Tonnes of speakers already work with Alexa, and even more mobile devices feature Amazon’s digital assistant so you can talk to her on-the-go. But when it comes to solid portable speakers with Alexa built in, the pickings are actually kind of slim.
Even Amazon’s own portable Echo Tap has a pretty big flaw: You need to actually touch the speaker when you to talk to Alexa, which kind of invalidates the whole point of having a hands-free digital assistant.
But now, the UE Blast and Mega Blast are here to right those wrongs with powerful water-resistant speakers featuring Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Alexa, and a built-in battery that the company says lasts up to 12 hours on a charge.
And unlike the Echo Tap, the UE Blasts have always-on functionality, so whenever you’re feeling needy, all you have to do is say “Alexa” to get a response from the digital assistant.
When connected to Wi-Fi, the UE Blast currently supports streaming music from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. When it comes to the music services that you really want, such as Spotify and Pandora, UE says it’s working to add those services too, but didn’t provide an exact date for when they will be available. This problem also plagues Sonos’ first smart speaker.
You can recharge the UE Blast using the included microUSB cable, but if you are looking for something more elegant, UE has also created a £35 Power Up dock, which lets you recharge the speakers by simply dropping them on a little disk. It might be nice if you want to use the Blast as an at-home speaker without tying it down too much.
While the Blast and Mega Blast certainly aren’t cheap, starting at £200 and £280, respectively, the older Bluetooth-only UE Boom 2s are some of our favourite portable speakers on the market. Both versions should be available towards the end of October.