Android Police is reporting that the Amazon Alexa mobile app is rolling out an update that provides Alexa voice assistant access directly from the smartphone. Previously you have been able to get some access to Alexa through the Amazon app by selecting the microphone in the search bar. While the original implementation was awkward, Amazon recently added an Alexa icon to the app and extended functionality. You can access many Alexa features ranging from native capabilities to custom Alexa skills and music.
Not all features are supported. Alarms and timers are not supported. Neither are calling and messaging features. And, it also looks like music streaming services other than Amazon’s are not supported. However, you do have access to wide range of Alexa capabilities. The Alexa app integration seeks to address at least some of those gaps.
Alexa To Finally Get a Home in the Alexa App
The most logical location for Alexa on the smartphone is in the Alexa app as opposed to the Amazon app. The Alexa app does enable access to to calling and messaging and is where you configure you devices as well as can view cards that show your past interactions. Android Police includes a photo of an Android device provided by a reader that is running the Alexa app version 1.24.3555.0. You can see from the image that there is an Alexa icon in the navigation tray, presumably to activate the voice assistant.
It is interesting to note that an iOS device running the same app version number shows no Alexa icon this morning. Android Police reports that, “Amazon says an update is rolling out that adds Alexa to the Alexa app.” It is not clear whether that will be the same version number or an updated version for iOS.
Alexa Looks for More Mobile Distribution
Android Police also notes that there is no “always-listening” mode with the Alexa wake word on mobile. Alexa access requires you to touch the icon so it is not hands free on mobile. As I mentioned in the post about the Alexa Windows 10 app, the key here is distribution. Amazon is looking to push Alexa availability beyond smart speakers. Adding access through the Alexa app is another step in implementing the Alexa Everywhere strategy.
The downside is obviously that Alexa on mobile will not be as easily accessed as Google Assistant on Android smartphones or as Siri on iPhones. Both voice assistants are available with the always-listening wake word. That makes them more convenient. The deeper OS integration also enables additional mobile device features to these native assistants that apps cannot provide. As voice assistant usage grows on mobile, Alexa will continue to be at a disadvantage to the dominant smartphone OS providers. But, given the circumstances adding Alexa access to the app is a good move and overdue.