Amazon Echo smart speaker goes on sale in the UK – and Apple's already planning a rival

Amazon has announced that its smart speaker system, known as Amazon Echo , will go on sale in the UK tomorrow, September 28.

The Echo, which has been available in the US since June 2015 , is a 23.5 cm tall cylindrical speaker – similar in appearance to the UE Megaboom – with a seven-piece microphone array.

It is integrated with a virtual personal assistant called Alexa, (Amazon’s version of Apple’s Siri ), which connects to your home WiFi network and responds to voice commands.

The device is capable of playing music and audiobooks, streaming podcasts, answering questions, making to-do lists, setting alarms and providing weather, traffic and other real-time information.

It also integrates with several third-party apps including Spotify, Uber and Just Eat, allowing you to control your music, book a taxi or order a pizza by just speaking the words.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Echo and Alexa to the UK,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

“Millions across the US have already fallen in love with Alexa. And, predictably, she’s even more likeable with a British accent.”

Echo’s seven microphones point in different directions, in order to pick up what you’re saying no matter where you are standing in the room.

Alexa uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt to the user’s speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences over time.

Amazon said it will continue to improve Alexa’s speech capabilities, and will not stop until it is indistinguishable from a human voice.

"Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this." “Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this.”

The Echo can also control several smart home devices – such as lights, thermostats and coffee machines – making it a hub for the connected home.

Philips Hue, Hive and Netatmo are among the “connected home” companies that integrate with Echo at launch.

Amazon Echo is available in black or white, and costs £149.99. Anyone who has pre-ordered the device will also receive it tomorrow.

Amazon introduces Amazon Alexa, Echo and the All-New Echo Dot at a product launch in London

The news comes amid rumours that Apple is planning its own Echo-like device, built around Apple’s Siri voice assistant software.

The device has reportedly left the R&D stage and entered prototype testing inside Apple’s labs, according to Bloomberg .

It is said to serve many of the same purposes as an Echo, controlling appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice controls.

Amazon Echo Amazon Echo

Some of the prototypes under consideration also include facial recognition, which may be used to perform automatic adjustments based on knowing who is in a room or their emotional state.

Bloomberg added that the project is still in its early stages, and could be scrapped altogether if the results don’t live up to Apple’s expectations.