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Amazon Echo Dot gets a fabric makeover, better sound, still costs $50

The tiny Dot is critical to Amazon’s mission to get Alexa into your home.

The new Echo Dot has a fabric body.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

One of the smallest products in Amazon's lineup, the Echo Dot, just made a big splash.

On Thursday, the retail giant unveiled the next iteration of its hit speaker. The new Echo Dot features 70 percent louder volume. It'll cost $50 (£50, AU$79) and ship later this month. One notable change: It's getting a fabric body with different color options.

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The Echo Dot, first launched in March 2016, is the most affordable version of the Echo, and also the most critical to Amazon's mission to get its Alexa digital assistant into your home. The Dot, periodically sold at a discount for $30, is Amazon's best-selling gadget. It's also the company's best defense against the rise in competition from speakers made by Google and Apple.

Amazon and the other tech giants are racing to get into your humble abode because they all think connecting the smart home is one of the next frontiers in technology. On a broader scale, the Google Home Mini was the top selling smart speaker globally in the second quarter of 2018, followed by the Echo Dot. Overall, shipments of smart home speakers hit 11.7 million globally, according to a Wednesday report from Strategy Analytics.

The Dot lacks the Echo's full speaker but functions the same for those interested in smart home tech, for example, or just day-to-day queries of voice assistant Alexa. The second generation followed in October 2016, at a lower price and with improved voice recognition.