I’m a little late to the party, but now that the holidays and CES are over I’m finally finding time to dive into the devices I’ve been neglecting to write about, such as the Amazon Echo Spot, Cloud Cam, Amazon Fire TV Stick Basic Edition, and Muse. While playing with the Echo Spot this week, I discovered a micro USB port, in between the power and audio-out ports, that’s hidden behind an easily removable panel. The active USB port provides fastboot access to the Android-based operating system running the Echo Spot and could provide an avenue for modding the device.
A small plastic panel covers the undocumented micro USB port located on the back of the Echo Spot. Using a small flathead screwdriver, it’s simple to peel the panel off, which is held in place by a small strip of adhesive.
The USB port is likely used to modify the Echo Spots software after it has already been assembled. This is likely done through fastboot, an Android utility, since the Echo Spot runs an Android-based operating system, just like the Echo Show does.
To put the Echo Spot into fastboot mode, you simply hold all three buttons on top of the device while it boots up. Rebooting the Spot can be done by either pulling the power cord or by pressing and holding the mute button for several seconds to bring up the device’s power options.
While in fastboot mode, connecting the Echo Spot to a computer using the hidden micro USB port allows you to use the standard Android fastboot utility to access the device. As you should expect, the bootloader on the Echo Spot is locked, which prevents anyone but Amazon from modifying the device’s operating system.
If it were possible to enable ADB debugging on the Echo Spot, it’s likely that the USB port could be used to sideload 3rd-party Android apps onto the device. If you bring up the device options on the Echo Spot and tap the serial number several times, a developer options menu appears, just as it would on most Android-based devices.
Unfortunately, the available developer options are sparse, to say the least. While you would normally find an option to enable ADB debugging in this menu on most Android devices, Amazon has removed the option, along with nearly every other developer option commonly found on Android devices.
The developer menu has only two options. Toggling “Show Developer Options” off re-hides the developer options menu, forcing you to tap the serial number again to bring it back. The only other developer option is something called “Ship Mode.” Selecting the option causes the Echo Spot to reboot and go through its initial setup process where it asks for WiFi information and your Amazon login information. I don’t know what the option is for or how it differs from the factory reset option found in the regular Echo Spot menus.
Unlike the Echo Show, which does not have any way to easily connect it to a computer, the presence of a functioning USB port on the Echo Spot makes it a much better candidate for hacking and modding purposes. If someone were able to figure out how to enable ADB debugging on the Echo Spot, it would likely be trivial to install and run non-Amazon Android apps to get more functionality out of the Echo Spot.