HTC has announced that Amazon Alexa functionality is officially rolling out to its latest flagship. The HTC U11 becomes the first smartphone to adopt “hands-free” Alexa capabilities — the Huawei Mate 9 has supported it since March but it requires that the dedicated Huawei Alexa app is launched first — effectively transforming the handset into a portable Amazon Echo.
HTC first announced this news late last week and issued a press release earlier today to discuss the finer details. The Alexa functionality arrives courtesy of a new HTC Alexa app, now available in the US and coming to UK before the end of July and Germany in August. This means that US HTC U11 owners can now take advantage of Alexa’s weather and news updates, smart home control, voice-activated Amazon shopping, Music and Audible services, as well as the 15,000-plus skills in the Alexa Skills Store.
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The U11 can’t do everything that the Amazon Echo version of Alexa can, however, such as play music from Spotify or Pandora, or set an alarm or reminder (we’ll dig into the full feature list at a later date).
Nevertheless, this seems like a shrewd move from Amazon and HTC. Amazon may sacrifice some Echo hardware sales in rolling out the feature to the U11, but it has a chance to generate money through sales directed to Amazon.com via Alexa. Further, and what I suspect is most important, it’s able to get its Alexa platform in the hands of more users.
Currently, Amazon’s Echo range is battling the Google Home (among other speaker products), which is powered by Google Assistant, to take control of the home. Google, of course, can leverage Android Phones to encourage people to use its services, but Amazon lacks similar opportunities (a situation that its recently launched phone range is unlikely to change). By integrating the service into HTC’s phones, though, it adds another channel through which to grab users.
Meanwhile, HTC can now offer another reason for consumers to pick up its latest and greatest flagship, and existing U11 owners get free Alexa functionality. It’s good business all round, really.
For more on what the new HTC handset can do, read our full HTC U11 review at the link.