Move over Hatchimals. Watch out Nintendo NES Classic. Joining these ultra-hot, mostly sold-out 2016 holiday gifts is a trio of voice-controlled speaker devices from Amazon—the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap—which currently appear difficult if not impossible to purchase by December 25.
The Echo Dot is the least expensive of the bunch, with a retail price of $50, and it was Amazon's hottest-selling device over the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend. The Echo Dot features a small speaker, and can be connected to others for playing music, ordering a pizza or an Uber ride, controlling your home's temperature and other settings, or getting updates on sports scores or the news. Like the Dot, the taller Echo (normally $180) can do all of the above via Alexa, Amazon's voice-controlled assistant, and also comes with a much more powerful speaker the fills a room with 360 degrees of sound. Finally, Amazon Tap (normally $130) is a portable speaker device meant mainly for use outside the home, streaming music via your phone and offering all of Alexa's services provided there's a wi-fi connection.
Here are our suggestions for how to buy one or more of these devices in the near future, with the least amount of hassle and money spent.
The Echo Dot is on sale right now from Amazon and other sellers at $40 (OK, $39.99). But at this point, Amazon says the Echo Dot won't be back in stock until December 27. If you have Prime or are willing to pay for expedited shipping, it should be easy to get one in time for New Year's, which may work out fine depending on who the recipient is.
As of early Tuesday morning, the white version of the Amazon Echo Dot was still available to order via BestBuy.com for $40. Alas, during the course of reporting this article, however, that model became sold out online too, joining the black Echo Dot and the taller Amazon Echo in both black and white (on sale for $140, down from $180 regularly). Best Buy allows shoppers to search inventory of its stores within 250 miles, and from what we can see the most likely model you'll find in stock nearby is the white Echo Dot.
From experience, we also know that Best Buys and other retailers sometimes surprisingly have items in stock in stores even though they're listed as sold out on company websites. The surprise availability could be the result of returns, or misplaced inventory, or just dumb luck for the shopper that stumbles upon them. So pop into a store if it's convenient, and cross your fingers.
The taller Amazon Echo that normally sells for $180 won't be in stock at Amazon until January 18, the e-retailer reports on its website. Yet as the Wall Street Journal reported, on Monday the Echo and Echo Dot were readily available for sale in at least some of Amazon's 30+ brick-and-mortar retail locations around the country. Meanwhile, Amazon is also selling certified refurbished Amazon Echos right now for $150 (oddly, $10 more than the sale price of never-opened devices), though they too won't be shipped until after Christmas. They'll reportedly be in stock as of December 28, which is way better than January 18.
Yet another Alexa-enabled device, the portable Amazon Tap Bluetooth speaker, won't be in stock at Amazon until December 27. Yet on Tuesday we were able to find them available to order online from Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond for $90, the same sale price currently listed at Amazon. (Best Buy is probably the better optional, as the retailer provides free two-day shipping. Standard shipping is free from BB&B, but that might be too slow for delivery by December 24.)
If none of the above suggestions works for you, there may be no other option other than hitting the resale market. Rakuten.com, for instance, is listing the Amazon Echo Dot for $60.95 with free shipping included. Over at eBay, sellers are asking steep "Buy It Now" prices of $70 to $150 for the Echo Dot, and $280 to a crazy $1,000 for the taller Amazon Echo. Online auctions at eBay may yield cheaper final prices, but they're also stressful, with fast and furious bidding at the last minute—plus the added anxiety of wondering if the item, sold by some random person, will arrive in time. On Tuesday, we saw auctions end with final bids of around $65 for the Echo Dot and $200 for the Amazon Echo, with shipping included.