Omdia attended Amazon's devices event on September 25th in Seattle. An interesting development was Amazon's entry into a new segment: wearable technology. The devices, which Amazon positioned as devices providing "Alexa on the go," included the Echo Buds and the "Day 1 Editions" limited products (Echo Frames, Echo Loop). Amazon's other launch announcements (e.g., Echo speakers, Alexa SDK, and feature updates, etc.) will be covered in a larger Omdia note.
The Echo Buds ($130) are available for preorder starting this week and set to arrive October 30th. The headphones provide access to Alexa via verbal wake words, access to Siri or Google Assistant through a tap-and-hold feature, and five hours of battery life (20 hours with a case). The unique feature on the Echo Buds is active noise reduction (ANR) provided by Bose, representing the first time Bose has implemented this technology in a third party's device. At $130, the Echo Buds will be met with an uptake challenge due to the competition in the headphone landscape, especially from Apple's AirPods ($160) and Samsung's Galaxy Buds ($130). Amazon's headphones require users to download and use an Alexa app, while the other headphones pair natively to their respective smartphones.
Amazon also introduced its "Day 1 Editions" limited device program at the event. The program allows prospective users to request an invitation to purchase the limited devices: Echo Frames (Alexa-enabled glasses) and Echo Loop (Alexa-enabled ring). The Day 1 Editions program allows on-the-fence Amazon devices to get off the "cutting room floor" in a limited capacity. They are then put into the hands of consumers who are pushed to provide quicker, more direct feedback about the product (compared to a surface-level Amazon review). Lastly, these announced Day 1 Editions products needed to be produced in multiple sizes (e.g., four different ring sizes) which affected manufacturing run capabilities, further limiting quantities.
For now, the Echo Frames ($180) and the Echo Loop ($130) just serve as on-the-go vehicles for Alexa without any wearable-focused functionality (e.g., AR, NFC, biometrics). Amazon's approach to these Day 1 Editions products is to more quickly understand how consumers are utilizing Alexa on the go and then iterate device functionality depending on the results. Regardless, smart ring form factors and even smart glasses have been especially unsuccessful in the past. For example, according to Omdia's Wearables Devices Tracker: 1Q19, rings account for less than 2% of all wearable launches since 2011, emphasizing the form factor's low demand.
Wearable Devices Tracker: 1Q19, CES004-000095 (June 2019)
Rishi Kaul, Analyst, Consumer Technology