Voice-operated smart assistants just keep getting smarter.
By Katrina Caruso
Amazon announced last week that anyone with an Amazon Echo smart speaker device will now be able to send SMS (text) messages via Alexa, the voice-operated virtual assistant app.
Users will simply ask Alexa to send a message to a specific contact and then dictate the message. If the recipient also has an Alexa device, Alexa will read out your message at the other end; if your contact doesn’t have an Amazon Echo, the message will be sent as a text. Users will have to add their address books to their Echo devices first.
Unfortunately for Apple iPhone lovers, this option is currently available only for Android users.
Amazon last year made it possible for users make free phone calls through Alexa Calling, though this feature is available only between Echo users. Interestingly, while the rise of smartphones has made landlines less popular, the Alexa app is restoring that method of communicating to the home—with no smartphones involved (unless you use your smartphone for other things while chatting on the phone!).
Alexa can be used to shop, order an Uber or a Domino’s pizza, listen to music (you can tell Alexa to “play music from the ’70s” or “play songs by Leonard Cohen”), stream video through Amazon’s Fire TV, control smart thermostats (using products such as Nest and Hive), set alarms, create shopping lists, check the news and weather, or find local restaurants. You can even tell Alexa to download an audio book from Amazon’s Audible service and then read it to you.
Launched in 2014, Alexa has been making waves in the tech world. Compared to Google Home and Microsoft Cortana, Alexa is dominating the virtual assistant/smart speaker market, with an estimated 70% to 76% of current sales, the majority of users having jumped on the bandwagon in the past year.