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Amazon may add touchscreen to Echo smart-home speakers

The online retailer will introduce a new high-end, voice-activated device with a seven-inch touchscreen as soon as the first quarter, according to Bloomberg.

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Are you considering giving the Amazon Echo speaker as a gift this holiday season? You might want to wait. A new report suggests that Amazon plans to introduce a new high-end voice-activated speaker -- with the addition of a touchscreen -- early next year.

The Seattle-based online retailer may be readying a new Echo speaker with a touchscreen in the first quarter of 2017, according to Bloomberg. Instead of the cylindrical design of the current Echo speakers, which use the Alexa voice-activated digital assistant software, this new device is expected to have a seven-inch touchscreen that tilts upward so people can see it when it sits on a counter or when they're standing.

The new device, which is expected to use the same operating system as the Kindle Fire tablet, is supposed to make it easier to access content such as recipes, weather forecasts, calendar appointments and news, two people familiar with the new product told Bloomberg.

The speaker itself will be larger with better sound quality than Amazon's current slate of speakers, Bloomberg reported. It's also likely to be more expensive than Amazon's existing smart-home speakers, which range in price from $50 for the Echo Dot to $180 for the Echo.

Amazon did not respond to CNET's requests for comment and declined Bloomberg's request for a comment.

Amazon's Echo has been facing competition from Alphabet's Google Home voice-activated digital-assistant speaker. And it may soon go up against Apple, which is rumored to be building a smart-home device using its Siri digital assistant. A new touchscreen device could be Amazon's attempt to stay ahead of competition and differentiate itself from the pack.

Amazon's next Echo said to come with a screen (CNET Update report)