The Flex is, essentially, a plug with Alexa on it. It's not a smart plug, because it doesn't make another device 'smart'. And it's not a Powerline adapter.
So what's the strategy here? Well, Amazon says that a lot of people buy Echo Dots but have to put them in weird places simply because they need to be in close proximity to a power outlet.
The Echo Flex plugs directly into the power outlet removing the need for a power adapter and a secondary Echo device. Amazon says it enables you to "bring Alexa to any room" - but that was also pretty much its pitch for the Echo Dot...
Design and buttons
- Means you don't need a trailing power cord
- Definitely available in US and UK versions
- Has mute and action buttons plus a small speaker
Mind you, it could be a useful way to bring Alexa to a room like a hallway where you might not have a shelf or sideboard to place a more standard Echo or places where you just don't want a trailing power cord.
Echo Flex is a square block with an Alexa light, a very small speaker - not for music, just for Alexa to speak back to you, and two buttons. There's an action button to invoke Alexa without the wake word as well as a mic mute button. Alexa was clear through the speaker, but you'll need to be relatively close to it.
The device will be coming to the US and UK at least and there will be versions for each country - you won't need an adapter.
There is a 3.5 mm line out jack so you can use it to add Alexa to powered speakers or a hi-fi system. That's basically replacing the function of the more expensive Echo Input so it could be that device has had its day (it remains available at present).
- Motion sensor and night light available as extras
- Can charge other USB devices
There's also a built-in USB-A port so you can charge a phone or other device but this port also has another use - to connect to accessories for Echo Flex. These slot into the bottom of the plug.
There are two that will be available to start with - a motion sensor or a night light for $15/£15. Again, these fit into the notion that a hallway is the best place for this device. Crucially these don't need another electrical outlet to work.
The Echo Flex is an interesting device for sure. It's basically the Echo for the hallway, although it could also be useful in a garage, for example.
It certainly shows Amazon's keenness for us all to put Alexa in more places in our homes - not just in a kitchen or family room. The accessories are also interesting and we'll see whether Amazon offers more add-ons for Flex as time goes on.
The Echo Flex will be released in November.