New Amazon Echo with a screen to debut this week

The smart home speaker competition is heating up. Just a few hours ago, Microsoft and Harman Kardon launched the Cortana-powered Invoke speaker, whose design is an obvious jab at Amazon Echo. As early as tomorrow, however, Amazon might be biting back by releasing the next gen Echo speaker, which might not be a speaker at all. Instead, if all the leaks do pan out, it will basically be a smart intercom with a touch screen and, yes, VoIP functionality.

Amazon's next Echo has not exactly been a well-kept secret. Amusingly, it was its odd Echo Look that caught almost everyone unaware. Just recently, a leaked image of the device showed how the next Echo will have a more identifiable "face", so to speak. But more than just the convenience of a touch screen, this upcoming Echo is expected to have one feature none of its rivals so far have: telephony.

Amazon and Google have long been rumored to be eying adding this function to their speakers but it seems that Amazon will get there first. If it does get unveiled this week, it will beat the Invoke by a few months. That said, it isn't going to replace your home phone just yet.

According to the information, the new Echo will be limited to Internet-based calls, a.k.a. VoIP. This definitely strikes at the heart of one of the Invoke's selling point, being able to use Skype with the speaker. Amazon, however, might take things one step further. Equipped not just with a screen but also a camera, the Echo will supposedly be able to do video calls as well.

When the new Echo does launch, however, it won't have that feature yet. Instead, sources say that it will initially be limited to communicating with other Echo devices in the same network. Sort of like a glorified intercom. We won't have to wait long to confirm the details, though, as Amazon has been tipped to make the announcement tomorrow.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal