Smart home speakers are steadily gaining ground in India and Amazon's Echo range has been appreciated the most so far, followed by Google Home.
Led by Amazon Echo, with 59 per cent market share, the smart speakers category in India grew 43 per cent in the second quarter (July-September) this year, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) report.
Analysts see the nascent smartphone market in India growing beyond entertainment and Amazon, with its top-of-the-line voice-based Alexa platform, has brought the second iteration of its Echo smart home speaker to the country that is able to control connected devices around you and does not need third-party support.
The Indian smart home devices market which consists of connected lights, smart speakers, connected thermostats, smart TVs, home monitoring/security products and digital media adapters saw a healthy year-on-year growth of 107 per cent to hit 1.4 million shipments in the second quarter.
Let us see what the Rs 14,999 All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with a smarter Alexa has to offer.
The top has four buttons -- two to adjust volume, one to wake up Alexa and one mute button -- along with seven ergonomically-placed microphones.
This time, the 780-gram device goes beyond reading daily news, playing music, announcing weather or ordering food.
The All-New Echo Plus comes with a built-in smart hub that helps you set up compatible Zigbee-enabled smart home devices directly, just using your voice.
Zigbee is a wireless technology developed to enable low-cost, low-power wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT (Internet of Things) networks.
Just ask Alexa to discover your devices and begin controlling compatible lights, plugs, locks, thermostats, sensors and in-wall switches.
For example, Echo Plus connected directly to Philips Hue light-bulbs.
Insert the bulb into a receptacle and tell Alexa to discover new devices. Within no time, she will throw up the name of the device (in this case, the light-bulb).
Start controlling the device, like "switch on the light Alexa".
You can also control compatible lights and plugs from Syska, TP-Link and Oakter.
With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus heard us from almost all directions.
Housing new speakers powered by Dolby and enhanced back volume, the bass felt stronger and the sound crisp and clear.
One feature that is worth mentioning is the equaliser (EQ) feature that allows users to personalise sounds by adjusting the bass, mid-range and treble.
Just ask Alexa to increase or decrease a specific band like "turn up the bass" or "decrease the treble" and she does it for you.
We could also made adjustments through the Alexa app.
The new Echo Plus also has a temperature sensor, making it possible for Alexa to tell the temperature in any room (it works with a compatible smart home thermostat).
With the device, call or message your friends and members in the family who also has an Echo device or the Alexa App.
Simply ask "Alexa, how do I set up calling?" and get started.
What doesn't work?
Alexa is getting smarter by the day and we will soon have more local functionalities in it. At the moment, the device gives the best smart speaker experience.
Conclusion: From a tall, metal cylinder look in the first generation, Echo Plus has come a long distance in terms of look and feel. The second-generation Echo Plus with a far more intelligent Alexa is a real upgrade if you have experienced the first generation Echo.
(Nishant Arora can be contacted at email@example.com)