- Amazon’s Echo Buds offer decent sound quality and features like active noise reduction at a cheaper price than rivals like Apple and Jabra.
- With the Echo Buds, Amazon is hoping to lay the groundwork for how it envisions Alexa being just as useful on-the -go as it is in the home.
- Later this year, for example, it’s launching a feature that enables Alexa to tell you whether or not your local Whole Foods has the product you’re looking for.
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Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant has dominated the market for home smart speakers since the original Echo launched in late 2014. Amazon accounts for 25.4% of worldwide smart speaker shipments as of the second quarter of 2019, according to market research firm Canalys, outpacing competitors like Baidu and Google. And if the numbers aren’t enough to convince you, Alexa has permeated pop culture, too — even earning its own sketch on Saturday Night Live.
But while Amazon has led the charge in this space, the e-commerce giant hasn’t found a viable way to expand the influence of its digital helper beyond the confines of your home. Amazon makes an Alexa app for smartphones, but it faces stiff competition from virtual assistants that are natively built into the smartphones’ operating system like Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant.
The $130 Echo Buds allow you to access Amazon’s voice assistant just by uttering the familiar “Alexa” wake word, and can also connect you with the native digital assistant on your phone by pressing and holding one of the buds. The earbuds contain two outer microphones and one inner microphone that enable them to reduce noise in your surroundings, and the company claims they include custom drivers inspired by those that professional musicians use.
The Echo Buds are launching on the same day as Apple’s new AirPods Pro, an upgraded version of the iPhone maker’s wireless earbuds that include active noise cancellation and a new design. They’re probably Amazon’s biggest rival in the wireless headphone space, as Apple accounted for 60% of the wireless earbud market as of the fourth quarter of 2018, according to Counterpoint Research.
After spending roughly a week using Amazon’s new Echo Buds, it’s become clear that the product isn’t so much about the earbuds themselves, but how Amazon intends to tailor Alexa for new scenarios. Much like how the Echo provided an avenue for Amazon to get its voice assistant into peoples’ homes, the Echo Buds could do the same for your ear if they’re successful.
Plus, Amazon has an inherent advantage over Apple: its Alexa virtual assistant is already so ubiquitous in the home that you’re probably already used to talking to it out loud — whereas you may not feel the same way about Siri.
Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like to use them.