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Amazon ‘readying AirPods rival’

Amazon is preparing an Alexa-enabled set of wireless earbuds, according to a new report

Amazon is reportedly working on a rival to Apple’s AirPods, bringing the company’s Alexa digital assistant to its own pair of wireless earbuds.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is preparing to launch a set of earbuds as soon as the second half of this year. The new hardware will apparently allow wearers to order products and access information using voice commands.

Much like Apple’s AirPods, the earbuds will also come with a case that doubles as a charger and the buds will include physical tap controls to switch songs and pick up calls.

Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment from Expert Reviews. If the report turns out to be true, the earbuds mark a significant move to expand Alexa beyond the home.  

While Amazon is a major player in smart home hardware, breaking into the mobile sphere has so-far eluded the company. Amazon’s Fire smartphone was discontinued in 2015, and while Alexa can be accessed on phones using an app, an Alexa-embedded set of earbuds would be a substantial push for the digital assistant’s reach.

But the lack of an Amazon smartphone and mobile operating system could hold this ambition back. The Amazon earbuds will reportedly come without built-in cellular connectivity, meaning they’ll need to pair with a phone, and therefore need to work through Apple or Google’s operating systems. That could cause problems, for example, if Apple were to insist that its iPhones needed to be unlocked before accessing Alexa voice commands.

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One possible advantage over AirPods could be superior audio quality, as Amazon is reportedly striving for. The e-commerce giant might also undercut Apple’s earbuds, which cost between £159 and £199.  

Alexa could also be going mobile in a very different way. Bloomberg previously reported that Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division is working on an Alexa-enabled domestic robot, dubbed Vesta.

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