Hands on with Echo Spot, Amazon's alarm clock killer



Amazon Echo Spot is much more than just an alarm clock.

Image: Nate Gowdy/mashable

It didn’t take long for Amazon to get bolder with its screen-sporting Echo devices.

The company’s new 2.5-inch touchscreen Echo Spot, $129.99, follows the boxy, 7-inch-screen Echo Show by just a few months. It’s a much more attractive, smaller and, maybe more approachable,  nightstand-friendly version of that device.

Where the Show is all edges and angles, the Spot is a ball with a flat base and a round, angled flat touchscreen. It’s small enough to fit in one hand. Like other Echo devices, it’s not battery powered and plugs into a wall outlet. 

The Echo Spot looks like an alarm clock, especially when you use one of the analog clock-style faces. Amazon told us the default interface is a clock, but you can change those settings in the Alexa app or through the screen, though this is not something I could check as the device they showed had limited functionality.

The new Spot, at left, next to the new Echo and Echo Plus.

The new Spot, at left, next to the new Echo and Echo Plus.

Image: nate gowdy/mashable

The device’s crisp, colorful display had what I’d call a canned demo of photos, news, calendar aphorisms, and multiple clock faces that I could scroll through by sliding my finger across the screen.

On the top of the Echo Spot are the volume and mute buttons.

It’s the rare alarm clock without a physical snooze button. I wondered if such a device would’ve been accepted before the age of the iPhone as your alarm clock.

You can see your favorite photos on Echo Spot.

You can see your favorite photos on Echo Spot.

Image: nate Gowdy/mashable

Amazon Device Head Dave Limp told me that you can tell Alex to stop an alarm or tap the screen. He said he just used it this morning. I wondered how hard a tap it could take, but Limp assured me that the company’s years of building Kindles had taught them to build tough devices. He added that the company would replace any broken devices. At least Echo Spot has a rubberized bottom so it won’t go sliding off your night stand.

Like the Show, the Echo Spot has a camera on its face (hidden in the black ring surrounding the screen) and supports voice, video calls, and drop-ins. The latter is when, with the call recipient’s permission, you can call someone and see a very fuzzy version of their environment before they fully pick up the call.

Echo Spot device has speakers, which I did not get to hear, an audio out jack for, I guess, private listening, and Bluetooth connectivity if you want to play music on your favorite speaker.

It's also a messaging system.

It’s also a messaging system.

Image: nate gowdy/mashable

Like virtually all other Amazon Echo devices, the Echo Spot is capable of controlling other smart home devices. It even has Amazon’s second-generation far-field listening technology, which means you can almost whisper your Alexa queries. I just wish I could tell you how this worked.

I did find it odd that, as the original Echo device is finally getting a variety of skins, the Echo Spot is only available in two colors: black and white. That could limit its appeal in the bedroom and other parts of the house.

Amazon started taking pre-orders on the Echo Dot today and expects to start shipping in December. I hope I get a review unit before then so I can tell you all about it.

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