Adam Molina / Android Authority
Today’s smart speakers owe a lot to the original Amazon Echo, so every new flagship model is anticipated by industry watchers — it tends to set the bar for whatever follows. The 4th gen Echo, released in 2020, kept up that track record. Nearly three years later, it’s time to ask what we can expect from a 5th gen model, especially with pressure mounting from companies like Apple, Google, and Sonos. We’ve also got a wishlist of things we’d like to see.
Update, June 2, 2023: Updated with news about Amazon’s efforts with Alexa and generative AI.
Update, September 4, 2023: Updated with info about Amazon’s September 20 press event.
AT A GLANCE
- When is it coming out? There’s no release date yet, but Amazon could announce one at its September 20 press event, and ship by the end of October.
- What’s new? Nothing has been confirmed. It should at least have Matter, Thread, and Eero Built-In by default, instead of requiring a software update.
- How much will it cost? $100, assuming Amazon doesn’t hike the price to account for inflation and/or new features.
Will there be an Amazon Echo 5th gen?
Table of Contents
Roger Fingas / Android Authority
Almost certainly, whether sooner or later. Whatever form it takes, there needs to be a continually updated standard Echo model to anchor the rest of the lineup. The only way that would change is if Amazon abandoned the Echo brand, or smart speakers entirely. Typically there’s a new Echo every two years, and of course, we’re beyond that timeframe now.
When will the Amazon Echo 5th gen release date be?
Adam Molina / Android Authority
Amazon is holding its next Devices and Services event on September 20, 2023. An Echo 5th gen announcement seems likely, since while Amazon could choose to skip another year, there’s increasing pressure keep up with the rest of the smart speaker industry.
If there is an announcement, expect the product to ship the following month, based on historical trends. Have a look at the Echo’s release date history:
- Amazon Echo 1st gen — November 2014 (invitation and Prime members)/June 2015 (public)
- Amazon Echo 2nd gen — October 2017
- Amazon Echo 3rd gen — October 2019
- Amazon Echo 4th gen — October 2020
What features will the Amazon Echo 5th gen have?
Matter and Thread
One thing we can say with confidence is Matter and Thread. Amazon has already updated the Echo 4th gen ($99 at Amazon) to support both, so all that remains is for the company to offer the technology out-of-the-box in the next generation.
What are Matter and Thread? You can read more about them via our links, but in short, Matter is a recently-launched network protocol that lets accessories work across all major smart home platforms. You don’t have to worry if products like smart bulbs are explicitly compatible with your platform of choice — in theory, they’ll pair long as they have the Matter logo. The standard also reduces the need for hubs, bridges, and internet access by enabling local mesh networking.
Matter and Thread should make the Echo 5th gen a cornerstone of many smart homes.
Matter can operate over Ethernet and Wi-Fi, yet it’s ideally meant to be used with Thread, a Zigbee-based wireless protocol. Many Thread products operate as their own low-powered “border routers,” which bridge with other Thread accessories as well your Wi-Fi. The tech is already in accessories like HomePods ($299 at Adorama), Eve sensors, and Nanoleaf‘s bulbs ($15 at Amazon), lightstrips ($39 at Amazon), and light panels.
With Matter and Thread, the Echo 5th gen will likely be a cornerstone of many smart homes, pairing accessories from hundreds of brands. The real question is whether you’ll eventually be able to use the speaker itself with Apple HomeKit or Google Home, not just Alexa — the option isn’t in Matter 1.0, but might hypothetically come down the road.
Likely but not guaranteed is improved sound quality. That’s been common to every new Echo generation, and the 4th gen speaker took a sizable step forward, sounding better than any $100 product has a right to. It manages to get loud and bass-heavy while retaining plenty of clarity.
The Echo 5th gen will probably refine sound rather than make a dramatic leap since, at this point, it’s not clear how Amazon could do much better without adding expensive new components. One possible enhancement is better bass, since that’s a common focus in the smart speaker industry, and there are ways of upgrading through better acoustics rather than a larger woofer.
One surprise with the 5th gen Dot was its support for Eero Built-In, a technology that extends your Wi-Fi network when you link the device with an Eero router. Devices with the feature can add an extra 1,000 square feet of coverage, albeit limited to 100Mbps over 10 additional connections.
Amazon has already added the same technology to the Echo 4th gen and some other Echo devices via an update, so expect that to be supported by default going forward.
No more Celebrity Personalities
One thing getting the axe with the 5th gen Echo will be Celebrity Personalities for Alexa. For years US customers could pay to replace Alexa’s stock voices with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson or Melissa McCarthy, but on May 30, 2023, it was discovered that Amazon was discontinuing sales. All Celebrity Personalities will stop working by the end of 2023. To make matters worse, there are no known refund plans.
With AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard dominating the mindspace of today’s consumer tech industry, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Amazon has also been looking into the technology. In an interview with CNN, Amazon’s Senior VP of Devices and Services, Dave Limp, discussed generative AI and the possibilities for Alexa.
“We’re not done and won’t be done until Alexa is as good or better than the Star Trek computer,” Limp said. “And to be able to do that, it has to be conversational. It has to know all. It has to be the true source of knowledge for everything.”
Although Limp didn’t explain how the company will implement generative AI, his words heavily imply that it will be used to help Alexa answer complex questions.
Will Amazon’s version of a chatbot make it into the 5th gen Echo? We know that the company is currently working on ChatGPT-like search capabilities for its e-commerce store, but if that’s still in development, a convincingly omniscient voice assistant is probably a longshot for 2023.
What will the Amazon Echo 5th gen price be?
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
Although the original Echo started at $180, pricing shrank to $100 for the 2nd gen model and has hovered there ever since. Amazon will probably do everything in its power to stick to a similar price for the Echo 5th gen, since $100 is an obvious psychological threshold that’s worked well.
That said, the company is feeling the bite of inflation like most tech giants, so it might hike prices to compensate. Moreover, it reported billions in losses during 2022, much of that linked to Alexa. The company may need each speaker to turn a profit, instead of serving as a loss leader for shopping and subscription services.
Should you wait for the Amazon Echo 5th gen?
Not necessarily. If you’re looking to get into the Alexa ecosystem as soon as possible, the 4th gen Echo is still a solid smart speaker with both Matter and Thread. Amazon will probably continue to support it after the 5th gen model ships, and even continue to sell it until stock runs out. That’s been the case with other Echo products.
If you’re just upgrading existing Alexa speakers, or there’s no rush to begin building a smart home, we’d suggest waiting until after Amazon’s September 20 event. There could be additional advances (see our wishlist below), and if you can afford to wait, you’ll maximize the return on your investment.
Amazon Echo 5th gen: What we want to see
Dolby Atmos and other home theater improvements
Adam Molina / Android Authority
In spite of what its spherical shape might suggest, the current Echo doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Because the standard is increasingly common, however, and slowly gaining content on services like Amazon Music, there’s an incentive to bring it to hardware beyond the Echo Studio ($199 at Amazon). Support makes even more sense when you consider the option to pair existing Echos with a Fire TV streamer.
Something we’d also like to see is the ability to use an Echo 5th gen with third-party streamers and TVs, say via an HDMI or optical port. That’s less likely than Atmos, given the material expenses of adding ports, and the benefits (for Amazon) of keeping people locked into the Fire TV ecosystem.
A clock and indoor temperature display
A clock is a minor perk on any smart speaker, so normally it’s not something we’d go out of our way to mention. We’re highlighting it here because Amazon sells a clock-equipped version of the Dot, and it seems weird that you can’t pay a little extra to get the same option on a higher-tier product, especially one that’s more likely to be a centerpiece.
As for indoor temperature, there’s a room sensor built into both the Dot and the current Echo, and it’s strange that you can’t access this temperature data without asking for it or opening the Alexa app. If Amazon does make a clock-equipped version of the Echo 5th gen, it would make sense to include a temperature readout as well.
Quick audio handoff
One of the unique features of Apple’s HomePods is the ability to switch audio from your iPhone to the speaker (or vice versa) by bringing the two devices close together. It sounds like a party trick, but if you’ve ever been listening to something and wanted to finish it somewhere else, the appeal is obvious.
Making this happen on an Echo 5th gen could be difficult. Amazon would probably need to add a dedicated wireless chip, then somehow sync data between a variety of services and a variety of different phones. There’s a chance the tech could come to Android devices, but there’s even less hope for the important iPhone market, since Apple keeps a notoriously tight leash over iOS and how its NFC and UWB (ultra-wideband) chips are used.
Fully custom wake words
Adam Molina / Android Authority
Though Amazon is leading the way when it comes to alternative ways of triggering voice assistants, that’s not saying much. Apple, Google, and Samsung don’t offer any customization, so Amazon automatically wins by letting you change Alexa’s wake word to “Echo,” “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Ziggy.” That’s still a mediocre selection — particularly Ziggy, which may avoid accidental triggers, but sounds like someone at Amazon was a fan of reggae or ’70s newspaper comics.
There are a few legitimate reasons for restricting options. Though most smart speaker commands are processed via cloud servers, wake words are always processed locally for a quick response — meaning the simpler things are, the better. Words must also be long enough to be distinguishable while simultaneously hard to confuse for something else. Limiting user choice ensures that customers don’t get frustrated when an Echo refuses to answer to the name of their favorite Dune or Harry Potter character.
We are living in 2023, mind you, and with other advancements in tech, it feels increasingly arbitrary to call our “personal” voice assistants by a name someone else picked. Alexa’s existing wake words don’t work well for everyone, and surely there’s some way of allowing broader customization while keeping the guard rails intact.
Which upgrade would you want most on a 5th-gen Amazon Echo?