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Amazon is reportedly building a smaller, cheaper Echo

Sadly, you won't be able to activate this lesser model with your voice.

If you've been intrigued by the Echo, Amazon's voice-activated personal assistant speaker, but aren't quite willing to shell out $179.99 to figure out if it works for you, there might soon be a cheaper option. The Wall Street Journal, quoting the typical "people familiar with the plans," says that a smaller and cheaper Amazon Echo will be released "in the coming weeks." In terms of size, the WSJ says it's designed to fit in the palm of your hand -- something around the size of a beer can. That means that the new Echo will certainly not sound as good when you're playing back music as the bigger model is, but given the Echo's relatively limited music features that might not be a major dealbreaker.

What is a bigger problem is the fact that it sounds as if you won't be able to activate the new Echo with your voice. The WSJ says the new Echo will be battery powered so you can take it around with you more easily. Unfortunately, because of its battery-powered nature, the smaller Echo won't always be listening for the "Alexa" command. You'll need to push a button to activate it. That's a pretty big blow to the Echo's usability -- hopefully you'll be able to activate it by voice when it's plugged in, but that's not clear yet. Despite this potential downside, an expansion of the Echo family is still worth keeping an eye out for. It's been a surprising success, and a cheaper model can only help the Echo ecosystem grow.

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