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'Alexa' Articles

Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world. Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer." This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year. "Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this

Amazon Working to Further Lessen Reliance on Power Cords for Future Echo Speakers

In an effort that would give future Echo speakers with Alexa a new advantage over Apple's HomePod, Reuters today reports that Amazon is working with chipmakers to build Alexa speakers that would not require a constant power source. As it stands, most smart assistant devices -- Amazon's main Echo, Apple HomePod, Google Home, etc -- require a constant draw of power due to their always-on microphones listening for the user's voice commands, among other reasons. Now, Amazon has partnered with chipmaker DSP Group to build a standardized chip that is "a little smaller than a U.S. 10-cent coin" and optimized for lower power consumption. Amazon and other companies will be able to use the chip to place Alexa into their own smart devices that offer greater portability to users. Amazon already has the Amazon Tap, a portable Bluetooth speaker that doesn't need to be plugged in to use all of its features. With a "hands-free mode" users can ask Alexa questions and command her to play music, which slightly affects battery life: 9 hours of continuous playback compared to 8 hours with hands-free mode activated. There are also third-party companies like Fabriq that sell portable Alexa solutions, but these devices are still a small portion of the market in comparison to AC-powered speakers. With Amazon and DSP Group's new partnership, it appears that Amazon is looking to greatly bolster the amount of cord-free Alexa devices available to buy, while also improving the user experience with internal chips that can run always-on listening features without as much of a hit to battery

Amazon Alexa App for iOS Gains Voice Controls

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS to add a promised voice control feature that's designed to allow iOS users to tap the Alexa button and use voice commands to ask Alexa to play music, answer questions, check the weather, and more. As noted by TechCrunch, Amazon introduced voice control to its Alexa app for Android back in January, and at the time, said the feature would be expanded to iOS devices "soon." Soon turned out to mean six months, but starting today, iOS users can speak with Alexa in the Alexa iOS app and ask standard Alexa questions. There is no native functionality, so pushing an in-app button to activate Alexa is required rather than just saying the "Alexa" trigger phrase. The new voice control feature will be rolled out to all iOS users "in the coming days." The Amazon Alexa app can be downloaded from the iOS App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Amazon's Alexa Recorded a Woman's Private Conversation and Sent it to a Contact

A woman in Portland recently had an alarming experience with her Alexa-enabled devices after a private conversation was recorded and sent to a random contact, according to a news report from Seattle's Kiro7 news. The woman, Danielle, and her family had Amazon devices situated in each room for home control, and two weeks ago, one of those devices apparently recorded a conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to a person on their contact list. There are no details on how the recording was delivered to the contact. But Danielle said two weeks ago their love for Alexa changed with an alarming phone call. "The person on the other line said, 'unplug your Alexa devices right now,'" she said. "'You're being hacked.'" That person was one of her husband's employees, calling from Seattle. "We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"Danielle confirmed that the recordings received by the contact were indeed conversations picked up by her Alexa device, and in no way was she informed that Alexa was sending the recording to a contact. She contacted Amazon and was told that the "device just guessed what we were saying." Amazon apologized and told her it would fix the issue. Alexa has an option to send a message to a contact name using a voice recording, but Alexa is supposed to vocally confirm such

Amazon's Alexa App Finally Gains Support for iPhone X

Amazon today updated its Alexa app for iOS devices to introduce iPhone X compatibility, allowing the app to be displayed full screen on the longer display of the iPhone X. Prior to today, the Amazon Alexa app displayed unattractive black bars at the bottom and top of the app, so this should be a welcome change for Amazon users who have an iPhone X. The addition of Alexa support comes just over a month after Amazon promised the update was in the works. The Alexa app for iOS is designed to be a companion to Alexa devices, allowing iPhone users to set up and manage Alexa-enabled equipment. While many popular apps have been updated with support for the display of the iPhone X, there are still some notable holdouts even months after the release of the new smartphone. Inbox by Gmail, for example, continues to lack iPhone X support, as do several Apple apps, including iTunes Connect, iTunes Remote, and AirPort

New Survey Says Amazon and Google Have a More 'Positive Impact on Society' Than Apple

In a new survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and shared by Recode, 11 percent of respondents said that they believe Apple has the most positive impact on society today. Apple came in third place, however, falling in line behind Google at 15 percent and Amazon in the top spot at 20 percent. Survey respondents were given the option of choosing between a number of technology companies between April 8-9, and it totaled 2,772 adults based in the United States. When asked which company they believe has the most positive impact on society, 20 percent elected to choose "none of the above." Despite the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, 10 percent of respondents chose Facebook as having the most positive impact today. Microsoft rounded out the top 5 slots at 7 percent, followed by Tesla at 6 percent, Uber at 3 percent, Netflix at 2 percent, and a list of companies at 1 percent. The survey also dived into the CEOs of the companies and asked respondents which leaders had the greatest impact on people's daily lives. Amazon came in first place again, with 22 percent saying CEO Jeff Bezos and his decisions impact them in some way each day. Google's Sundar Pichai came in second at 18 percent, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was third at 17 percent. Amazon has been a competitor for Apple in a few areas over the last couple of years, particularly in areas like AI assistants and smart home accessory support. Most recently, The Information reported that an increasing number of home builders have opted to go with Alexa-enabled smart homes, rather than install HomeKit products

Alexa App on iPad Can Now Initiate Phone/Video Calls and Send Messages to Echo Devices

Amazon is now allowing users to make phone calls, video calls, and send messages from an iPad, Android, or Fire tablet to an Alexa-enabled Echo device. Previously, users had to activate calls or send messages using an Echo, so now it should be easier to communicate within Amazon's Alexa ecosystem (via Engadget). To receive calls, users need any device with the Alexa app installed or an Echo speaker. The update also introduces Drop In support for the Alexa app on iPads and other tablets, meaning that iPad users can quickly send a message to someone near an Echo in a different room. Engadget noted that the new features are easiest to access on Amazon's own Fire HD 10 tablet, where Alexa is supported across the software, but iPad users will of course first have to open the Alexa iOS app to initiate calls and send messages. Amazon's Alexa assistant has been in the news recently for scaring some users after creepily laughing for no apparent reason. Amazon has acknowledged the events and said it's working on a fix to roll out to affected users. Additionally, late last week Alexa gained a new "Follow-Up Mode," which lets the assistant respond to multiple questions in quick succession, without requiring the user to repeat the "Alexa" wake up command. Amazon Alexa is available on the iOS App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Amazon's Alexa Gains Follow-Up Mode for Back-to-Back Requests Without Repeating Wake Word

Amazon's Alexa personal assistant, built into dozens of different products, today gained a new "Follow-Up Mode" that's designed to allow users to ask multiple questions in succession without the need to repeat the "Alexa" wake up word. As noted by CNET, Follow-Up Mode allows Alexa to continue to listen for five seconds after an initial response to see if you have an additional request. During this five second listening period, the blue ring on an Alexa device will light up to indicate that Alexa is listening. Anything else you say during this time period will not require you to add "Alexa" into the statement to wake up the Alexa device. If you don't say anything else, your Alexa device will go back to sleep until the next time the "Alexa" wake word is uttered. With Follow-Up Mode, Alexa cannot respond to multiple requests, like "Turn the lights on and set the thermostat to 70," but you can ask two requests in succession. Asking "Alexa, turn on the lights" and then stating "Set the thermostat to 70" after the first "OK" from Alexa works, however. According to Amazon, Follow-Up Mode is designed to make sure Alexa only responds if a legitimate request is spoken rather than simple background noise. A conversation with Alexa can also be ended immediately by saying "Thank you" or "Stop" after an initial request, and Follow-Up Mode won't activate when listening to music, making a call, or listening to an audiobook. The new Follow-Up Mode can be enabled in the Settings section of the Amazon Alexa app. Select a device and then scroll down to the new "Follow-Up

Amazon Working on a Fix for Alexa Devices Scaring Users With Creepy Laughter

For the past couple of weeks, speakers equipped with Amazon's Alexa voice-based personal assistant have been randomly laughing, scaring and creeping out speaker owners who have affected devices. Complaints have been surfacing on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms over the course of the last few weeks, but the issue started receiving widespread attention this week after it was shared on BuzzFeed. From Reddit:A friend of mine at work just a couple of days ago told me this very thing happened at his moms house. He was face timing with his her(he jokes she is jealous of Alexa, his dad just loves it) and out of the blue in the background Alexa started to laugh, he even heard it on his end. Said it was super creepy. I'm waiting the have the holy hell scared out of me one quiet evening...or even worse, awakened by the one a foot from my head while I'm sleeping. Some audio examples of the Alexa laugh, with a humorous skit from Jimmy Kimmel included In a statement provided to The Verge this morning, Amazon said that it is aware that some Alexa-enabled devices are randomly laughing and a fix is in the works. "We're aware of this and working to fix it," Amazon said. So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018 Customers who have an Alexa-enabled device and are creeped out by the random and unprompted laughs may want to turn off their speakers until Amazon is able to locate the issue and push

Smart Speaker Showdown: HomePod vs. Google Home Max vs. Sonos One

Apple's new HomePod is late to the smart speaker market, which is already crowded with speakers from companies like Amazon, Google, and Sonos. The latter two companies, Google and Sonos, have released speakers with high-quality sound and robust voice assistants, giving the HomePod some serious competition. We decided to pit Apple's $349 HomePod against both the $399 Google Home Max, which comes with Google Assistant, and the $199 Alexa-powered Sonos One to see how the HomePod measures up. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. To compare the three speakers, we focused on design, sound quality, and the overall performance of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. When it comes to design -- and this is certainly subjective -- we preferred the look of the HomePod with its fabric-wrapped body and small but solid form factor. The Sonos One looks a little more dated with its squarer body and standard speaker mesh, while the Google Home Max has a much larger footprint that's going to take up more space. Apple's HomePod All three offer touch-based controls at the top of the device, but the Google Home Max has one design edge - a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external music sources. The Sonos One has a single Ethernet port, while the HomePod has no ports. Though we liked the HomePod's design, Siri, as you might expect, did not perform as well as Alexa on Sonos One or Google Assistant on Google Home Max. Google Home Max On questions like "Is Pluto a planet?" or "What's the fastest car?" both Alexa and Google Assistant were

Amazon's Alexa App Climbed to #1 on the iOS App Store's Top Free Chart After Christmas

After presents were unwrapped across the world on Christmas morning, Amazon's Alexa app [Direct Link] earned the #1 spot on the iOS App Store's Top Free chart, suggesting Echo and other Alexa devices were very popular this holiday season (via TechCrunch). This marks the first time the Alexa app gained a #1 spot on Apple's App Store, and it remained there for over a day. Currently, Alexa sits at #2 on the Top Free chart in the App Store, having lost the top spot today to YouTube. Amazon yesterday said that the Echo Dot was the #1 selling Amazon Device this holiday season, as well as being "the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon," with millions of Echo Dots sold. With so many Echo products being purchased for Christmas and other holiday celebrations, users were led to download the Amazon Alexa app so they can set up their speaker, control it, integrate with other smart home products, and more. Data gathered from Sensor Tower's App Store analytics shows the Alexa app climbing the Top Free United States iOS App Store charts in the days leading up to Christmas and then peaking at #1 on December 25 and December 26. On Christmas day, the Alexa app gained prominence on the Top Free App Store charts in other countries as well, including Great Britain (rising to #2), Germany (#5), and Austria (#5). Amazon Alexa iOS app data via Sensor Tower As Amazon's Alexa devices continue to dominate the smart speaker market, Apple has plans to release its own music-focused smart speaker device -- the HomePod -- in early 2018. HomePod

Amazon Aims for Echo Speakers in Every Office With 'Alexa for Business'

Amazon's aim to bring its highly popular at-home Echo smart speaker into the workplace got underway on Thursday with the launch of Alexa for Business. The announcement, made at the company's annual Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, sets the stage for Amazon's vision to make its virtual assistant the essential office accessory, able to book conference rooms, launch meetings, and order stationery. Alexa already has features amenable to an office environment, such as the ability to make calls, operate lights, and check security camera feeds. Now Amazon wants developers to build the virtual assistant into apps that manage work calendars, find open meeting rooms, and order supplies. As an intelligent assistant at work, Alexa for Business makes starting a conference call as simple as asking Alexa to "start the meeting." Alexa for Business can help workers manage calendars, keep up with to-do lists, and make phone calls. Around the office, Alexa for Business can handle tasks like notifying IT of an equipment issue, or finding and booking an open conference room—all with just a few words.However, it's unclear how many companies will want to buy Echo speakers for every conference room, given the potential security implications of an "always listening" device. Amazon says its Echo speakers don't send anything to the cloud until users wake the devices by invoking them by name. However, Amazon does store requests in the cloud, which it says are used to help improve AI and develop new skills for the speakers. Amazon sold "millions" of Alexa devices over the holiday shopping

Amazon 'Echo Buttons' Trivia Game Accessories Now Available to Pre-Order

Amazon has made its Echo Buttons, the company's "first Alexa gadgets", available to pre-order on its U.S. website. First announced in September, the $20 accessories come in packs of two and are designed to allow Amazon Echo owners to play family trivia games with the voice-activated smart speakers. About 3 inches (76mm) wide and 1.5 inches (38mm) tall, the Echo Buttons each have a multi-color LED on top that lights up the push button. The devices are powered by two triple-A batteries and connect to Echo speakers via Bluetooth. Amazon says the buttons will work with four Alexa skills when they ship on December 19 in time for the holidays, including name-that-song game "Beat the Intro" and "Fourth Down Football Trivia", with support for more sound effect and quiz games expected further down the line. The Echo Buttons are compatible with all old and new Echo devices as well as the forthcoming Echo Spot, but they don't work with the Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV, or any other non-Echo device. Note: This article includes affiliate links and MacRumors may benefit if you click on them

Ultimate Ears Debuts 'BLAST' and 'MEGA BLAST' Speakers With Alexa Support and Charging Dock

Ultimate Ears, a company known for its line of rugged, colorful speakers with high-quality audio, today announced two new additions to its product lineup: the BLAST and the MEGABLAST. BLAST and MEGABLAST are Ultimate Ears' first Wi-Fi connected speakers. Designed as successors to the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom 2, the BLAST and MEGABLAST feature the same cylindrical body shape, bold design, and vivid colors as their predecessors, but Ultimate Ears has tweaked the look of the two devices, introducing less rounded edges for a sleeker form factor and a more streamlined color scheme. With the cylindrical design, the BLAST and MEGABLAST continue to offer 360-degree sound, and with the addition of Amazon Alexa support, the two speakers can be controlled hands-free with voice commands. Through Alexa, BLAST and MEGABLAST can play music from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, with support for Pandora and Deezer coming in the near future. Wi-Fi support in the two speakers means music can continue to play even when your iPhone is in use, and through Alexa, the music can be controlled by anyone, making BLAST and MEGABLAST ideal for parties. Alexa integration is available in the United States, the UK, Germany, and Austria, and with a BLAST or MEGABLAST purchase, Amazon is offering a three-month subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. Playing from Apple Music will continue to require a Bluetooth connection to an iPhone. MEGABLAST has been engineered to be Ultimate Ears' loudest and best sounding speaker yet. It features two 25mm tweeters, two custom 35mm active

Amazon Rolls Out Alexa Device Messaging and Calling to U.K. and Germany

Amazon is updating its Alexa app today to add support for messaging and calling on Alexa-powered smart devices in the U.K., Germany, and Austria (via The Verge). The second-generation Echo in Charcoal Fabric The Alexa voice calling feature will work on standard Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, allowing users to call the devices free of charge. iPhone and Android owners can also use the Alexa app to call the Alexa-powered devices directly. Amazon's second-generation Echo devices hit Europe on October 31 and support the feature as standard, while video calling is limited to the display-based Echo Show device, which is set to become available in the U.K. and Germany next

Amazon Reportedly Working on Smart Glasses With Integrated Alexa AI

Amazon is actively developing a pair of smart glasses with Alexa virtual assistant built in, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday. Designed like a regular pair of spectacles, the device will enable Alexa to be invoked by the wearer at any time and at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans. The founder of Google Glass is said to be working on Amazon's Alexa smart glasses The company is reportedly including a bone-conduction audio system in the specs so that the wearer can hear Alexa's voice without inserting headphones. The founder of Google Glass, Babak Parviz, is said to have been working on the Alexa product since he was hired by Amazon in 2014. Earlier this year, Google re-introduced its Google Glass wearable headset after discontinuing production in 2016. In addition, The Financial Times reports that Amazon is also working on a more conventional home security camera, and that one or both of these products may appear before the end of this year. Previous reports have claimed that Amazon is working on a successor to its popular Echo connected smart speaker and plans to bring the device to market this year in time to compete with Apple's HomePod, which is set to launch this December. According to rumors that first surfaced in 2016, Apple is also working on several different kinds of smart glasses, with the main application of bringing augmented reality experiences to the wearer. Reports this year suggest Apple's glasses will connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and will display "images

Alexa Virtual Assistant Coming to Bragi Dash Wireless Earbuds in October

Bragi has announced that Alexa is set to become a new feature of its Bragi Dash wireless headphones later this year. The company revealed at the IFA trade show today that a software update coming in October will allow Dash and Dash Pro owners to talk to Amazon's virtual assistant in both English and German languages (via The Verge). After the forthcoming 3.1 update is installed, to activate Alexa users will need to either tap an earbud or use the Dash's "4D menu", which relies on motion sensing to enable users to turn their head left or right and select from a virtual menu. While Dash (and Dash Pro) users can already use their earbuds to activate Siri and Google, today's news means Bragi Dash are likely to become the first truly wireless earbuds to offer Alexa support, allowing wearers to, say, order a ride from Uber or a coffee from Starbucks. MacRumors reviewed the Bragi Dash Pro ($330) wireless earbuds back in July and found that the gesture controls impress, but some UI and design frustrations remain. You can read the full review here.

Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2 Support Coming to Libratone Zipp Wireless Speakers This Fall

Bluetooth speaker maker Libratone has announced that beginning this fall, Zipp and Zipp Mini speaker owners will be able to use their devices to invoke Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant as well as tap in to Apple's forthcoming AirPlay 2 protocol. The company said it will make a free firmware download available in the coming months that activates Alexa support in the wireless speakers, which connect to Wi-Fi and have integrated microphones. Following the update, Zipp and Zipp Mini owners will be able to touch the button on the top of the speakers to ask Alexa for news, sports, traffic updates, and all the other things that can be done on Amazon's Echo range of speakers, including controlling smart home devices. Libratone intends to add Apple AirPlay 2 support as soon as Apple releases the new protocol, which will enable users to stream music wirelessly to multiple speakers of different brands on the same Wi-Fi network. AirPlay 2 is expected to arrive with the release of iOS 11 next

iPhone Users Will Be Able to Say 'Hey Cortana, Open Alexa' in Future

Amazon and Microsoft today jointly announced that Alexa and Cortana will soon be able to communicate with each other. Microsoft said the collaboration will allow access to Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs later this year, and via the Cortana app for iOS and Android at an unspecified point in the future. Similarly, users will be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. iPhone users should eventually be able to open the Cortana app and say "hey Cortana, open Alexa," to access Amazon's virtual assistant. Alexa can be used to shop and manage orders on Amazon, ask a variety of questions, stream music and audiobooks, check the news and weather, and many other tasks. However, iPhone users won't be able to say "hey Cortana, open Alexa" from the Home screen, or when the device is locked. Apple only allows third-party virtual assistants to function within their apps, so accessing Alexa via Cortana will be a lot more cumbersome than simply using Siri. For a complete virtual assistant experience, iPhone users could also say "hey Siri, open the Cortana app" and then say "hey Cortana, open Alexa." Alexa can already be used in the Amazon app on iOS [Direct Link], while Cortana has been available on the App Store [Direct Link] since December

Anker's $35 Smart Speaker With Built-in Alexa Claims Better Audio Than Amazon's Echo Dot

Popular accessory company Anker launched its own low-cost smart speaker with built-in Alexa on Wednesday called the Eufy Genie. Costing $35, the Genie is a little bigger than Amazon's Echo Dot, which retails at $50, but claims to offer stronger bass and double the volume of Amazon's equivalent device thanks to a 2W speaker. The Genie's list of features pretty much tallies with Echo Dot's abilities, so it can play music, control other smart home devices, order products, answer questions, set calendars, report the weather and news, and more. According to Anker, it's also possible to use the Amazon Alexa app with the Genie to access over 10,000 skills and services, such as Pandora, Domino's Pizza, Uber, ESPN, NPR News, and more. Future updates from Eufy are said to include the ability directly control Spotify with your voice, and Alexa messaging and calling. The Genie also links up to other smart products under Anker's Eufy brand, which include a robotic vacuum cleaner, air purifier devices, and a range of domestic lighting. According to The Verge, Anker also plans to introduce a $40 version of the Eufy Genie that includes Bluetooth support, which might let it connect to external speakers for playing music. The Eufy Genie is available to pre-order off Amazon today but doesn't ship until August 16. Eufy plans to launch the speaker in Europe around mid-October. Further details on the Genie and Anker's other products under the Eufy brand can be found on the Eufy website. Note: Amazon is an affiliate of MacRumors and we may benefit from clicked links in this