Alexa Can Now Send SMS for Android Users
Android users will soon be able to initiate text messages from Alexa. Voicebot was first to report in August that Amazon had added simple notification service (SNS) and SMS to the Alexa code base as well as assigned telephone numbers to devices. As predicted, the service is free and goes well beyond the previous calling and messaging features. For example, you can now message someone even if they don’t have an Echo device.
Alexa Text Messaging is Restricted to U.S. and to Android
Users must have Android 5.0 or higher and the service is currently restricted to the U.S. You need to set up the calling and messaging feature in the Alexa app, but the messages may be delivered via the Alexa app or to your carrier provided SMS client. A spokesperson from Amazon confirmed the new feature and added these comments:
“The Amazon Alexa team launched an SMS messaging feature in the U.S., allowing customers to use Alexa devices to send SMS messages to their contacts from their mobile phones. Now, all customers have to do is ask Alexa to send a text message, or simply ask to send a message and Alexa will find the best way to send the message—either over Alexa messaging or using SMS messaging on the customer’s Android phone (there are no carrier restrictions). This feature is currently available on Android only.
“There will be a discovery pop up within the app to guide customers through set up, however, to enable the feature on an Android phone, open the Alexa App and go to the Conversations Tab. Then select Contacts, followed by My Profile and enable the Send SMS toggle.”
Text Messaging is a Killer App on Mobile. Will it Be for Voice Too?
There is no doubt that text messaging became a killer app on mobile. It was so popular that messaging drove platform usage and squeezed out time that could have gone to other apps or activities. Social media apps and some hit games were the only mobile properties to really thrive at scale in spite of messaging’s popularity with consumers. Independent French developer Quentin Delaoutre launched a popular SMS Alexa skill in 2016 called SMS with Molly. His view at the time was that text messaging was very popular on mobile, people seem likely to continue communicating through asynchronous channels like text messaging, so someone should build the feature set for Alexa.
Amazon then went ahead and built the Alexa text messaging feature set into the core product and launched it this week. The new feature may squeeze out independent developers that had hoped to have success with a messaging Alexa skill, but hands free messaging in the home and soon in the car is an obvious feature that can increase platform usage.