Amazon’s slow push into mobile is getting a lot more real this morning with the addition of voice integration into its Android app for Alexa. Up to now, the app has been little more than a way to mange settings for the Echo and other smart home devices built around its smart assistant.
The addition of voice commands means users can speak directly to their handset the way they would an Echo to play music, trigger Alexa skills and the like. The update is being rolled out over the course of the coming days through Google Play and Amazon’s own Appstore. A similar update is also on the way for the iOS App Store, but its timing is still up in the air, likely due to Apple’s stricter vetting process.
Mobile has, of course, been a big missing piece in Amazon’s Alexa push. The company has added some select functionality on Android devices, working directly with manufacturers like Huawei and Motorola to bring it to specific devices. Though each of those offerings have been a somewhat customized solution.
Without handsets of its own, the company has had difficulty competing with the likes of Google Assistant and Siri on that front. Microsoft has taken a similar route, offering up Cortana as an add-on app for mobile devices, in order to extend its reach beyond the desktop. Last week at CES, meanwhile, Amazon announced that it was bringing Alexa functionality to PCs through a select number of manufacturers.
Amazon has also, interestingly, brought some voice functionality to its mobile shopping app, while forgoing the functionality for the Alexa app until now. In spite of this, the app has become a hit on app store charts, courtesy of the wild success of the company’s Echo devices this past holiday season.
We’ve reached out to Amazon to get some specifics on the functionality. The ability to access the app through a wake word is likely up to the discretion of the hardware maker.