The Genie is an Alexa-enabled smart speaker that'll sell for just $35. It's the newest gadget in Anker's Eufy range of smart home products, which Anker -- previously best known for making USB chargers -- kicked off last year.
In a nutshell, the Genie is just a cheaper version of the Amazon Echo Dot. You'll plug it in, sync it up with your home network, then tell it to stream some music, play a podcast, turn your lights off, set a timer, or anything else you might think to ask.
It includes the same far-field microphones that can hear you from across the room whenever you say the wake word "Alexa." It works with the same services and smart home products. It features the same access to more than 10,000 free Alexa skills, each of which teaches Alexa to do something new. It's everything people like about Amazon's voice assistant in a slightly more affordable package.
With its 2W speaker, Eufy also promises "better sound," though the press release never specifies what it's actually better than. At 70 percent of the Echo Dot's cost, I'd be satisfied if the sound was 70 percent as strong, but that wouldn't be saying much given that the Dot's puny speaker wasn't designed to fill a room. At any rate, the sound quality might be a moot point since, like the Dot, you can connect the Genie to external speakers using a 3.5mm cable.
The real idea is that the Genie will serve as the centerpiece to a new suite of Eufy smart home gadgets. First up are Wi-Fi-enabled Eufy Lumos smart bulbs coming at the end of August, available in standard white for $20 each or tunable white for $30. A new, app-enabled version of Eufy's RoboVac will come next in September -- you'll be able to buy it bundled with the Genie for just $280, which is about as affordable as voice-connected housecleaning currently gets. Eufy-branded smart plugs, smart switches, and smart light strips are in the works, too. You'll be able to control all of it using the Eufy app or by talking to Alexa, which, conveniently enough, positions the Genie right at the crossroads.
The imitation game
All of that makes Eufy something of an Alexa budget brand. It's hard not to call the Genie a pure Echo Dot knockoff, and with the same, voice-activated Alexa smarts as the Dot, the two might as well be functionally identical. The only real difference: The $35 Genie doesn't include support for wireless Bluetooth connections with external speakers. For that, you'll have to wait for a $40 version of the Genie with Bluetooth that's still listed as "coming soon." Hm.
Don't expect Amazon to complain about the copycat design, though. Shortly after the initial success of the original Amazon Echo smart speaker, the online retail giant made the software that powers Alexa available to outside developers for use in their own products. With a few lines of code, any gadget with a microphone, a speaker, and an internet connection can be an Alexa gadget. That means more competition for the Echo and Echo Dot, but it also helps Amazon build the overall Alexa user base.
"With the Eufy Genie, customers can get Alexa, her 15,000+ skills, and high-quality sound for less than $35," said Steve Rabuchin, VP Amazon Alexa. "Now even more customers will be able to simply ask Alexa to set a timer, play the news or their favorite music, control their smart home or order a meal with just their voice."
Building that base of customers is clearly Amazon's top priority for Alexa as it fights to secure as big a share of the red-hot voice control market as it can. To that end, you'll find third-party Alexa gadgets like the Genie for sale on Amazon itself -- and virtually no sign of the Google Home smart speaker (or, presumably, the Apple HomePod smart speaker later this year). The automaker Henry Ford once famously quipped that his customers could get a Model T in any color they liked, so long as it was black. Amazon might well joke that shoppers can get a smart speaker of any brand that they like -- so long as it's Alexa.
The $35 Eufy Genie goes up for sale -- on Amazon -- on August 16. Prices and release dates for the rest of the Eufy smart home lineup are listed below.
- Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb White: $20, late August 2017
- Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb Tunable White: $30, late August 2017
- Eufy RoboVac 11c: $270, September 2017
- Eufy Smart Light Strip: Price and release date TBD
- Eufy Smart Plug: Price and release date TBD
- Eufy Smart Switch: Price and release date TBD