Amazon is working on a pair of earbuds with integrated Alexa support that would be designed to compete with other truly wireless headphones, including Apple’s own AirPods, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
Like AirPods or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, the Amazon earbuds are said to be truly wireless headphones that won’t need clips or cables to stay in people’s ears — but the big difference between those competitors and Amazon’s offering is support for the company’s Alexa digital assistant. Amazon is also said to be focusing on audio quality as a major differentiator compared to the competition.
Users will be able to use Alexa for basically anything that they’d be able to on their phones, including playing music, shopping on Amazon, adding things to to-do lists, or querying for general information. And like Amazon’s Echo speakers, you’ll be able to call up the digital assistant just by saying “Alexa” — similar to the headlining “Hey, Siri” feature introduced on Apple’s second-generation AirPods.
There is a catch, though: the Amazon earbuds won’t offer built-in LTE, meaning that you’ll still have to tether the earbuds to a smartphone to actually access Alexa, meaning that Amazon will need to work with Google (and especially Apple, which has historically been resistant to this sort of third-party accessory — just ask Pebble) to get that integration to work.
As for the rest of the Amazon earbuds, they’re apparently pretty standard for wireless headphones: they’ll offer a storage case that will also recharge the buds between uses, and feature gesture controls to answer calls or control music.
The biggest questions are, of course, price and release date. Bloomberg says that Amazon could release the headphones as early as the second half of 2019, although there’s no word yet on how much they’ll cost. But if Amazon can offer better sound at a comparable price — as Bloomberg suggests the company is attempting — it could shape up to be a real competitor to Apple’s wireless headphone lead.