Here’s what we want to see in the next Amazon Echo smart speaker

With Amazon’s annual fall event coming up sometime soon, the rumor mills have gone wild with what we can expect to see. While everyone has high hopes, I want to see improvements made to the Echo smart speaker lineup.

There are three main entries: The Echo Dot, the Echo, and the Echo Studio — all covering the price gamut. Last year alone, we saw redesigns to the flagship Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, but the Echo Studio is now two generations old. While other variants such as the Echo Plus and Sub are unlikely to get the upgrade treatment, it’s still quite possible for Amazon to announce iterative upgrades and other variants. There’s really a lot to explore here, given the popularity of Amazon’s smart speakers.

Even if there is no mention of any new iterations with the main entries, I still hope to see several improvements come to the next set of Echo smart speakers.

Bluetooth pairing

It’s already possible to play music through smart speakers and pair them with other speakers, but what I want to see is the ability to pair a set of Bluetooth headphones with them. You could stream from Amazon Music without disturbing anyone else in the room and without using your phone.

The feature would not be terribly hard to implement, either. Even the option of adding a small Bluetooth adapter would enable users to connect their favorite headphones to the Echo.

Amazon Echo Studio in a home theater.

Wi-Fi range extension

One way Amazon could take the smart speaker to the next level (and potentially charge a higher price) is to allow it to function as a Wi-Fi range extender. There are already examples of this, but in reverse. The Google Nest Wi-Fi is a mesh router, but its access points also double as a smart speaker as well — offering all the same functions as any Google Assistant-powered smart speaker.

If the next Amazon Echo smart speaker also operated as a range extender and created a mesh network, it would expand its functionality dramatically. Multifunctional smart home devices are always a better option, as they take up less space and require less outlet availability to accomplish more tasks.

Wireless charging

Another opportunity Amazon could seize is to place a wireless charging port on top of the smart speaker. The Amazon Echo Studio is large enough that this is a feasible option, although it would require slightly changing the design. Interestingly enough, there are already smart speakers that integrate wireless charging, like the Belkin SoundForm Elite, so this would be a feasible addition.

Belkin SoundForm Elite Hi-Fi wireless charging.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

This would come in particularly handy for smart speakers in offices. You sit down to work and place your phone on top of the speaker. It can charge during the day and you can stream your favorite music either from your phone or your smart speaker.

911 functionality

One feature that has been missing from smart speakers for a long time is the ability to call 911. There are several legal reasons why (primarily that all devices capable of calling 911 must also collect your location), but it’s a feature that would make a smart speaker perfect for elderly family members.

Alexa Guard Plus provides the ability to reach out to specific contacts in the event of an emergency, but nothing beats the ability to go directly to the source. The few seconds or minutes that Alexa could shave off by calling 911 can make a huge difference in a medical emergency.

Built-in cameras

Some smart displays have integrated cameras that give them the ability to function as part of your security system while you’re away, and smart speakers are on their way there with Alexa Guard. It can listen for the sound of breaking glass, beeping alarms, and more.

If the next Amazon Echo smart speaker included a small camera built into its design, it could be the perfect addition to the home. Smart speakers are in almost every room. All it would take is turning it slightly so it faces the direction you want and you’d have an easy way to check in on your home while you’re away.

Built-in batteries

Smart speakers have advanced to the point that they can be the primary audio source for large events. The Amazon Echo Studio, for example, produces clear audio quality. It’s also capable of providing significant bass. Thanks to its adaptability, it can adjust its sound output based on the shape of the room.

Imagine if a device like this had a built-in battery. The charge wouldn’t need to last all day, but if you could take it off the power and carry it with you into the backyard for a barbecue or a cookout. As long as your Wi-Fi also reached into the backyard, you could use the speaker just as you would in your home.

Will Amazon actually show any of these changes in the next version of the Echo smart speaker? All I can do is cross my fingers. There’s no guarantee the company will even announce a new smart speaker, but it’s time for a mid-range model — and if it includes features like these, it could even be a better choice than the Echo Studio.

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