March 3, 2016 Last Updated 1:32 pm

Two new Alexa-enabled devices from Amazon unveiled: Echo Dot and Amazon Tap

Company quietly drops encryption on its latest version of Fire OS

The online retailer Amazon today unveiled a couple new products that feature the company’s voice control feature, Alexa. One might consider them brand extensions as they are basically related to the existing Amazon Echo product.

Echo-DotEcho Dot is basically Alexa without the big speaker. The device works the same but to enjoy music one would to connect it to a speaker or receiver to get better audio quality. The Echo Dot does contain its own speaker, but this would only work for most people if the device was used as an alarm clock or similar.

The benefit here would be to use the Echo Dot to add some level of voice controls to a stereo, but that might be going a bit far. One can, for instance, stream music from Spotify or Amazon Prime through the device by hooking it up to an ancillary port, but it won’t actually control the receiver, meaning you’d have to change the input yourself. A better solution, it would seem to me, would be license the Alexa service to third party audio equipment makers and have them integrate it into the device. Come to think of it, why hasn’t Apple done this?

The Amazon Tap is also like the Echo in that it is a big Bluetooth speaker, only this time without Alexa built in. To use Alexa you have to use the Alexa app to communicate with the Amazon Tap. This may be a problem because the app has gotten terrible reviews. Unlike Google, Amazon is not a very good iOS developer.

Why has Amazon introduced these two new products when it already has the Amazon Echo? Probably because it has found that at $179.99 the market for the device is a bit limited. So, Amazon has priced the Echo Dot at $89.99 which gives you Alexa but not the big Bluetooth speaker, and the Amazon Tap at $129.99, which gives you the big Bluetooth speaker, but not built-in Alexa.

I have to admit that it has been a while since I was excited about buying a new gadget. Apple is really in very uncreative period right now, and with 4K TV content so limited I’m not in the market for a TV (though I did notice that Amazon is streaming some UHD content, but at outrageous prices). So, I’ve looked at the Echo as an option… and said no. I doubt either of these would work for me either, though the Echo Dot may be the one that seems to be the most useful.

Here is the new product announcement from Amazon:

SEATTLE, Wash. – March 3, 2016 — Amazon today announced two new Alexa-enabled devices: Echo Dot and Amazon Tap.


Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice controlled device that uses the same far-field voice recognition as Echo. Directly connect Echo Dot to speakers with an audio cable or via Bluetooth, and add voice-control to your home stereo system. Plus, with its small built-in speaker, you can place Echo Dot in the bedroom and use it as a smart alarm clock, or in any room as a voice assistant to control smart home devices and more. Echo Dot is available for $89.99 exclusively for Prime members through Alexa Voice Shopping. To order an Echo Dot, existing Echo and Fire TV customers can just say “Alexa, order an Echo Dot.” Learn more about Echo Dot and see a video at

Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker that offers rich, full-range sound. Just tap the microphone button and ask for music, hear the news, search for information, order a pizza, and more with the Alexa Voice Service. Amazon Tap has dual stereo speakers with Dolby processing that provide crisp vocals, extended bass response, and 360° omni-directional audio. Amazon Tap is available for pre-order today for $129.99. Learn more about Amazon Tap and see a video at

I no longer have a Kindle Fire, having given it away about six months ago (it was getting old and felt underpowered). So I did not notice that Amazon has quietly, very quietly, ended encryption in its latest version of Fire OS. It has, to put it mildly, more than few customers freaked out, especially knowing how hard Apple is working to win support for its stance against unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

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