Verizon Would Like to Sell You an Alexa-Powered Smart Display

An FCC filing reveals the carrier is preparing its own branded smart display, complete with custom commands.

A rendering of the upcoming Verizon smart display as passed through the FCC.
The purported Verizon smart display is a Plain Jane.
Image: FCC

Verizon is looking to sell you a smart display, perhaps to finally launch its BlueJeans video conferencing service.

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A recent FCC filing unearthed by Protocol shows evidence of a Verizon-branded smart display-like device. The filing reveals that the device has a white chassis with an 8-inch display and a camera above it with a hardware shutter button. It also has 4GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, wifi, Bluetooth, and built-in 4G connectivity.

There are few images accompanying the filing, but none of them with an actual look at the user interface. Verizon will program the wake phrase “Hi Verizon” for you to interact with the device. This is possible through Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant program, announced back in January. Companies can mold Alexa for use with other services and ecosystems, including specialized Skills you can only command with a particular device.

A render showing the buttons and ports on the Verizon smart display as submitted to the FCC.
Another look at the FCC’s smart display filing, which shows a physical camera shutter button on the device.
Image: FCC

Verizon already sells Amazon’s smart displays in its carrier store, so this isn’t a huge pivot for the company. If anything, it feels like a move akin to Facebook’s Portal, another smart display with Alexa commands built right in. That device exists primarily to facilitate video conversations through Facebook Messenger. Verizon’s smart display will likely exist in the same vein. It bought the BlueJeans platform last year for $400 million in direct response to the uptick in video chat due to pandemic necessity. Verizon had said in the past that BlueJeans would become a complement to its business and that in the future, it would become integrated into its network.

This smart display seems like the first step toward the execution of that plan. It might also be Verizon’s chance to include a value-add as it sells customers on the idea of enterprise-level video chat. As for Amazon, this is a way to get its digital assistant propagated among more users and perhaps even woo the business crowd since it’s teaming up with one of its biggest players.

DISCUSSION

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TR4-250

It looks like a tablet with particularly inconvenient base. It requires shelf or counter or desktop space, whereas a tablet could be leaned against something and only require the space for its narrow footprint, as in maybe a kitchen. The speaker is in the rear, but this is not the device you go to for great sound. Wiring plugs in from the rear which demands more space, but a tablet can be charged/linked from the side. No battery, because it’s really not portable. This feels like a step back and despite its many talents, it looks like a smallish CRT.