Amazon has confirmed plans to roll out an important update to its chatty assistant Alexa. But this latest tweak isn’t designed for Amazon Echo owners. Instead, it will appeal to those who access Alexa using their smartphones.
Until now, anyone hoping to check the latest headlines, weather forecast, order takeaways or taxis using Alexa on their Android or Apple iPhone would have to hit the Alexa button at the bottom of the app. This is very different from almost every other experience with Alexa – whether that’s with an Amazon Echo, Fire HD tablet, or Fire TV Cube streaming set-top box – where you can launch the digital secretary handsfree using only your voice and the wake word “Alexa”.
And now, Amazon is bringing the same exact experience to smartphone owners.
The handsfree option is now available by default. When you open the Alexa app, which is also used to manage any Skills (what Amazon calls apps designed to bring extra functionality to Alexa) already enabled and find new ones in the store, you’ll now be able to say “Alexa” to start a request. Just like when using an Echo smart speakers, there will be a blue bar that appears at the bottom of the screen to indicate when your request is being processed.
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If you haven’t got automatic updates enabled, you’ll need to head to the app store and get the latest version of the Alexa app.
You’ll be given the option to enable handsfree detection when you launch the app for the first time after the update. There’s a new option within the settings menu to disable the feature at a later date if you’re not a fan.
Unfortunately, you’ll need to have your smartphone unlocked the Alexa app open to use the handsfree feature. Unlike Siri on the iPhone and Google Assistant on Android devices, you won’t be able to wake-up a locked device using your voice.
Amazon says the handsfree feature arrives on apps worldwide over the next few days. As usual, software updates are staggered when rolling out worldwide, so it might take time to land on your device.
But don’t worry – Amazon hasn’t forgotten about those with its Alexa-enabled smart home gadgets.
The Seattle-based company has shared a list of new things to try with the handy voice assistant. It includes:
“Alexa, what time does the sun set in London?”
“Alexa, play songs I was listening to last night”
“Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?”
“Alexa, give me an easy dinner recipe”
“Alexa, tell me a Pokémon joke”
“Alexa, create a to-do list”
“Alexa, what’s your favourite word?”
“Alexa, find music by Cardi B”a