Amazon’s new Echo Pop is a $40 smart speaker

Amazon has halved its Echo Dot. No, it’s not in another listing, but the design of the company’s latest smart speaker — the $39.99 Echo Pop — looks a lot like someone held a meat cleaver to an Echo Dot. The result is actually pretty cute – especially in purple.

The snappy Pop is now the entry-level Alexa-powered smart speaker in Amazon’s Echo range. It has all the signature features of an Echo speaker: a voice-controlled device that can do a variety of tasks, including streaming music, controlling smart home devices, running timers, and adding eggs to your grocery lists.

Along with the new pop, the $89.99 Echo Show 5 smart display gets a long-overdue refresh. The third generation model of Amazon’s smallest and most popular smart speaker with a screen now has better sound and improved processing power.

Echo Pop and Echo Show 5 are available for pre-order today from Orders will be shipped on May 31st.

The $39.99 Pop is a wired smart speaker that comes in four colors. Image: Amazon

Amazon is expanding its entry-level offering to introduce its intelligent voice assistant, Alexa, to every room in your home. “If you’re thinking about the smart home of the future — which is already here — you want an Echo endpoint in every room,” said Dave Limp, Amazon’s SVP of devices and services, in an interview with The Verge. While Amazon regularly discounts its devices, the current entry-level option is the third-gen Dot for $39.99. The Pop is poised to replace this now five-year-old model, although the third-gen Dot is still available.

Despite reports of huge losses and mass layoffs at its department, Alexa is growing in adoption and the company says it has a strong future. “We’ve sold well over half a billion Alexa-enabled devices, so we’re pretty confident that’s going to continue,” says Limp. Customer retention with Alexa has increased by 35 percent compared to last year, he says. Additionally, 90 percent of Alexa Routines run in the last two months had no voice interaction at all. “What we’re really trying to figure out is how we can make people talk to Alexa less, but still have Alexa be proactive,” he says.

“Our North Star is the Star Trek computer… It now feels like we have the tools to get there.”

Part of that effort will be integrating generative AI and big language models into the assistant via the Alexa teacher model, which aims to provide a “dramatically different experience,” Limp says. This shift is primarily about making Alexa smarter and more conversational, but also about using the smart home more effectively, he says. “Our North Star is the Star Trek computer. With the advent of generative AI and large language models, this now appears to be a very solvable problem. While it seemed like a vision eight or nine years ago, now we feel we have the tools to get there.”

Alexa has been using AI for some time, particularly in products like Hunches, which suggest automations to you based on actions you take repeatedly — like turning off all the lights and locking the door at around the same time every night. LLMs will make that kind of “intelligence” much more powerful, says Limp.

But it won’t be echoed near you anytime soon. Amazon is still working to integrate the technology in a way that doesn’t create chaos. “There are certain things you don’t want to happen,” Limp says, pointing out that you don’t have to work hard to make LLMs “hallucinate.” “If you want to buy paper towels, we have to get the price right and ship the goods to the right address.”

The new Echo Pop offers performance and a touch of color

The Pop is designed to work with a smart home. It’s a Matter controller, an Eero WiFi extender, and a sidewalk bridge. Image: Amazon

With its hemispherical design, the Echo Pop borrows a lot in style from the old Echo Spot, but there is no screen or camera. The familiar Alexa LED light appears as a small stripe at the top of the speaker. As a new entry-level Echo, the Pop is not aimed at audiophiles. Its 1.95-inch front-firing speaker is larger than the 1.73-inch driver in the $50 fifth-generation Echo Dot, but this unit’s larger size produces deeper bass, Limp says. However, the Pop’s sound is “significantly better in bass, volume and clarity than the original hockey puck dot,” he notes.

The Pop lacks some hardware features of the Dot – there’s no temperature sensor and no clock display

The Pop also lacks some of the hardware features of the current Dot – there’s no temperature sensor or the option for a clock display – but it does feature the same AZ2 processor. That means it can handle more commands locally, resulting in faster response times than non-AZ2 Echos – something that’s proven in my testing of the latest Echo Dot. The Pop is also a Matter controller, so you can use it as a hub for the new Matter smart home standard, as a sidewalk bridge, and as a Wi-Fi extender for an Eero mesh network.

It wouldn’t be a new Echo speaker without some new colors, and Pop introduces two new shades: purple and green. These give the speaker a fresher look that might suit a bedroom or child’s room better than the muted white and black colors (which are also available).

The Show 5 gets better speakers and is slightly faster

The Echo Show 5 now has a new processor that should make it faster when displaying surveillance cameras on the touchscreen, for example. Image: Amazon

Amazon is also giving its Echo Show 5 entry-level smart display a decent upgrade — after a very small refresh in 2021. The $89.99 third-gen Echo Show 5 has a redesigned speaker system that Amazon says will delivers more bass and clearer sound. A revised microphone array is also said to ensure the wedge-shaped device is more responsive to commands – a good thing, because in my experience the current Show 5 is one of Amazon’s smart displays to have the worst listening requirements.

The Echo Show 5 is only the second smart display to feature the AZ2 processor, after the top-of-the-line Echo Show 15

Thanks to the additional AZ2 processor from Amazon, the smart display should be faster all round. According to Amazon, it’s 20 percent faster than the previous generation. The Show 5 is only the second Echo smart display to receive the upgrade, following the top-of-the-line Echo Show 15. The display is useful for extra context, watching video clips, viewing compatible security cameras, and making Alexa video calls with the built-in camera.

As with the previous model, the camera can serve as a security device, allowing you to view the camera’s feed through the Alexa app and use it as a motion sensor to trigger Alexa Routines. The Show 5 is a popular device as a bedside alarm clock, and while the camera raises privacy concerns, there’s a physical shutter blocking it.

There’s also a new $26.99 Show 5 adjustable stand that adds a USB-C charging port for charging a phone or other device. This makes it more useful as a bedside device – although a USB-C charging port on the Show itself would have been better.

The Echo Show 5 Kids has a galaxy look. Image: Amazon

The new Show 5 is available in black, white and blue, and there’s also a new Echo Show 5 Kids with a space look. The price is $99.99 and includes a two-year warranty and a year of Amazon Kids Plus, a kid-friendly, ad-free service with audiobooks, videos, and games.

Amazon also announced a new, cheaper version of its Echo Buds for $49.99 and that Echo Auto, its in-car Alexa system, will be released in more countries: Australia, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. The Echo Auto will start shipping now and the Echo Buds will start shipping on June 7th.