Latest Amazon App Update Brings Alexa to the iPhone

March 21, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Look out, Siri — there’s a new voice on the iPhone, and its name is Alexa. The Amazon app development team included Alexa as part of the latest update of the online shopping behemoth’s app for iOS, marking the first time the company has directly offered the voice-first service on an iPhone. Before this week’s update, iPhone users could summon the voice assistant via somewhat limited third party apps like Lexi, or through the Alexa app itself so long as they had an Echo already. But now iPhone owners can take advantage of many of Alexa’s skills that were previously limited to the Echo through the Amazon app. This a major step for Amazon’s mobile app developers, who have been pushing to integrate Alexa into as many devices as possible.

As many Seattle mobile developers already know, Alexa needs to continue to expand to new platforms in order to collect the sort of data it requires to expand and enhance its AI. In the past few months, Amazon’s app development team has aggressively pursued this strategy, partnering with Ford, LG, and Huawei to feature the voice assistant in their products. Alexa’s sudden appearance on the iPhone marks a huge jump in scale, bringing the assistant to the second most popular smartphone on the market via one of the most downloaded apps in the App Store. It also puts it in direct confrontation with Siri, its most formidable competitor. Admittedly, Siri’s native integration gives it a major advantage as users will have to open Amazon’s app in order to access Alexa. But once users have the app open, all they have to do is press the microphone icon at the top of the screen to ask a question, queue up a song, or command a connected device. Siri may find itself with a little more downtime these days.

Reputation-wise, Alexa can already go toe-to-toe with Siri, and its spread to the iPhone and a number of other platforms only means that it’s getting smarter. Its skill set will continue to flourish thanks to an initiative Amazon announced last week that provides free promotional credit for thousands of Alexa app developers to build and host new skills using Amazon Web Services. As incentives like this draw in talented developers, Alexa will become sharper and more useful– and more ubiquitous too.

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