Amazon is making it easier for mobile users to access its Alexa virtual assistant while on the go. The company announced today it’s making it possible to use Alexa “hands free” from within its Alexa mobile app for iOS and Android, meaning customers will be able to use Alexa to make lists, play music, control their smart home devices and more, without having to touch their phone.
Customers can first command their phone’s digital assistant, like Siri or Google Assistant, to launch the Alexa app to get started with the hands-free experience. They can then speak to Alexa as they would normally, saying something like “Alexa, set the thermostat to 72,” “Alexa, remind me to call Jen at 12 p.m. tomorrow,” “Alexa, what’s the weather?” and so on. Customers can even request to stream music directly within the Alexa app itself, if they choose.
Before, users would have to tap the blue Alexa button at the bottom of the screen before Alexa would listen.
Once the wake word is detected, an animated blue line will appear at the bottom of the app’s screen to indicate Alexa is streaming the request to the cloud.
Amazon had previously integrated the Alexa experience into its other apps, including its flagship shopping app and Amazon Music. In the latter, it rolled out a hands-free Alexa option back in 2018, allowing users to control playback or ask for music without having to tap. But the Alexa app has remained a tap-to-talk experience until now, which doesn’t quite mesh with how Alexa works on most other devices, like Amazon Echo speakers and screens, for example.
After updating the app, customers will be presented with the option to enable the hands-free detection and can then begin to use the feature. A setting is also being made available that will allow users to turn the feature off at any time.
Amazon notes the feature will only work when the phone is unlocked and the Alexa app is open on the screen. It won’t be able able to launch Alexa from a locked phone or when the app is closed and off the screen, running in the background. (As we don’t have the app update yet ourselves, we are unable to directly confirm this detail.)
To use the new feature, customers will have to first update their Alexa app to the latest version on the Apple App Store or Google Play store.
Amazon says the feature is rolling out over the next several days to users worldwide, so you may not see the option immediately.