Amazon is taking on Apple with its own wireless earbuds called the Echo Buds, powered by Alexa voice technology and priced at $129.99 — cheaper than Apple’s popular AirPods, which debuted more than two years ago and range from $159 to $199.
The Echo Buds, rumored for months and revealed today at Amazon’s big devices event in Seattle, feature Bose active noise reduction technology and five hours of battery life (or up to 20 hours with a case). They work with Siri and Google Assistant, in addition to Alexa. Tap gestures allow users to control the noise reduction feature and activate the voice assistants.
Pre-orders are available today, with shipping starting in October.
Amazon hinted at shopping-related integration. “We worked with the Whole Foods team to make this experience really delightful in store. For example, you’ll be able to ask Alexa if Whole Foods has canned tomatoes in stock as well as where you can find canned tomatoes,” the company wrote.
This is Amazon’s first attempt at headphones, and its first Echo wearable. The earbuds align with Amazon’s ambition to get its Alexa voice assistant everywhere — not just in your home.
It’s also Amazon’s first attempt at what could be a health monitoring device, though the Echo Buds don’t track steps or other fitness metrics. Amazon has been making inroads into health technology, but its other efforts haven’t been directed at consumers. The company has invested heavily in finding ways to improve healthcare for its own employees — first through a joint venture called Haven and most recently with Amazon Care, an on-demand primary care program for employees that was announced this week.
The inclusion of Alexa in a wearable device further opens opportunities for health applications. Amazon opened the door for health apps on Alexa earlier this year by allowing developers to create HIPAA-compliant apps.
Bose, Jabra and Samsung all offer headphones for athletes that track physical activity and even heartbeat. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds also sell for $129.99.
GeekWire health tech reporter James Thorne contributed to this story.