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“Scoops” May Be Samsung’s Tiny Echoes Amazon’s Competitors

If documents and photos submitted to the US Federal Communications Commission are to be believed, Samsung is prepping a new voice-activated Bluetooth speaker that looks an awful lot like a potential competitor for the Amazon Echo and the upcoming Google Home.

First noticed by Ausdroid, the speaker is currently called “Scoop.” It’s about the same size as the Amazon Echo Dot, and judging from a brief user manual included in the filing, it seems to serve the same basic purpose: streaming music from your phone over Bluetooth, or from an external audio source via built-in audio jack.

What’s less clear is whether the Scoop does anything else. Amazon’s Echo, Tap and Echo Dot smart speakers all feature the artificial intelligence of “Alexa,” a voice-activated virtual assistant that can answer questions, read off the weather or the news or control compatible smart-home gadgets. The upcoming Google Home smart speaker offers much the same functions by way of the new Google Assistant. As for the Scoop, we just don’t know how smart it is yet, if at all.

The manual makes mention of a built-in microphone, though. That would seem to bring voice control into play, but the curious inclusion of a leather strap makes it seem like this is intended to be more of a portable, wireless device for streaming on the go.

If that’s the case, an always-listening microphone would be a major battery drain. The Amazon Tap, the portable version of Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speaker, gets around that problem by asking you to press a button to get it to listen to you — but Scoop doesn’t seem to have any such button.

Something else to keep in mind is that Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers use a full array of far-field microphones capable of hearing you from across the room, even over background noise. Samsung’s filings don’t offer much about how robust the built-in microphone is, but judging from the pictures, it looks like it’s designed more for close, direct input.

The answer could be that this just a pretty basic speaker, and not a true Echo/Home competitor. Still, the Scoop is intriguing enough that we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it at the 2016 IFA trade show, which kicks off next week in Berlin. Stay tuned.