Amazon is working on a smaller version of its smart Bluetooth speaker, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The portable version of the Amazon Echo would let users take Alexa into any room in their house thanks to a built-in battery, but may not have the always-on microphone of its tethered sibling.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, the beer-can sized device carries the codename “Fox” and is already in early production stages at Singapore-based Flextronics International. The device is expected to start shipping in “the coming weeks” alongside the existing Echo, which has seen expanding capabilities since it was announced in November 2014.
The new device may help Alexa penetrate into markets where a $180 speaker is too expensive to reach. However, the smaller version is likely to come with some drawbacks. The largest change will be the push-button activation, which means you won’t be able to just say “Alexa” to start talking to the speaker. This was likely done to preserve battery life, but may make interacting with Alexa a little more cumbersome.
It’s also unclear if Alexa will work without a WiFi connection. Since the current Echo is stationary, and plugged in for power, a consistent WiFi connection isn’t hard to keep. But tethering a device to a phone for an Internet connection while on the go is impractical, so Alexa may not work while on a picnic or at grandma’s cabin in the woods.
Alexa may be the most well-received AI assistant introduced to date. Not only have her capabilities expanded to give you Yelp recommendations and control your smart home, but she’s also coming to cars and other devices, and helped Amazon make an impression at this year’s CES without even having a booth.