HTC seems to have checked all the right boxes with the U11. Not only does this phone nail the basics, it also comes with a handful of unique features that help it stand out from the rest of the fierce flagship competition. The first-of-its-kind Edge Sense is perhaps the most standout feature, and there are also multiple AI assistants on board (three, to be exact). Apart from the Google Assistant and HTC’s own Sense Companion, the one that consumers have been particularly excited about is Amazon’s Alexa, but it was unfortunately not available when the phone initially went on sale.
The great news is that Alexa support will start rolling out to U11 owners today, July 17. I had early access to a pre-release build of the app, and here is a closer look at what Amazon Alexa is like on the HTC U11!
The app is appropriately named 'HTC Alexa' to avoid any confusion with the Alexa app from Amazon.
Starting with the app, it is appropriately named HTC Alexa to help avoid any confusion with the Alexa app from Amazon. The two apps do work in conjunction with one another to a certain extent, however. Alexa can be launched a number of different ways, either by tapping on the app icon, saying “Alexa” out loud, or by squeezing the sides of the phone if you happen to have it set up to work with Edge Sense.
The minimalistic Alexa app pops up from the bottom of the screen and covers about a third of the display, and it will automatically start listening for your command once it is opened. Of course, you do have the option to mute the microphone to avoid any accidental triggers with your voice. From here, there’s an info button that will give you suggestions on different questions or commands to try with Alexa, and you can find even more suggestions appearing in the notification shade.
If you click on the Settings button, you’ll see a language selector (even though English is the only supported language right now), as well as the option to enable/disable the Alexa keyword and decide if you want the keyword trigger to work if the phone is asleep. Other options within the settings include setting up Edge Sense to launch Alexa as well as a direct link to the Amazon Alexa app.
You can ask the same questions and issue the same commands, including those that require enabling a Skill
As for the experience of using Alexa on the U11, I’d say it’s about the same as it is on other Alexa-powered devices like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. You can ask the same questions and issue the same commands, including those that require enabling a Skill. These range from tasks as simple as checking the weather and other factual questions to more complicated functions like turning on your smart lights, placing an order on Amazon, and more.
The HTC Alexa app doesn't allow you dictate and send text messages or make phone calls
There are some limitations however. For example, the HTC Alexa app does not allow you dictate and send text messages or make phone calls. If you attempt to do so, it will instead refer you to the Amazon Alexa app, which is the one that is capable of calling other users that also have the same app installed on their phone or have an Echo device.
The other big limitation is that, at least in its current form, Alexa doesn’t do a very good job at taking advantage of the phone’s screen. No matter what you say to Alexa, it will reply with a voice response. In certain situations where it can provide some visuals, you’ll simply be referred to the Amazon Alexa app.
This is in stark contrast to Google Assistant, which will respond with images, links, text, and more, depending on what you ask it to do. When looking up movie schedules or restaurant recommendations, it can be very time consuming to listen to every word that Alexa says, so you might want to choose Google Assistant over Alexa depending on what you need to do.
Alexa doesn't do a very good job at taking advantage of the phone's screen
Overall, my experience using Alexa on the U11 has been quite positive, and you will feel right at home if you’ve used Alexa before on an Echo device. It’s certainly not without its flaws, but that’s nothing that can’t be improved over time with software updates. It’s a nice addition to an already great software experience on the HTC U11, and it’s certainly convenient to be able to bring Alexa with you everywhere you go.