Amazon has a bunch of new Echos available for purchase, and here we're going to focus on just one of them: the Echo Connect. It's the odd Echo out in many ways, designed to be plugged straight into your phoneline so you can make calls from your other Alexa devices.
From how much it costs to why you might want to spend your money on one, we'll take you through everything you need to know about the Echo Connect right here. If it becomes as big a hit as the original Echo, then Amazon has another hardware success on its hands.
What does the Echo Connect do?
The Echo Connect isn't an Echo in the traditional sense - it's more of an add-on to the Echo series. It doesn't have Alexa built-in, so you can't ask it about the weather forecast, or check the spelling of a word you're not sure about, or order a taxi.
In fact the Echo Connect does nothing on its own, so you need another Echo of some description as well to actually make use of it. It's very much an accessory.
What the Echo Connect does do is plug straight into your landline and allow you to make calls from any of the Echo speakers in your house. If you use the Alexa app to sync your phone contacts, you can just call out the name of the person you want to get in touch with, and the Echo system takes care of the rest.
Just to confuse matters a little, Echo devices can already make free calls to any number in their own country in the US, Canada, and Mexico - the other person even sees your mobile number come up.
The difference with Connect is that because it's attached directly to your phoneline, you can receive calls to your regular number on an Echo as well as make them. You also need a Connect in place if you need to reach the emergency services or make international calls.
Everything clear? With the line between regular phone services and internet services blurred anyway thanks to apps like WhatsApp, it's not the clearest of distinctions, but the Connect means your Echos are more tightly attached to your landline.
Why would I want an Echo Connect?
If you make a lot of calls using your landline and like the idea of being able to make them through an Echo device - so you just lie on your sofa and talk to your smart speaker - then an Echo Connect could be the device for you.
Amazon is promising that the setup process is quick and easy, so you won't need a qualification in telecommunications to get this up and running. Instead of plugging a normal phone into your phone socket, you plug the Echo Connect in instead, and then get everything configured through the Alexa app on your phone.
The little black box measures 130 mm by 90 mm by 29.5 mm (that's 5.1 inches by 3.5 inches by 1.2 inches), weighing in at 126.9 grams (4.5 ounces). It hooks straight up to your home Wi-Fi, and can be controlled by the Alexa app on Android, iOS, Fire OS or the web.
If you've already got an Echo at home, and love using it, the Connect is an inexpensive add-on - it works with all the available Echos past and present, so the original Echo, the first and second generation Echo Dots, the Echo Show, the Echo Spot, the second generation (smaller Echo) and the Echo Plus.
For those of you who can't really imagine making any calls through your family of Echos - or if you've only got one Echo sat in the corner of a room you rarely go in - the Connect is less of a compelling proposition.
How much does an Echo Connect cost?
An Echo Connect can be yours for $34.99 straight from Amazon, though it doesn't go on sale until 13 December 2017 (you can get a pre-order in now if you definitely want one of the first to be let out into the world).
At that kind of price it's a pretty good deal - provided of course you like the idea of upgrading your telephone system to use Echos rather than normal handsets. We're presuming you can still use standard phones that ring alongside your Echos, but it's not clear from the details Amazon has released so far.
As it's still not on sale yet, we don't know exactly how this is set up either, but Amazon promises it's straightforward. There's no extra fee for making calls with Amazon Echo Connect, so you'll just pay whatever your normal landline charges are.
At the moment, the Echo Connect is only available to pre-order in the US, and we don't know when or even if it's going to make its way to more countries. Amazon quite often launches products in the US first before a wider roll-out (see the original Amazon Echo) so we're confident that more countries might see the Echo Connect soon.
It looks likely that Amazon is planning to release some more Echo-compatible accessories and gadget add-ons in the near future too, though it's not clear what they'll include - the Connect could well be the first in a long line of Echo gear designed to work alongside the main speakers.
- Not the Echo for you? Maybe the Amazon Echo Spot is instead