Amazon is giving the Alexa app for Android and iOS a fresh coat of paint, perhaps the biggest in years. The new app will be available for Android, iOS and Amazon’s own Fire OS. There will be visual improvements across the app, updated navigation methods and a more personalized experience based on how you use Alexa, particularly with relation to Skills. Amazon says the update will roll out on the Google Play Store for Android phones, the Apple App Store for the iPhone and on Amazon’s own Fire OS devices over the next month, and everyone should have it in a few weeks.
The home screen of the updated Alexa app will now have a large Alexa button at the top, which users can either tap to invoke the virtual assistant or simply say Alexa. Beneath that sit a list of personalized suggestions, which will be based on how you interact with Alexa either on your phone or with any of the Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers or third-party Alexa smart speakers that you may own. This will include music streaming, including suggestions from third party apps such as Spotify if you have linked any of those accounts, upcoming reminders, music suggestions to pick up from where you left off last and maybe even continue with an audiobook while at it.
It is interesting to note that while Amazon is prioritizing Alexa Skills in the updated Alexa app for Android and iPhone, third-party skills have been pushed back to a separate Skills & Games section. This is possibly to simplify the experience for users and not complicate it with skills that they may or may not use often. There are changes to the Reminders, Settings, Routines and Skills menus as well for further simplification.
It will be interesting to use the new Alexa app and see how much Amazon’s efforts have managed to simplify the experience for users. Over time, with so many features regularly added and so many Alexa devices now on sale, the app seemed to have become a bit cluttered and it wasn’t exactly intuitive at times when you wanted to find something in a jiffy. The fact that Amazon is now focusing on letting you pick up from where you last left off adds to a continuity that could let you shift music from an Echo speaker at home to the Echo Buds wireless earbuds as you are about to step out of home.
The change in how third-party skills are now listed within the app perhaps comes as a result of a recent study that shows most of these remain unused. A research by Voicebot suggests that as many as 61% of Alexa’s third-party skills have no ratings at all, which indicates they aren’t popular. The research also says only 5% of Alexa skills have earned 10 or more ratings and just 1% have more than 100 ratings from users.
The new Amazon Alexa app will show up on your Android phone or Apple iPhone’s application stores anytime in the coming weeks.