In the latest attempt to take the Alexa assistant mobile after the flopped Fire phone, Amazon is reportedly working on an AirPods-like wireless earbuds that will “look and act” similar to Apple’s earphones while offering built-in Alexa access and beating AirPods on sound quality.
Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman has the story:
Amazon is trying a new way to take its Alexa digital assistant mobile: wireless earbuds that mirror Apple’s popular AirPods. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is readying earbuds with built-in Alexa access for as early as the second half of this year. […]
They’ll come in a storage case that doubles as a charger. Users will be able to plug it in over a standard USB cable.The firm’s tested the earphones in black and gray colors.
And we’re calling them Alexa Pods!
Amazon’s enjoyed great success in the smart speaker space. An Alexa-powered earphones sounds like a natural move to enter the AirPods territory with a compelling product of its own.
The article goes on to note that Alexa will be summoned by saying “Alexa,” indicating a hands-free access to Amazon’s digital assistant. You’ll be able to do things like order products from Amazon, access music, weather and other information on the go by using your voice.
There will be physical gesture controls, such as tapping to pick up and end calls and switch between songs. The headphones will look and act similar to AirPods, but people working on the product inside Amazon are striving for better audio quality. Like AirPods, the Amazon earbuds are designed to sit inside users’ ears without clips around the ear.
The original AirPods sound great and the second-generation model even better. I’m wondering if Amazon’s “better audio quality” could stem from boosting audio resolution alone.
One possible obstacle could be the fact that the Amazon earbuds will require a smartphone to function. As you know, that’s problematic because the online retail giant lacks a compelling smartphone nor does it have a mobile operating system of its own. This will likely prevent it from achieving the same seamless integration as Apple provides with AirPods on iPhone.
The Amazon earbuds won’t have built-in cellular connectivity and will require pairing with a phone. This means working through Apple and Google, which Amazon already does with its Alexa apps. That’s a strategic headache for Amazon, which is using Alexa to grab an early lead in voice computing and to get its main e-commerce business in front of more people.
The buds are reportedly one of the most important projects at Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division, which gives you a good grasp of how serious Amazon is about this upcoming accessory. Hopefully, the Amazon earbuds won’t record all your conversions like Alexa does.
There’s no word on pricing but Amazon hardware typically undercuts the competition so it’ll be interesting seeing how lower than the $159-$199 AirPods range they might go.
All told, as many as 12.5 million earbud pairs were sold in the fourth quarter of last year, with AirPods alone controlling 60 percent of the market, according to Counterpoint Research.
What’s your take on Alexa Buds?
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