Amazon is increasing its Echo Show smart display lineup once again, and this time it’s going bigger. With a 15-inch, 1080p HD display, the new $249.99 Echo Show 15 is the company’s largest smart display to date. The Echo Show 15 is also different from previous Echo versions in that it is flat and can be hung on the wall, rather than being a touchscreen coupled to a large speaker.
The argument for this smart display from Amazon is that it will serve as a common center for families to view things like future calendar appointments, to-do lists, sticky note reminders, and shopping lists. It envisions it in social areas such as a living room, a heavily trafficked hallway, and, of course, the kitchen. It can do everything that previous Echo Show smart displays did, including play music, show weather forecasts, stream video, operate smart home devices, and anything else you can ask Alexa for.
The Show 15, on the other hand, takes advantage of its larger screen to display more helpful, permanently placed widgets alongside the usual carousel of news, third-party skill advertising, and so on. Those widgets can be configuring to show a calendar, to-do list, food recommendations, favorite smart home controls, and more, depending on your preferences. Amazon is developing a few of these widgets, but it has also created an API for developers to utilize to integrate them into their Alexa Skills.
If you wanted to design a smart home dashboard, for example, you won’t be able to use the entire display with your own selected objects. The rotating home content featured on other Echo Show displays takes up half of the screen, while widgets take up the other half.
The larger screen also helps with the new picture-in-picture feature, which allows you to look at other content while watching a security camera stream or video doorbell. It’s the first Echo Show to enable streaming in full HD resolution from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and other services. Amazon also announced that TikTok and Sling TV will be available on all of its smart screens.
The Show 15 is designed to seem like a picture frame, and it may be used as a full-screen photo viewer if desired (Amazon says it adapts its color to ambient lighting conditions much like other recent Echo Show devices). There’s a strong resemblance to Samsung’s Frame TV, which is another screen designed to resemble a picture frame but on a smaller scale. When I asked if alternative styles might be available in the future, the firm said no. The Show 15 has a black frame with a white bezel encircling the display at the launch.
THE SHOW 15 HAS A SAME DESIGN AS SAMSUNG’S FRAME TV
The Echo Show 15 is designed to mount on a wall in either portrait or landscape position, which explains the picture frame look. However, in the samples I saw before today’s announcement, the Show 15’s power wire dangled down from the display itself, with no clear way to hide it. When asked if the cord was rated for in-wall use, Amazon said no. Other attachments, such as a stand for setting it out on the counter or an under-cabinet mount, will be available, according to Amazon.
The front-facing camera on the Echo Show 15 is 5-megapixels and may be utilized for video calling. However, it may recognize who is in front of the Echo Show 15 and display customized content for them, including greetings, reminders, calendar events, specific notes, or other information.
When it detects that a youngster is using it, it can also limit the content available to age-appropriate stuff. . According to Amazon, the Show 15’s custom-designed AZ2 neural edge processor, which is a follow-up to the AZ1 that debuted in last year’s Echo devices, powers this new Visual ID function.
ON THE DEVICE, FACIAL RECOGNITION HAPPENS LOCALLY.
According to Amazon, all of the Visual ID processing takes place locally, and the identifying information is saved on the Echo Show 15, not in the cloud. The fake profiles are not shared among devices, so if you have more than one Echo Show 15, you’ll have to set it up for each one separately. The feature will be completely disabled if the camera is turned off or if the built-in shutter is used to block it.
The Echo Show 15 is the most significant change to a smart display’s form factor since they first appeared on the market a few years ago. It also cleverly handles a number of issues that have arisen with them, such as the fact that they take up a lot of valuable counter space and appear very gadget-y. The Show 15 hides its technology beneath an aesthetically neutral appearance that may use in a variety of settings.
But it’s unclear whether the Echo Show 15 will be more useful than previous Echo smart screens. Amazon’s new widget system could be useful, but I’m not confident that third parties would use it effectively (a Daily Show widget was mentioning several times in my briefing, but I’m not persuaded of its utility).
The Echo Show 15 will very certainly have the same flaws as previous Echo Show displays. Recipes are a huge selling point for smart displays, but unless the recipe you want is in Amazon’s partner databases (Allrecipes, Epicurious, or Tasty), it’s useless in the real world. You can’t easily send photographs or videos from your phone to an Echo Show like you can with an Apple TV or Chromecast on television (or one of Google’s smart displays).
We’ll have to reserve final judgment until we’ve had a chance to put the Echo Show 15 through its paces. Still, it’s an intriguing device, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it fits into a real home when it arrives later this year.