According to the news report by Bloomberg, Amazon.com Inc. is looking at taking Alexa, its digital assistant, mobile. It is creating wireless earphones that copy the popular Apple Inc. AirPods.
According to people who know about Amazon’s plans, the company is planning to launch these new ear phones, which will have in-built access to Alexa, by the second half of this year. The product will look as well as operate just like AirPods, with the ear buds being designed to be placed inside the ears without any clips. However, according to the sources, the company is looking at providing better audio quality.
The headphones will let people order products, access weather, music and other information with voice commands. Alexa will be able to be summoned just by using the digital assistant’s name.
Besides voice commands, the sources also stated that physical gestures can be used to control certain functions of the device. For example, the buds can be tapped to answer and end calls, as well as switch between songs.
The product will come in a case that will double up as an earphone charger that users can plug in with a standard USB charger. According to the sources, the earphones have been tested in two colors – grey and black.
In terms of price, Amazon usually has a tendency to charge less than its competitors. Apple’s AirPods are sold in a price range of $159 to $199, so Amazon’s earbuds are expected to cost less than that.
Earphones are one of the fastest growing wearables in the market today, with 12.5 million pairs sold in the previous quarter worldwide. According to Counterpoint Research, Apple owns 60% of the market share with its AirPods. In fact, after people made fun of the new bud design of the AirPods when it was launched in 2016, this product has become the company’s major selling accessory, and it has been helping offset slower iPhone sales.
This is one of the most critical projects that the company’s Lab126’s hardware division has worked on. It is also the first major move away from consumer hardware home products for Amazon. The company had tried to launch a smartphone in 2015, however, that product had been a failure.
The Echo smart speakers, on the other hand, had surprised everyone with its success, and it brought Alexa into millions of homes across the globe. The company also tried to introduce a battery-powered Echo speaker, but it didn’t do as well, as so was discontinued.
Another model of the Echo speaker is the plug-in version for cars, but it has limited availability.
Another step that Amazon had taken to increase Alexa’s reach was to open it up to third party manufacturers such as music hardware major, Bose Corp.
The biggest obstacle to Alexa’s growth remains the smartphone industry. The company still does not have a smartphone or a mobile operating system. This is where Google and Apple have trumped Amazon. Both companies’ digital assistants have ready-made audiences thanks to their technology being inbuilt into millions of smartphones and other mobiles devices.
The new Amazon earphones will not have built-in mobile connectivity and will need to be paired with a smartphone. This will mean that the company will need to work through other manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Google, which is what Amazon is already doing with its apps run on Alexa.
This is a strategic obstacle for Amazon, which is using its voice assistant to get a lead in the voice-based computing space as well as to get its main online retail business to a wider customer base.
When contacted for further information, Amazon declined to comment on this news.