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'Alexa' Articles

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

Amazon Echo Show Reviews: Privacy Concerns, Sound Improvements, and Video Calling as Killer App

Ahead of the launch of the Echo Show this Wednesday, June 28, Amazon has given review units to a few sites so that they can test out the new Echo and see how its 7-inch touch screen adds to the traditional Amazon Echo experience. Amazon revealed the $230 Echo Show earlier in May and bills it as having all of the features of the traditional Echo, with the addition of a display to enhance user interactivity. According to The Verge, one of the best aspects of Echo Show is that, "you basically never need to tap the screen for anything, unless you really want to." Instead of adding an array of touchscreen-required actions that overcomplicate the interface, the company focused on adapting the abilities of the previous Echo models to work with a touchscreen. While there were some moments when the touchscreen's "secondary importance" caused UI annoyances, the site largely admired Amazon's decision to keep the voice control focus of the Echo line with Echo Show. Are there things I don't love about the Echo Show? Of course. I think it's pretty homely and I think that the sound quality could be better for the price. But the improvements over the original Echo are big enough that it's my favorite smart speaker right now. From nearly any other company, adding a screen would have resulted in feature-itis of the worst kind. By holding back, the Echo Show feels like it does more. Its strength is in its simplicity. In its review, TechCrunch described Echo Show's video calling feature as the "killer app" for many users, allowing calls between two Echo Show devices, or between

Amazon Dash Wand Barcode Scanner Launched With Built-In Alexa

Amazon has launched a new version of its Dash barcode scanning device for Prime U.S. subscribers that includes the company's ubiquitous virtual assistant built in. Called the Dash Wand, the Alexa-enabled gadget allows users to scan grocery barcodes, convert measurements, and order essential household items from Amazon with the click of a button. Pressing the button activates the Dash Wand, enabling customers to use their voice to ask about recipes and find local restaurants. It's also possible to control smart lighting via the magnetic device, which is designed to be attached to a fridge. With the original Dash, released in 2014, users could scan barcodes and add items to their shopping cart via limited voice controls, but checkout had to be completed on the Amazon site. By contrast, the new $20 Dash Wand allows users to buy items directly. Prime subscribers also receive $20 off their next purchase once they've registered the device, so it basically comes free. In addition, buyers get a free 90-day trial of the AmazonFresh home grocery service. Amazon is an affiliate of MacRumors and the site may benefit if you click product links in this article.

Amazon Updates Alexa Devices With Apple iCloud Calendar Integration

Amazon today announced that users will now be able to sync their iCloud Calendar information with devices that support Amazon's smart assistant Alexa. With the update, users can ask Alexa what's coming up on their calendar, or issue commands so new appointments are added to the schedule. Anything added from an Amazon device is then synced with iCloud and added to the Calendar app on iOS and macOS devices. To sync an iCloud account with Alexa, the company said that customers will have to sign in to their Apple account within the settings tab of the Alexa iOS app. Users in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany will gain access to the new update beginning today, representing the current countries where Alexa is available. Starting today, you can now link your Apple iCloud Calendar to Alexa. To do this, iCloud Calendar customers can simply link their account in the settings tab in the Alexa app. Once linked, just say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” or “Alexa, add lunch with Sarah at noon to my calendar.” iCloud Calendar support has been a top requested feature from Alexa customers, and we’re thrilled to bring this to Alexa devices in US, UK and Germany today. With the inclusion of Apple's Calendar, Alexa device users now have access to five total calendar services, also including accounts for G Suite, Google/Gmail, Office 365 users with Exchange Online mailboxes, and Outlook.com. Alexa is available in a variety of hardware devices sold by Amazon, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Look, and new Echo Show, as well as on the Amazon Alexa iOS app [Dir

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat With Both HomeKit and Built-In Alexa Now Available to Pre-Order For $249

Ecobee today announced that its next-generation ecobee4 smart thermostat with built-in Amazon Alexa voice services is now available to pre-order for $249 on its website in the United States. Pre-orders are estimated to start shipping on May 15, the same day it will hit shelves at Lowe's, Home Depot, and Best Buy. Like the ecobee3, the ecobee4 continues to support Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and Samsung's smart home platform SmartThings. While the ecobee3 also works with Alexa, it can only be controlled by voice using external devices such as the Amazon Echo. The ecobee4, in addition to having a touchscreen and smartphone control, has Alexa built right in with far-field voice technology so that it can hear you from across the room.Alexa voice service allows customers to simply ask their ecobee4 to adjust the temperature of the home, in addition to the growing list of Alexa skills such as setting a timer, helping plan your commute, or playing the news. Through far-field voice recognition, ecobee4 will conveniently respond to voice commands from anywhere in the room.The ecobee4 has a built-in speaker and microphone for Alexa, while its side profile appears to be slightly rounder than the ecobee3. Otherwise, it has identical features and tech specs as the ecobee3. The ecobee4 comes with a wireless room sensor and supports up to 32 sensors. Ecobee said a companion smart light switch that can measure a room's occupancy and temperature will be released later this year. The ecobee4, like other smart thermostats, is designed to help homeowners save money by intelligently

Amazon Opens Alexa's Deep Learning and Voice Recognition Smarts to Chatbot Developers

Amazon on Wednesday made the AI and voice-recognition software that powers the company's Alexa virtual assistant available to all its cloud-computing customers. Called Amazon Lex, the service will allow developers to make chat bot applications using Alexa's voice recognition technology and leverage the AI's deep learning abilities to enable their apps to understand more text and speech queries. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said that Amazon's cloud-based work in processing how humans write and speak would make chat bots more helpful than the clunky tools they've been in the past. "There's massive acceleration happening here," said Vogels, speaking to Reuters at the company's cloud-computing summit in San Francisco. "The cool thing about having this running as a service in the cloud instead of in your own data center or on your own desktop is that we can make Lex better continuously by the millions of customers that are using it."Similar to how it operates its other cloud-based services, Amazon will charge developers based on how many text or voice requests Lex processes. The company's hope is that its Alexa technology will take center stage in the current e-commerce boom based around chatbots. This week, Facebook announced its own virtual assistant called M, which can help users order food, while MasterCard also launched its own Messenger merchant bots for food deliveries. Amazon's move comes fast on the heels of similar announcements by the company, as it aims to head off competition in the virtual assistant space by rivals Apple and Google. Just last week Amazon

Amazon Offers Echo's Far-Field Voice Recognition Tech to Third Parties

Amazon has fired another salvo in the virtual assistant wars by opening up access to the far-field voice recognition technology found in its Echo smart speakers so that third-party manufacturers can make their own versions (via BBC). The move comes as Amazon attempts to spread the use of its Alexa virtual assistant across a wide range of connected products and take ownership of a larger portion of the growing smart devices market. Google announced its branded Home smart speaker in November, while Apple is also rumored to be planning a similar Siri-enabled device this year. The initially invite-only access to the technology via the Alexa Voice Service program will give manufacturers the right to replicate the Echo's seven-microphone array that allows the speakers to hear a voice command from across the room. The access also means third-party developers can use the proprietary algorithms used for wake-word recognition, which focus the array on the owner's voice and filter out echoes and other noises. Developers will be provided with a reference kit as a starting point for their own designs, and the freedom to source components from a range of parts manufacturers. "Our vision is for Alexa to be everywhere, and that means making it available to other companies and services to integrate into a wide range of devices," said an Amazon spokesperson. "We expect Alexa to be in many devices over time, including products that compete with Echo, which is why we're investing in making a wide range of hands-free and far-field reference solutions available to OEMs [original

Siri and Alexa Battling to Become Go-To Voice Assistants in Hotel Rooms

Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa are being put through their paces in a "tech incubator" hotel chain, in order to determine which voice assistant brings more to the table for guests wanting to order room service, control lights, change TV channels, adjust the temperature, and more (via Bloomberg). The main incubator for the test is happening in Aloft Hotels, which are owned by Marriott. The Aloft Hotel in Boston is using Amazon Echo devices and a collection of iPhones and iPads to gather information on which voice assistant will ultimately best serve guests in the long run. Marriott hasn't divulged information on who might be the winner as of yet, but the company did say that it expects to decide if it will expand the test to more chains besides Aloft Hotels "as early as mid-year." Marriott expects to decide whether to adopt the technology for one or more of its chains as early as mid-year, potentially boosting sales for the device of choice. More important, it will increase the winning company’s exposure in the market for voice-activated devices, which are gaining more mainstream traction. “Those two players are in the game right now,” said Toni Stoeckl, who oversees the Aloft, Element, AC and Moxy chains as global brand leader for lifestyle brands at Marriott. There are almost 130 Aloft hotels in the U.S., and more than 100 additional ones planned. Carolina Milanesi, a market analyst with Creative Strategies, compared the introduction of voice assistants into hotel rooms to when the hospitality industry began putting iPhone docking stations into rooms so guests

Amazon iOS App Gains Alexa Voice Assistant to Track Orders, Shop, and More

Amazon today announced that it will introduce its Siri competitor, Amazon Alexa, directly into the company's iOS app over the course of the next week (via VentureBeat). With the addition of Alexa, users will now be able to ask questions about the status of their orders, use their voice to initiate searches, play music, and start audio books from Audible. Alexa's powers go beyond Amazon's shopping features -- users will also be able to use the voice assistant to search current news stories, check the weather, and even control smart home products. This means that iOS users who don't own any Amazon hardware can now gain access to Alexa's growing list of skills, which let users easily link multiple services together for quick voice control interactions. Some users will begin seeing the Alexa update in Amazon's iOS app [Direct Link] starting today, but the rollout is expected to reach everyone on iOS by next

Amazon Developing 'Voice ID' Technology for Alexa Assistant

Amazon is building upon the Alexa voice-recognition technology found in its Echo range of speakers so that the virtual assistant can distinguish between individual users based on the sound of their voices. According to anonymous sources who spoke to TIME, Amazon's feature would work by matching the person speaking to a pre-recorded voice sample, or "voice print", to verify the speaker's identity. A primary account holder would be able to require a specific voice print to access certain commands. A user would, for example, be able to set it so that a parent's voice would be required to make a credit card purchase or turn on the coffee machine through the Echo.Amazon has been developing the feature, internally called Voice ID, since at least the summer of 2015, according to people familiar with the company's Alexa strategy. The underlying technology is said to have been completed and just needs integrating into Echo speakers, however it's still unclear when that will happen. The Voice ID technology would be a first in the smart speaker space and make Echo units easier to share between multiple people under one roof. Currently, Echo users can set up multiple profiles and jump between them, but the user must say "switch accounts" or use the Alexa app to do so. And as for credit card purchases, a four-digit authentication code must be said out loud to confirm them. It's unknown at this point whether Voice ID will extend to the many Alexa-enabled third-party devices now available, or if it would be limited to Amazon's Echo speakers. An Amazon spokesperson declined

Amazon Fire TV Stick With Built-In Alexa Coming to the U.K.

Amazon's latest Fire TV stick, with Alexa built in, is coming to the U.K., after launching in the U.S. back in October. The streaming TV dongle will make its debut in the country on April 6 and have a price tag of £40, with Amazon already taking pre-orders. The device comes with a quad-core processor that Amazon says makes it 30 percent faster than its predecessor. The dongle also supports 802.11ac WiFi networks, but the biggest difference is the new Alexa remote. Like the Siri Remote on the Apple TV, a built-in microphone lets users search for content like movies and music, as well as control playback, open apps, and more. Unlike Siri Remote, it also supports third-party Alexa skills, allowing users to control smart home devices, for example. Apart from the aforementioned online pre-orders, the new Amazon Fire TV stick will be on sale in shops including Dixons, John Lewis, Tesco, and Maplin from April 6.