Will Alexa earbuds advance Amazon’s virtual assistant ambitions?
Amazon is planning to launch a wireless in-ear headphone to not only challenge Apple’s popular AirPods in the mobile wearables market, but to bring Alexa on the road.
Like AirPods, Amazon’s earbuds will sit inside users’ ears without clips and allow wearers to not only listen to music and other audio media, but use voice commands to get information, tap thousands of Alexa skills and order goods from Amazon while on the go, according to a report from Bloomberg. The product will also feature physical gesture controls such as tapping to pick up and end calls and switch between songs.
As in past innovations, Amazon’s earbuds are expected to be priced below the $159 AirPods, and yet offer higher audio quality, according to the report. Amazon plans to launch the device in the second half of the year.
Wireless earbuds, or hearables, is one of the fastest growing wearable categories. Apple’s Airpods, launched in holiday 2016, commands 60 percent share, according to Counterpoint Research. Samsung, Google, Jabra and Sony also compete in the space.
One drawback for Amazon is that its hands-free earbud will have to pair to a mobile smartphone and may face challenges delivering seamless Bluetooth connectivity working as a third-party developer with Google’s Android and Apple’s mobile operating systems. At the least, users will have to download an Alexa app to fully access the smart assistant’s features.
Loup Ventures managing director Gene Munster told Yahoo Finance, “Basically, there’s friction there because they [Amazon] don’t own the phones. It’s another example of a hurdle they need to clear to get consumer adoption.”
A few reports also pointed out that while Amazon saw success with Kindle and Echo, Amazon’s only mobile hardware device, the Fire Phone, was a flop.
Writing for Engadget, Nicole Lee believes an Amazon earbud could be a bigger threat to Google, the fast-rising second in digital assistants, than Apple. While Google has advantages with its Android operating system, she wrote, “If Amazon’s version could be cheaper, sound better and have a smarter assistant on board, that could be a pretty compelling alternative for non-Apple devotees.”
- Amazon Is Making a Rival to Apple’s AirPods as Its First Alexa Wearable – Bloomberg
- Amazon AirPods rival is ‘a bad idea,’ says Loup Ventures’ Gene Munster – Yahoo Finance
- Alexa Earbuds To Move Amazon Into Wearables – Pymnts.com
- CCS Insight Forecast Predicts Apple Watch and Hearables to Fuel Growth in Wearables – CCS Insight
- Report: Amazon readies Alexa-powered earbuds – Mobile Marketer
- Amazon reportedly working on Alexa earbuds to take on Apple’s AirPods – Verge
- Amazon’s earbuds are a shot at Google, not Apple – Engadget
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important will developing a wireless earbud be for Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant ambitions? Is not having its own smartphone a major roadblock to competing in the earbuds category?