Amazon has brought it’s Alexa digital assistant to the iPhone via a software update for its main application.
The online retail giant announced the addition of Alexa to its iOS Amazon shopping app on Thursday. The app version of Alexa will have similar functionality to the version attached to Amazon’s Echo — users can ask Alexa to make Amazon purchases, check on the status of shipped packages, look up information ranging from weather reports to historical facts, play music or read Kindle books, control smart home devices, or even tell jokes.
Though Amazon already has an Alexa for iOS app, it’s more of a companion application for Alexa-supported devices. Having Alexa nestled within their main shopping app should add some convenience for Amazon users. When the app is opened, Alexa can be summoned by tapping on a small microphone icon near the top of the screen. Of course, the downside is that the Amazon app must be open to use Alexa — a common problem for third-party digital assistants on iOS. The way Apple’s operating system is set up bars any assistant other than Siri from both accessing certain native Apple features and from being assigned as iOS’s default assistant.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Alexa can’t be a threat to Apple’s proprietary assistant. Users can access smart home controls via Alexa in the same way that Apple can control HomeKit-compatible devices. Notably, Amazon has a larger library of smart home products that can be controlled through its digital assistant than Apple does, according to ARS Technica — even though there is some overlap between the two. The addition of Alexa to their main app will likely be especially useful for Amazon devotees who already have an Alexa-based ecosystem within their home.
Amazon said the feature began rolling out today, and should be available to all users within the US by sometime next week.