Anker, the China-based accessory maker, blew up on Amazon with a simple plan: make decent-quality versions of everyday gadgets lots of people want, and sell them for less than Apple or Samsung. They don’t have fancy TV ads or cool packaging, but they do have a pile of good reviews and Prime shipping. The company started with portable chargers, but now its Bluetooth headphones, portable speakers, dash cams, and Lightning cables are all among the best-reviewed and most popular products in their category. If that strategy sounds familiar, by the way, it should: It’s straight out of the Amazon Basics playbook.
Anker’s latest Amazon-conquering move goes even further. Now, it’s launching a cheaper version of the Echo Dot smart speaker, powered by Amazon’s Alexa. (Anker’s not trying to win the virtual-assistant game, or at least not yet.) The Eufy Genie’s capabilities match the Echo Dot’s almost exactly. It can plug into speakers or work on its own; it can set timers, play music, answer questions, and access thousands of Alexa skills. It’s optimized especially for Anker’s own devices; rather than saying “Alexa, let me talk to Eufy,” you can just tell it to turn off the lights.
The biggest difference between the Genie and the Dot? The Genie sounds better (though that’s not saying much) and costs just $35, a downright bargain next to the $50 Echo Dot. “We looked at the Echo Dot when it came out last year,” says Anker CEO Steven Yang. “We thought, ‘Hey, it’s a great product… but there are compromises.'” Anker ran a survey and found that about half of Echo Dot owners connected their assistant to an external speaker. “The other half didn’t,” Yang says, “and complained about the sound quality.” He says the Genie’s sound won’t blow your doors off, but won’t make your ears weep either. And Anker’s already working on better-sounding smart speakers, more like the HomePod, coming later.
The Genie will be the centerpiece for a line of fully integrated smart-home products the company’s launching under the Eufy brand. You can already buy a Roomba-like vacuum cleaner (and a new Alexa-enabled model’s coming soon), along with desk lamps and humidifiers. The company’s planning to quickly roll out even more products, like smart switches and connected light bulbs, to bring your home online even further. The Genie controls everything. Of course, it can handle all your other Alexa-powered smart home stuff, but it’s designed particularly for Eufy.
Since this is Anker, most of the company’s products will be cheaper than their competitors. “Many of the smart products are still two times or three times more expensive than their non-smart peers, which makes it hard for people to actually pull the trigger,” Yang says. He wants to usher in a world where smart gadgets cost just a few extra bucks, not the same amount as a nice steak dinner. Smart home gadgets should be commodities, and Anker can help make them so.