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Amazon turns on Matter support – but not Thread – for 17 Echo devices
The company is holding off on Thread until next year to ensure smooth customer experience
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Amazon Matters
🚛 Amazon rolls out Matter support, starting with 17 Echo devices
🤝 Matter smart home protocol to bring universal compatibility
🦦 Amazon holding off on full support, preferring smooth rollout over speed
⏩ Alexa Smart Home is ahead when it comes to responsiveness anyway
👀 There just aren’t that many Matter devices available yet
If you use recent smart speakers (and certainly if you pick one from our best smart speakers page) from any one of the big four smart home platforms – Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit or Amazon Alexa Smart Home – you now have support for the new Matter smart home standard. That’s as Amazon rolled it out to 17 of its Echo devices yesterday, all smart speakers and smart displays, with the oldest supported devices going back to 2018.
Amazon is the last of those companies to roll out support for Matter, which promises to finally pull all of the smart home ecosystems under one umbrella, so that soon you won’t need to worry about compatibility when you purchase a new smart plug (perhaps one of the best smart plugs), smart thermostat or set of smart bulbs. Apple, Google and Samsung have all launched support, starting with Apple in early October and ending with Google just a few days ago.
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Full support is still to come
However, there’s a crucial omission in Amazon’s announcement: Thread support, which Amazon says it will be adding next year. This isn’t a surprise – Amazon said at the Amsterdam Matter launch event in early November it would be waiting to add support for Thread.
It seems the company is being cautious with its rollout – Chris Decenzo, Principal Engineer at Amazon, said in an interview with The Verge, “This is an effort unprecedented in scale and complexity. It’s a big deal, and we need to make sure it goes smoothly.”
That tracks, as some who have already moved to the new standard have had a bit of a bumpy ride in so doing. In Stacy on IoT’s reporting of Amazon’s rollout, the publication mentioned its testers having a hard time with Google’s move to Matter, and I’ve seen anecdotal reports of troubled transitions to the new Apple HomeKit architecture. I’ll find out if I can add to those complaints as I flip on the switch my own home, with fingers crossed.
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Amazon doesn’t need to hurry
Amazon can afford to wait. The company’s smart products have always been the fastest to respond in my testing over the years, giving an experience that, most of the time, feels as fast as local control via Thread is supposed to.
Moreover, there just aren’t that many Thread-enabled devices on the market yet, making it the domain of the early adopter until retailers finally push out their last Wi-Fi smart home gear, as manufacturers slowly make the move. There’s even a good chance that’ll still be the case when Amazon finally moves the needle on Thread.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these decisions were made in anticipation of the November layoffs at Amazon that cut 10,000 jobs from its Alexa and Luna teams, also, which could slow down its work on new rollouts.
Why should I care about Matter?
The smart home world has been stifled by walled gardens for the last several years. Although you can generally find products that work with two or three smart home ecosystems pretty easily, picking one up that works with all four of the major ones can be a challenge, leaving consumers on certain platforms (mostly, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings) out in the cold.
Matter fixes that, and it’s a communication protocol that allows any Matter-certified smart home product to work with any of the Matter-supporting smart speakers, which now includes just about all of the speakers from all of the companies.
Thread is distinct, as it’s a wireless transmission standard, like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, that sits around the same frequency range as Bluetooth and older standards like Zigbee. And importantly, Thread devices don’t need an internet connection, so when the Wi-Fi goes down, those products can still work.
Put the two together, and you’ve got Matter over Thread, which goes right alongside Matter over Wi-Fi to knit all of the smart home ecosystems together. Keep an eye on The Shortcut as I continue to look at the newest smart home gear and let you know what works and what doesn’t.