And it is called Alexa.
A slew of new Moto Mods are headed our way, which include a power pack, a wireless charging adaptor, and a turbo charging adaptor. But the most interesting of the bunch is the Amazon Alexa Moto Mod, which will add the virtual assistant into any Moto Z device.
At its Mobile World Congress keynote, Amazon’s Director of Alexa Voice Service Jon Kirk announced that it would partner with Motorola to create a speaker Moto Mod that essentially turns your phone into a portable Amazon Echo. In a concept video, the Mod is stuck to the back of a Moto Z, and users can place their phone screen side down to use it as a speaker. It’ll even have the blue ombre glow around the edges to let you know when you’ve activated Alexa. The Alexa Moto Mod is expected to launch later this year.
This sounds like an awkward entry to the smartphone market. But more important than the Alexa Moto Mod is that this is just a sign of things to come.
As the year progresses, there will be deeper integration of Alexa into a broader range of Moto smartphones. Users won’t need to press keys or unlock screens to speak or ask Alexa questions.
Essentially, the voice assistant will be continuously active, waiting to hear commands, for which the Moto phones will always need to be listening, much like the Echo or Echo Dot.
For Android OEMs any tiny bit of hardware differentiation is very welcome. Using Alexa now gives that to them. Google Assistent becomes available just now to all Android handsets running Android 6.0 or above as well. But getting even a tiny bit away from Google’s stranglehold will be worth it to many Android OEMs. Even if it means just replacing one platform devil with another.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here are the three main reasons why Alexa on Android will catch on like wildfire with Android handset manufacturers:
- The first OEMs to provide handsets with Alexa integrated will have a short-lived but maybe meaningful differentiation on their hands. Given that most handset manufacturers who are not named Samsung or Apple don’t make any profits in the smartphone market at all, the desperation to at least get one or two good quarters out of being early with Alexa will be enough for most.
- Samsung won’t integrate Alexa. Samsung bought Viv last year, a new voice assistant by some of the people behind Apple’s Siri. Samsung wants to be a player themselves in the voice market. This may very well be the biggest reason for Alexa succeeding on Android. Viv may be technically good, but no customer knows about Viv. Viv is not a reason to decide to buy a Samsung smartphone. Alexa on the other hand is well on its way to becoming the most well-known brand when it comes to voice assistants; if it isn’t that already. Hence: a.) Everything else more or less equal, a smartphone with Alexa will be a reason to buy that smartphone over one without Alexa for an increasing number of people. b.) Samsung, the Android gorilla, the biggest Android OEM worldwide, won’t integrate Alexa; at least not for the time being. a.) + b.) = The best and maybe first opportunity for Android OEMs to offer something Samsung won’t offer as well. At least in markets where Alexa is available already. (US, UK, Germany)
- Amazon knows all this as well. And they really really want this to happen too.
One year ago, this rumor made the rounds (paywall):
Amazon has discussed working with phone brands at a “factory level” to integrate its services with devices in a deeper way than simply preloading apps as it currently does with some companies, says one person familiar with Amazon’s thinking.
An always-on Alexa voice interface, integrated at factory level -maybe with a dedicated separate microphone-, could provide differentiation for partnering OEMs and might be allowed by Google’s contracts (by not being actively forbidden). (I have not seen current versions of those contracts. The ones I have seen –some leaked to the public years ago– don’t forbid this.) Amazon could also help with distribution and create attractive bundles, for prime subscribers for example. (There are rumors Amazon Prime might be part of this new initiative. I would be surprised if it weren’t.)
Why does this matter so much for Amazon specifically, and online retail in general? Read our in-depth analysis on this from last year: Post-PC Online Retail: Why and How Amazon is Building the Alexa Voice Platform.
Amazon will be the first online retailer to wield a popular general interest platform, with all the market-shaping power that comes with it.
- What Amazon Might Try To Get Into Android Phones At ‘Factory Level’: Alexa
- Jeff Bezos on Alexa’s Raison D’être
- Post-PC Online Retail: Why and How Amazon is Building the Alexa Voice Platform
- Amazon Is Becoming the Greatest Threat Google Ever Encountered
- From Hotels to Gadgets, Omnipresent Amazon Alexa Will Be the Dominant Voice Platform