The Amazon Alexa app now offers a hands-free experience, but with multiple caveats
Back in May last year, Amazon released an update for the Alexa app on Windows 10 which enabled hands-free support for the digital assistant. The update brought the app’s functionality at par with Alexa-enabled smart speakers, as it allowed users to summon the digital assistant simply by saying the wake word. Amazon is now bringing similar functionality to the Alexa app on iOS and Android, however, the experience on mobile devices won’t be as seamless.
According to a recent report from TechCrunch, Amazon has announced an update for the Alexa app on iOS and Android which will enable the hands-free experience for mobile users. Following the update, users will be able to say “Alexa” to wake the assistant and then speak to it as they would with any smart speaker, instead of tapping on the Alexa button at the bottom of the screen. Along with the usual set of actions supported by the digital assistant, the update will also let users stream music directly within the Alexa app using the digital assistant. But the hands-free experience for the Alexa app on mobile has multiple caveats.
As the report points out, you will be able to activate the digital assistant with voice commands only when your device is unlocked and the Alexa app is open on the screen. You won’t be able to summon the digital assistant when the device is locked or when the app is running in the background. This adds two additional steps to the process, which means that the experience isn’t completely hands-free. While you can use the native digital assistant on your device (Siri or Google Assistant) to first open the Alexa app and then issue a voice command, the process just wouldn’t be as seamless as interacting with Alexa on a smart speaker. Nonetheless, the hands-free experience on the Alexa app for mobile is a welcome addition which will be appreciated by the millions of Alexa users around the world.
To use the new hands-free experience, you’ll have to update to the latest version of the Alexa app once it rolls out on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Once you’ve installed the update, you’ll be presented with a new option to enable hands-free detection. In case you don’t like the experience, you’ll also get an option to disable it at a later stage. At the time of writing, the update wasn’t available on any of my devices but Amazon claims that it should reach most users worldwide in the coming days.