo Flex gets interesting is in terms of what else you can do with it.
You’ll be able to add accessories to Echo Flex, starting with a night light and motion sensor produced by partner Third Reality. These plug directly into the bottom in another space-saving move.
You’ll be able to configure these devices to play nicely with Alexa voice commands and routines.
This is a nice way to get a little bit extra from this device.
Without revealing further details, Amazon has been heavily hinting that there’s much more to come. We’re excited to see how this pans out.
What about that all-important privacy angle, then?
The microphone off button allows you to stop Alexa from listening.
You’ll also be able to hear and delete your recordings at any time.
Price and Availability
You can pre-order Echo Flex for $24.99 while the add-ons are each priced at $14.99.
Clearly, this places the all-new Echo firmly in whim purchase territory. It’s a given that Echo Flex will penetrate tens of thousands of homes this holiday season when priced so aggressively.
The launch date is November 14.
Well, have you decided whether or not to pre-order Amazon Echo Flex yet? We can’t wait for our stock to arrive and put this neat and novel device through its paces.
We’re also looking forward to testing the other upcoming Echo devices and we’ll have more first impressions coming for you soon. Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for all the latest smart home news. We add fresh content daily during the week. If you sign up for our email newsletter, you’ll get even more news along with 20% off your first order here at Smarthome. What are you waiting for?