Amazon wants its voice assistant Alexa to be a major part of your entire home. The company just launched a new product that makes this setup easier to achieve: Amazon’s Echo Dot is a miniature version of the original Echo with nearly identical features but a smaller speaker so you can connect it to your preferred audio system.
The device looks like a shrunken Echo, as it’s a short, cylindrical gadget with that characteristic blue ring around the top. If you’re not familiar with Echo, that ring shows you that Alexa is always listening, so you can ask it questions from across the room and Alexa will answer. Just like the original Echo, you can ask Dot to do things like check the weather, summon Uber, control smart devices around your home, and play music.
Music is the key to Dot. The original Echo has fairly powerful speakers, making it sufficient for listening to music in any room you decide to place it in. But Amazon didn’t make the Echo with the best speakers in the world—the company created Dot so you can connect your favorite speakers or audio system to it via an included audio cable or Bluetooth. This lets you control your preferred speakers using Dot by commanding it to play music from places like iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, and others.
Echo Dot’s internal speakers will still be useful, though. Not only do they pump out Alexa’s answers to all your requests and questions, but you can use them in different ways depending on the room you have Dot in: it could become your wake-up alarm if you have Dot in the bedroom or an assistant when cooking in the kitchen. Moving Alexa outside the living room will also open it up to more smart home control, and Nest has already announced that soon you’ll be able to control the temperature of your Nest thermostat via Alexa and ask her for updates on your home’s temperature and humidity.
The Echo Dot costs $89—not cheap, but it is half the price of the company’s $179 Echo. Anyone who has been intrigued by Alexa’s features but already has a music system in place in their home may want to take advantage of the more flexible and compact Dot. However, Amazon placed an odd stipulation on buying the Echo Dot: it’s currently only available for Prime members who already have an Echo. These customers, as well as Fire TV users, can purchase Echo Dot by saying “Alexa, order an Echo Dot” to their device. It’s unclear if Amazon will open up orders of the Echo Dot to the general public in the future.