Amazon may release a cheaper, portable Echo voice assistant soon

Report claims a handheld, battery-powered version is on the horizon

Amazon Echo

Amazon's Echo is a distinctively original gadget: a voice-operated, web-connected cylinder that can easily perform searches for info, weather, sport scores, and more, as well as take lists, cue up music, and control your connected home. But it's large, and at US$180 (about £125), not an impulse buy for most.

Seeing as the company thrives on bargain-basement prices for most of its gadgets - including the £50 Fire Tablet that surely ruled its Christmas sales frenzy - it's little surprise to hear that Amazon plans to introduce a smaller, more affordable version of the Echo in the near future.

That's according to The Wall Street Journal, which says the company will release a portable, battery-operated version of the Echo in the coming weeks. Codenamed "Fox," says the report, the device will be small enough to fit in your hand, will charge on a docking station, and has a button that must be pressed to activate Alexa, the voice assistant.

The full-fledged Echo is always listening for your commands, of course, but it's also plugged into a wall and doesn't have to worry about battery life. The smaller one will be more of an on-demand device: grab it when you need it, press the button, and speak out your queries. There's no word yet on a price for the smaller device, but we wouldn't be surprised to see a sweet spot of US$100 (about £70).

And a proper UK release would be nice, too. The smaller Echo will be a part of a wider initiative by Amazon to get this tech out to consumers: third-party device makers are starting to incorporate Alexa and the Echo tech in their devices, and carmaker Ford announced plans at CES to build it into their upcoming rides. Whatever pushes people further into the Amazon ecosystem, right?

[Source: The Wall Street Journal]

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