Amazon is reportedly working on a higher-quality version of its popular Alexa-based Echo smart speaker to directly compete with Apple’s HomePod and other high-quality smart speakers.
A new report today by Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman says prototypes of the speaker are wider than the current Echo speaker, allowing the inclusion of additional components, including at least four tweeters. Gurman sources were people that “requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.”
Gurman says Amazon is developing the speaker to include audio to rival Apple’s HomePod and other speakers on the market. The company is looking to regain ground lost to premium smart speakers that offer better sound.
The Echo, which went on sale in 2015, will grab 63% of the U.S. market this year, according to EMarketer. But it has lost some ground to the Sonos One, Apple Inc. HomePod and Google Home Max — all of which claim to deliver superior audio. Google now has 31% of the market, while the rest have a combined 12%. The HomePod isn’t selling as well as Apple expected, and the company recently dropped the price.
The higher-quality Echo marks just the latest move by Amazon to gain ground in the smart speaker market segment. The company has in the past introduced a standalone subwoofer and connections to link the speakers to home stereo systems.
Amazon is also reportedly planning to start selling voice-controlled earbuds to rival Apple’s AirPods as early as this year. The Echo range will also receive minor updates this fall, says Gurman’s sources.
The report also offers details on Amazon’s efforts to ready a robot, known internally as “Vesta,” as early as this year. However, there have been delays, as the machine isn’t quite ready for mass-production. Amazon has reportedly pulled engineers from other projects to work on Vesta, as it readies it for release.
“People familiar with the project” tell Gurman the prototypes are approximately waist-high, and navigate the home with the aid of an array of computer-vision cameras. The machine can be summoned by voice.