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Amazon expands Alexa range with new Echo Dot and Tap portable speaker [u]

Amazon on Thursday launched two new versions of its Echo speaker, the Echo Dot and the Amazon Tap, offering more flexibility in the way people can use its Alexa voice assistant, a competitor to Apple's Siri. [Updated]

Echo Dot

Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is cheaper and more compact version of the Echo, priced at $89.99 instead of $179.99. While it includes a built-in speaker, it's meant to connect to more powerful external audio units, whether via Bluetooth or a bundled cable.

As with its bigger sibling the Dot can be asked to do things like play music, get news, search for information, set an alarm or timer, and control a select range of smarthome devices. Music playback is limited to Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Prime Music. The device can also be used to order goods from Amazon and Domino's Pizza, or hail an Uber.

Amazon is offering the Echo Dot only to Prime subscribers, who must also order using Alexa on an Echo or Fire TV, and are limited to one per order and two per customer.

Amazon Tap

Amazon Tap

Though not technically branded with the same name, the Amazon Tap is essentially a portable version of the Echo with up to nine hours of battery life. Because it may not be plugged into a power source, Alexa must be triggered by tapping a button on the device —voice commands also require that the speaker be connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

With or without Wi-Fi, the Tap can still be used as a generic Bluetooth speaker for paired devices.

The Tap can be preordered today for $129.99, and will officially launch on March 31. While the speaker itself is black, Amazon is also selling a $19.99 "Sling" accessory in white, black, blue, green, purple, and orange colors.

Update: Amazon said that the Echo Dot orders will eventually open to the general public.