Amazon Echo Plus wants to make it easier to take control of your smart home

Smart speaker packs in a smart home hub

Amazon Echo Plus packs a smart home hub

Amazon hosted a surprise event in Seattle in September and, along with showing off a new Amazon Echo 2 and making some smaller Alexa-related announcements, it also unveiled the Echo Plus.

Looking more like a direct replacement of the original Amazon Echo with its tall, slender body, the smart speaker packs in all of the same features as the Echo 2, but with one crucial extra: it also has a built-in smart home hub. What that means is that it should make it easier to take control of all of the connected kit in your home.

It's compatible with a 100 smart home devices straight out of the box, so there's no need for Alexa Skills or apps. Those devices include Philips' Hue smart light bulbs, with one of the bulbs shipping with the Echo Plus.

Amazon also announced a new feature called Alexa Routines. This basically lets you automate a set of smart home features with a single command. For example, if you say "Alexa, good night" you'll trigger a series of actions on your smart home devices: Your lights will turn off, your TV will turn off, your door will lock.

You can also add automated triggers, like turning on your coffee machine and starting a flash briefing at 6 in the morning. Or reading the week's weather forecast every Sunday. Routines are compatible with all smart home devices compatible with Alexa, and aren't just available for the Echo Plus and second-gem Echo. It'll also be available for previous generation Echos, including the Dot and Show, starting next month.

The Echo Plus is available now for $149.99, making it cheaper than the first Echo.

If you need a reminder of the other key hardware announcements from the September Amazon event, the Echo Show is coming to Europe for the first time, there's also a new screen-packing Echo Spot, Echo Buttons and an Echo Connect speakerphone.

The pick of the bunch though does appear to be the Plus, which could go a long way to helping smart home newbies get their setups up and running and working with minimal fuss.

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