Release date, rumors, price, feature wishlist

A blue light ring on the Amazon Echo 4th-gen

Adam Molina / Android Authority

Today’s smart speakers owe a lot to the original Amazon Echo, and every new flagship Echo model is hotly anticipated by industry watchers — it tends to set the bar for whatever follows. The 4th gen Echo, released in 2020, largely kept up that track record. Two years later it’s time to ask what we can expect from the Amazon Echo 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.

Will there be an Amazon Echo 5th gen?

An Amazon Echo 4 in a kitchen

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

There will almost certainly be an Amazon Echo 5th generation model. Whatever form it takes, there needs to be a continually updated standard Echo to anchor Amazon’s smart speaker lineup. The only way that could change is if Amazon chooses different branding or abandons the market entirely. We typically see a new regular Amazon Echo speaker every two years and we’re coming up to that timeframe now.

Check out: The best Echo speakers

When will the Amazon Echo (5th gen) release date be?

Amazon Echo 4th gen mute switch

Adam Molina / Android Authority

Right now we’re expecting a September 2022 announcement, followed by an October release date for the Amazon Echo 5th gen. Although Amazon skipped an update at its September 2021 hardware event, it debuted the Echo 4th gen in September 2020, and the 3rd gen a year prior. An announcement is probably due if the company wants to keep up with the rest of the speaker industry.

Amazon could choose to skip another year, but that seems unlikely unless it can unlock enough new functionality via software updates. Have a look at the Echo’s full 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 over Thread

Nanoleaf Shapes panels in a bedroom

The one thing we can say with confidence is Matter over Thread. Amazon has already promised Matter over Thread for some existing devices, including the Echo 4th gen, so all that remains is for the company to offer it out-of-the-box in the next generation.

What are Matter and Thread? You can read more about them via the link below, but in short, Matter is an upcoming network protocol that will let devices work across all major smart home platforms. You won’t have to worry if accessories like smart bulbs are explicitly compatible with your platform of choice — in theory, they’ll just work so long as they have the Matter logo. Scheduled to go live in late 2022, the standard will also reduce the need for hubs, bridges, and internet access by enabling local mesh networks.

Deep dive: The Matter smart home protocol and why it’s a big deal

Matter can operate over Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, yet it’s ideally meant to be used with Thread, a Zigbee-based wireless protocol. Every Thread product operates as its own low-powered “border router” to which other Thread accessories connect. The technology consumes so little power, in fact, that it’s already in accessories like Nanoleaf bulbs and light panels (see the image above).

With Matter over Thread, the Echo 5th gen will likely be a cornerstone of many smart homes, uniting accessories from hundreds of brands. The real question is whether you’ll be able to add the speaker itself to Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant, not just Alexa — that could be mindblowing.

Improved sound

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 another leap, since at this point, it’s not clear how Amazon could do much better without also hiking prices.

What will the Amazon Echo 5th gen price be?

Amazon Echo Dot Alexa speaker with light ring turned on

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

While 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 and has sold well so far. It can even afford for the Echo to be a loss leader since there are plenty of Amazon-branded services and accessories to make up the gap.

That said, the company is probably feeling the bite from supply chain issues and related inflation like most tech companies in 2022, so it might hypothetically raise prices to compensate.

Amazon Echo 5th gen: What we want to see

Dolby Atmos and other home theater improvements

Amazon Echo 4th gen in hand showing inputs

Adam Molina / Android Authority

The current Echo doesn’t support the 3D sound of Dolby Atmos, despite what its spherical shape suggests. Since the standard is increasingly common on speakers, and is slowly gaining content on services like Amazon Music, there’s incentive to bring it to new Echo hardware. 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 though, given the material costs of adding extra ports, and the benefits (for Amazon) of keeping people locked into the Fire TV ecosystem.

See also: What you need to know about Dolby Atmos sound

A clock and temperature display

The 4th-gen Echo Dot with clock functions

A clock is a small 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 Echo 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.

An indoor temperature display may be unlikely, but there’s a room sensor built into the 4th gen, and it’s awkward that you can’t access that information without asking for it or opening the Alexa app. If Amazon does make a clock version of the next Echo, it would make sense to include a temperature readout as well.

Quick audio handoff

Transfering audio between an iPhone and a HomePod mini

One of the unique features of Apple’s HomePod mini 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 from a variety of services to a variety of different phones. There’s a chance the tech could be enabled in Android 13, 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

A 4th-gen Amazon Echo on a desk next to a smartphone

Adam Molina / Android Authority

Though Amazon is leading when it comes to alternative ways of triggering a voice assistant, 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 an odd 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. While 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 being hard to confuse for something else. Limiting user choices 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 2022, mind, 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?

393 votes

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