Technology

Amazon Adds Text Message Feature To Alexa, But Ignores Apple

Amazon Alexa text message feature
HeikoAL / Pixabay

Amazon has added a text message feature to Alexa with the objective to make its smart speakers a full communication device. The new feature, which was added on Tuesday, would allow a user to send a text message to anyone in the contact list, according to TechCrunch.

Text message feature for Android only

A user just needs to say “Alexa, text X,” and then dictate the message. According to Amazon, Alexa will “find the best way to send the message” to the recipient, who must be in the contact list of the sender. The information would reach the intended destination either as an SMS or through the existing Alexa messaging service.

Amazon has rolled out the feature only in the U.S. for now. Also, the new feature would work only if the user has the Alexa app installed on an Android phone, and the smartphone is linked with the Alexa device. All the texts sent would reflect in the smartphone’s text app, notes CNN.

In a statement to ZDNet, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company has no plans for now to launch the feature on iOS as Apple refrains from offering their messaging API to third parties.

In 2017, Amazon added the “make and receive a phone call” and “send messages” features to Alexa. However, the messaging was restricted to Amazon’s ecosystem only and not to other devices. Now, with the new text message feature, Alexa would be a closer contender to the Siri and Google assistant. However, Amazon’s AI assistant is still incapable of reading messages to the users.

The Alexa app was criticized last year for importing users’ entire address books. After the backlash, the online retailer added contact blocking. At the time, it was not clear why the company was doing this. However, now we know what the company was aiming for, for it to be used like a phone.

Is Alexa getting a new voice?

Another new development for Alexa could be the addition of a new voice, according to USA Today. Amazon’s newest Super Bowl ad teases that the digital assistant “lost her voice,” something that takes the world by surprise including the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Further, the ad shows that the baffled Bezos asks the employees, “How is that even possible”?”

Though the employees try to calm Bezos down by stating that the alternative is all ready, he seems unconvinced. The teaser then concludes with the trademark Amazon “smile” and the date “2.4.18,” possibly the date when the full ad would appear answering the question.

Alexa can currently switch to a British accent, as well as, German. Alexa is also capable of speaking in Canadian and India English accents. In Japan, the assistant is capable of speaking Japanese. It is expected that all three accents would be available to U.S. users in the near future.

Releasing the teaser about the new product or feature is a common practice among the companies. Such teasers help in boosting the excitement around the offering. According to Local10, NBC is charging about $5 million per 30-second spot from companies who want their ads to be seen during the Superbowl.