Alexa Built-In Hands-Free No More
Amazon has removed systemwide hands-free Alexa access on Alexa Built-In smartphones. The feature, which allowed users to use Alexa’s wake word and interact with the voice assistant from the lock screen or anywhere else on the phone, officially sunsetted at the beginning of April for all of the set of Android phones built with Alexa.
The faux-native operation for Alexa was a key feature for the Alexa Built-In phones, which included a handful of models from OnePlus and brands like Motorola, Sony, LG, and Moto. Only HTC chose ever Alexa as the default voice assistant, specifically for its on its HTC U11. iOS and other Android smartphones can only activate Alexa by voice when the app is open.
“We regularly review our features to ensure we are investing in services that will delight customers, and have decided to suspend support for this feature,” Amazon said in a statement. The company added that it is still “continuing to invest in the Alexa experience within the Alexa app to provide customers with a seamless way to access their favorite features and experiences.”
The hands-free service ending also marks an end to Amazon’s support for Alexa Built-In phones. Amazon didn’t give an official reason for moving away from the Alexa Built-In concept, though there are some likely culprits. The feature relied on Alexa always having access to the microphone and upcoming updates to the Android operating system may have indicated that was no longer an option. It could also be as simple as Amazon no longer seeing any profit in encouraging Alexa users to buy a phone running Google Assistant, its greatest competition. The abject failure of the Amazon Fire Phone in 2014 led to the Alexa Built-In concept, but it may also have run its course. The least likely reason would be the return of the Fire Phone in some way, but cost-cutting is much more probable.