The smartest thing at Amazon's event was the stupid clock on the Echo Dot
Commentary: It might be the smallest step Alexa's ever taken -- but it's also sneaky smart.
Ry CristSenior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
ExpertiseSmart home technology and wireless connectivityCredentials
10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
"Continued aggressive pricing of the entry-level models seems to continue to encourage new customers to try a smart speaker and existing owners to consider adding more devices to their home," notes Josh Lowitz, a co-founder of the market research company Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Each one is a respective bestseller for the two tech titans, and that means that their sales have the biggest impact on the overall smart speaker market share. That market share is a crucial indicator of each platform's reach, and one that developers and potential device partners keep a close eye on.
Amazon's installed base kept growing -- but so did Google's.
That's why I wrote that Alexa had gone on defense when Amazon released the third-gen Echo Dot in late 2018. Amazon protected its magic bullet by beefing up the sound quality and matching Google's attractive, fabric-bodied design.
Now, the clock puts the Dot on offense again. It's another tangible, easy to understand difference between the two devices, and it creates a thing that Google lacks. And as much as these bargain-priced smart speakers drive the overall numbers, that's potentially a pretty big deal.
Looks could kill?
All of that said, I do think the Dot's design took a step backwards here. Amazon's third-gen Dot nailed it last year, with a classy, understated build that felt more expensive than it was. Now, the addition of a generic digital clock compromises the Dot's uniformity, and since the Dot wasn't originally designed to showcase a clock, it sort of looks like Amazon just sort of slapped it on.
Maybe a more distinctive font choice with rounded edges would have done a better job at keeping the thing feeling fancy and modern. Regardless, I just think it's kind of ugly.
Still, as Amazon noted during the big reveal, "what time is it?" remains one of Alexa's most commonly asked questions, so it's probably right that there's consumer demand here. And in the end, I'll bet that a lot of those consumers are going to say "just give me the one with the clock on it." Time will tell, I suppose.
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