Amazon Integrates Wake Word Activation to Alexa Mobile App
Alexa mobile app users won’t need to tap the screen to awaken the voice assistant any longer. Amazon announced on Tuesday that the Alexa app on iOS and Android can now be run hands-free, requiring only the standard wake word to activate.
Until now, activating Alexa on the Android or iOS app required tapping the Alexa symbol on the screen before speaking. Controlling Alexa on the app using your voice still requires opening the app, but you just need to ask the voice assistant built into the phone, such as Google Assistant or Siri, to open Alexa. After that, Alexa can be activated by using its name, much as it would with an Echo or other smart speaker. Alexa can then answer questions, run connected smart home devices, or any other task the app was already capable of beforehand. The new feature is set to roll out over the next few days, and it can be turned on or off in the settings menu.
“With this update, whether on the treadmill or out for a walk, customers can now just ask Alexa to control smart home products, make shopping lists, listen to music, and more when the Alexa App is open on the screen,” Amazon explained in an email to Voicebot. “Once the wake word is detected, an animated blue bar will appear at the bottom of the screen, indicating Alexa is streaming your request to the cloud.”
The new voice controls for Android and iOS are similar to the voice-only Alexa feature in Amazon Music added a couple of years ago. But, in both cases, the voice control feature is still limited compared to a smart speaker, with the phone needing to be unlocked and the app open to access Alexa. But it streamlines access to the voice assistant in a crucial way. As Amazon’s attempt at a smartphone line ended somewhat ignominiously, the more the company can make its voice assistant a presence in people’s smartphones, the easier it will be to entice them to build their smart homes around Alexa. That’s part of the motivation for creating the Voice Interoperability Initiative and encouraging manufacturers to make devices that can support multiple voice assistants.
And there aren’t too many smartphones that embed Alexa with voice control at the moment. LG and Moto have a few, including entry-level and luxury varieties, and HTC chose Alexa as the default voice assistant on its HTC U11, the first time that’s happened. And, the OnePlus 8 smartphone series launched in April already incorporates hands-free control of Alexa through the app, despite using Android OxygenOS as their operating system.