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Thu, 11 Oct 2018 20:46:03 +0000

Amazon Echo Show software update adds Web Browser, Smart Home Dashboard, NBC, Hulu, and more

The all-new Amazon Echo Show is being released today but owners of the 1st generation Echo Show are receiving a software update that adds many of the new model’s features to their existing devices. In addition to an overall system-wide refresh of the interface, the new update has added both the Amazon Silk and Firefox web browsers which, most notably, restores access to YouTube on the Echo Show. Also being added is a new smart home dashboard that gives quick touch access to smart lights and Alexa routines. Echo Shows can now also stream NBC and Hulu programming.

The new Echo Show software update, which carries version number 620525720, is the most major update that the device has ever received. While the update has tweaked many aspects of the user interface, it’s not such a big change that people will be lost. This update adds a bit of polish to most fo the existing capabilities but also adds several new features.

The most notable new feature is probably the addition of full-fledged web browsers, which we knew were coming. Both Amazon Silk and Firefox are added with this update, but the two browsers don’t differ too much. Asking Alexa to open a webpage for the first time will prompt the user to select which browser should be used as default. This selection can also be made under the device’s Settings > Device Options > Web Options screen, which can be reached by swiping down from the top of the screen.

I’ll save details about each browser for a separate dedicated post, but they both utilize the touchscreen for nearly all of their functionality with very few voice capabilities. Asking Alexa for a website will launch the default browser you’ve selected, but you can also launch a specific browser by saying “Alexa open Silk/Firefox.” The main reason Amazon has added browsers is undoubtedly to restore access to YouTube, which was removed by Google late last year.

Swiping down from the top of the screen on the Echo Show reveals several new shortcuts that have been added by this latest software update. In addition to the Home, Settings, Do Not Disturb and Brightness controls that have always been present, there are now new buttons for Alarm, Lights, and Routines. When the Echo Show first launched, it was clear that Amazon wanted it to be a voice-first device. That’s still the case, but the addition of these new touch shortcuts, as well as the recently added ‘Tap to Alexa’ capabilities, makes it seem like Amazon is embracing touch controls a bit more.

Of the newly added shortcuts, the “Lights & more” button will probably be used the most. Tapping it loads a newly added interface that lists all of your smart lights, plugs, and switches on a single screen. Also listed are all of your smart device groups. Each item on the list has an ON and OFF button that can be tapped to control the device. It would have been nice to have scenes and other smart devices, like thermostats and cameras, at the bottom of this new screen, but, for now, it’s strictly dedicated to lights.

The new “Routines” shortcut button will bring up a similar screen that lists all of your Alexa Routines. Tapping a Routine on the list will immediately start that routine, as if you verbally triggered it. The new “Alarms” shortcut will list all of your alarms, as well as allow you to edit an alarm or add a new alarm using the touchscreen.

Also added by the update are the new NBC and Hulu video skills that allow you to watch videos from those services on the Echo Show. The NBC skill requires that you login with a paid subscription TV provider to view any content. The Hulu skill requires that you login with a Hulu account. Once the skills have been connected to your accounts, you can requests TV shows and channels by voice or by launching each skill and using the touchscreen to navigate the content.

Many visual aspects of the Echo Show have been refreshed by this update, but they are mostly functionally the same as they were before. If you notice any other new features or significant changes with your Echo Show after receiving this update, let’s hear about them in the comments below.

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