What happens now that Alexa is on the iPhone?

Photo: Amazon
Mar 22, 2017
Tom Ryan

In a move onto Siri’s turf, Amazon has added Alexa to its iOS shopping app, letting users chat with the virtual assistant through an iPhone or iPad.

Alexa users will need to open the Amazon app and then press a microphone icon to converse with Alexa. Previously, the microphone icon allowed voice commands to be used to search for products and check up on orders, but the update provides access to almost all of the capabilities of Amazon’s speaker devices such as the Echo, Dot and Tap.

Beyond shopping-related queries, the voice assistant can provide weather forecasts, tell jokes, answer questions, play music, read a Kindle book and control home automation devices. Well ahead of competing AI assistants, Alexa has over 10,000 skills including the ability to lead interactive games such as The Magic Door and Jeopardy that have earned raves with tech bloggers.

The capabilities will be available to iPhone users sometime this week. No date was given for an Android version of Alexa.

The move brings Alexa to the broad audience of iPhone users while adding mobility and scale. The Alexa experience improves the more it learns about each user.

One advantage for Apple is that it takes a few steps to open the Amazon app and connect with Alexa. With an iPhone, simply saying ‘Hey Siri’ activates the AI without touching the screen. Google Assistant works similarly on Android phones.

“Alexa does great at controlling your lights, but unless Amazon can learn more about how you spend the rest of your day, it’s going to have a hard time keeping up with Google’s ubiquity, or even Apple’s hardware dominance,” wrote Brian Barrett for Wired.

Some also feel owning the hardware will always be a plus. Wrote Arjun Kharpal for CNBC, “Apple’s Siri arguably has an advantage on the iPhone because it is deeply integrated with the software on the phone and can be used to control or open certain apps, link with smart home devices, and is tied closer to Apple’s overall ecosystem.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will Amazon gain by making Alexa available on iPhones? Do you see mobility, access to a broader audience or scale as the biggest benefit? Do Apple and Google hold an overwhelming advantage because they own the hardware?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Siri and Alexa will need to find a way to play nicely together or the value of each will be diluted."
"Anything (well, almost anything) that Amazon does is good for Amazon. I don’t think Siri and Alexa will play well together."
"Alexa just gained the potential for greater ubiquity while Siri stagnates."

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "What happens now that Alexa is on the iPhone?"

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Jon Polin

Voice assistants are great and all the rage now, but how many different voice assistants will consumers tolerate, let alone per device? Siri and Alexa will need to find a way to play nicely together or the value of each will be diluted.

Max Goldberg

By making Alexa available on its iOS app, Amazon moves voice technology forward while making it easier for Apple users to shop Amazon. In its current form, Alexa is not much of a threat to Siri, since the latter is so completely integrated with functions like iCal, iMessage and search. Alexa does make it easier for iOS users to shop Amazon, which reinforces that company’s overall lead in retail.

Ken Lonyai

Alexa just gained the potential for greater ubiquity while Siri stagnates.

Rather than having to sell more devices, this opens the door for Amazon to get into people’s pockets (literally) without asking for money. Plus, it allows Alexa to function anywhere, something she cannot do comfortably when she’s tied to a tabletop device. In a way, it’s Bezos’ dream of a Fire Phone without the mess.

I disagree with Brian Barrett and believe the uphill struggle is Google’s and not Amazon’s and that he and others miss the data gathering uptake this mobility will deliver to Amazon.

Lastly, just two night’s ago I co-hosted an Alexa Evangelist at our monthly HUI Central (Humanized User Interface) meetup and can state from some of the casually mentioned new capabilities that Amazon is working on fully enabling Alexa to be an “assistant” even though they don’t like her called that.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

It takes an ecosystem to build a technology-based application, and Alexa is gaining ground quickly. Firmware and interfaces are critical steps toward achieving at-mass installed base for an interface, and Alexa is simply that — an interface. The core question is, how quickly can it become productive for the user and worthy of the investment in its use?

Lee Kent

Currently many folks use both Siri and Alexa for very different needs. Making Alexa available on the iPhone simply adds a level of convenience for the Amazon shopper and perhaps she has some games up her sleeve that Siri doesn’t have. Where will it go and who will win? I think about this sort of the same way I think about my browser. They are all pretty much the same but I chose Chrome some time back for its speed and user interface and now I just don’t want to switch.

Does it have anything to do with who owns the hardware? Not to me, as long as they all work pretty much the same. But that’s just my 2 cents.

Sunny Kumar

It makes sense that Amazon would integrate Alexa into its app offering. After all, in addition to the functions described, it allows Amazon to maintain the all-important view of customers who have already bought into Alexa. What difference this makes regarding how we use Siri will largely depend on how much we have bought into the Amazon/Apple ecosystems.

From a consumer point of view, it would be great if these systems talked to each other, making a Siri/Alexa pact to help customers regardless of who they are talking to. An unlikely scenario, I suspect.

Ricardo Belmar
This is a great move by Amazon to further integrate Alexa into customers’ lives. There is room currently for iPhone users to take advantage of both Siri and Alexa for different purposes. Today, Siri is a great control mechanism for your iPhone experience and for searching for loose, unrelated information on the Internet. Alexa is still best as a shopping assistant in Amazon’s ecosystem more than anything else. Where they both overlap for some users will be in playing music and controlling home automation. Users will make a choice here depending on the supported level of integration with home devices and their preference for music (iTunes vs Amazon). I believe the greater threat is for Google and their ecosystem once Amazon adds Alexa to their Android app. Many Apple users will likely use both Siri and Alexa for different things and different scenarios. We should be asking ourselves what this means to an in-store shopping experience since this will allow shoppers to ask Alexa about products within Amazon’s ecosystem — which may be more useful… Read more »
Naomi K. Shapiro

Anything (well, almost anything) that Amazon does is good for Amazon. I don’t think Siri and Alexa will play well together. I just wish that Siri were smarter and more perceptive. Too many garbled requests, such as: “Hi for weather?” instead of “Haifa weather?”

Larry Negrich

This development gives Amazon the ability to begin to take advantage of some facets of the Apple ecosystem. Perhaps this will lead to positive developments, perhaps not. But Amazon continues to introduce pathways to find what will work for consumers. While not an immediate threat to Apple’s value, this development does make one wonder why Walmart and other retailers with deep-pocket resources and some tech know-how have not offered a voice ordering system of their own to the major mobile platforms. (And please do not make it some feature built deep within an app.) It’s time a few retailers get creative and find some ways to get ahead of the mobile/lifestyle waves or risk being left even farther behind.

Shep Hyken

Bringing Alexa to an app on the iPhone takes Alexa out of the home or office and into the palm of the customer’s hand, available 24/7, anywhere and everywhere. If Alexa is to become a part of life, it needs to be where the customer is all of the time.

david salisbury
Alexa is re-shaping the world and outperforms Google Home (Google Assistant) for one simple reason, the app integrations re: skills are increasing exponentially. This means Apple is falling behind — and Amazon is proving it knows AI and voice commerce as well as anyone. Amazon’s app is already one of the fastest growing apps for downloads year-over-year. The number of skills on Alexa has jumped very quickly to 10,000. Siri is becoming obsolete. I do not know where Viv stands, that was acquired by Samsung. Apple has a better chance of out-competing Facebook in AR and hardware, Facebook will announced next month their “Building 8” — their hardware division that will rival Snap and will try to take the future of AR, since VR didn’t quite take off yet. The story of the smart speaker is one to watch for retail and is a sign that the era of IoT is on the horizon with post-mobile voice discovery. If you think about the gig economy, more people are working from home now, and this leverages… Read more »
Ed Dunn
2 years 5 months ago

Just want to add a technical clarity to the conversation. Amazon recently released an Alexa voice API allowing software developers create applications that speak back to the customer. This is why the Alexa app will need to be opened first on the iPhone.

It is important to understand this technical detail to know why Amazon won another one. The Alexa voice API will drive a bigger ecosystem of voice-based retail touch points such as kiosks, self-check-out and retail floor-based robots to speak to consumers.

While Google and Apple voice assistants are part of their platform, Amazon just opened a can of worms where the old Kmart “blue light special” can now be an Alexa voice speaking to customers after analyzing a trove of real-time data of what to mark down as a flash sale.

Harley Feldman

Amazon is smart to bring Alexa to the iPhone especially as the use of Alexa on the Echo device spreads. The iPhone app will be comfortable for Echo users for easy ordering of products from their iPhone. However, it will be very difficult for Alexa to replace Siri or Android Voice Actions given all of the features these apps have and the ability for Google and Apple to take advantage of the hardware they design and build. Having said that, Amazon will keep pushing the voice envelope as far as it can.

Brian Numainville

The difficulty for the user is the number of voice assistants that are available either on the same or different devices. I suspect most people get into the rhythm of how they use one or more of these and then don’t deviate much as they develop patterns of use. For instance, I use Alexa all over the house with Echo devices, but use Google Assistant on my Android phone (and there is an app that allows Alexa to sit on my Android already, but I don’t use it much). Having said all this, having Alexa on as many devices as possible furthers Amazon’s goal of selling more to you no matter where you are or what technology you are using!

Dave Bruno

I don’t necessarily agree that Amazon is trying to keep pace with Apple’s/Google’s ubiquity around the house. Amazon is always driven to increase conversions and average order size. Their ability to collect, analyze and leverage customer data is already a threat to every retailer on the planet. Imagine how much more effective Alexa’s recommendations will become when she has access to all the data we will give her as we take advantage of the 10,000 skills she now supports.

Alexa will, in effect, become one of our go-to search engines, and when that happens, watch how good she will become at anticipating our wants and our needs and imagine how easy ordering will become … which is always the end-game for Amazon. Becoming the whole-house assistant? That, in my opinion, is just another leg of their strategy to make smarter recommendations.

My latest blog post explores this topic in more depth here.

Kai Clarke

The easier to access and order products through Amazon is the big advantage of placing Alexa on the iPhone. Android is next. There are billions of dollars at stake, and Jeff Bezos is too smart to let these dollars go untapped.

"Siri and Alexa will need to find a way to play nicely together or the value of each will be diluted."
"Anything (well, almost anything) that Amazon does is good for Amazon. I don’t think Siri and Alexa will play well together."
"Alexa just gained the potential for greater ubiquity while Siri stagnates."

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