Amazon’s digital helper Alexa has proven to be a useful tool. But thanks the less than enthusiastic reception for the Amazon Fire Phone in 2014, Alexa was an assistant without a smartphone to call itself. Still, Amazon has worked out some deals that allow users of certain Android phones to activate Alexa with a certain phrase. The digital assistant can be activated hands-free from any screen on these handsets, even from the lock screen. And the Alexa app doesn’t even need to be open.
If you own one of these “Alexa Built-In” phones, you may have already received the bad news. According to GeekWire, Amazon is informing owners of these devices that it will be shutting down the hands-free Alexa feature on March 31, 2023. Both iOS and Android users can still ask Alexa to perform tasks when the Alexa app is open. And once the app is open, users can use Alexa hands-free.
The Alexa app is available on iOS from the App Store and for Android devices from the Play Store.
In confirming the news about hands-free Alexa, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We regularly review our features to ensure we invest in services that will delight customers, and have decided to suspend support for this feature.” The spokesperson added that further sales of these models will be to the individual phone manufacturers, noting that Amazon “continues to invest in the Alexa experience within the Alexa app to provide customers with a seamless way to access their favorite features and experiences.”
While the reason for Amazon’s decision is officially unknown, the company did say that updates to Android could negatively impact hands-free Alexa even before the cut-off date. And that could be a clue as to why Amazon decided to end this feature, as it seems to be about that Google is eliminating system-wide microphone access for the digital helper.
In addition, Alexa is one of Amazon’s business units affected by massive layoffs. Recently, the company announced that it expected growth of just 2% to 8% for the current quarter and announced plans to lay off 10,000 employees. Things have been so troublesome for Amazon that its shares are down nearly 45% since the start of the year.
The OnePlus 10T is an Android phone that offers hands-free Alexa for now
Amazon’s website lists the following Android phones that offer Alexa hands-free:
- OnePlus 10T 5G
- OnePlus 10 Pro 5G
- OnePlus 9 Pro
- OnePlus 9
- OnePlus 8 Pro
- OnePlus 8
- Motorola Edge (2022)
- Sony Xperia 1
- LG G8 ThinQ
- Moto G7
If you have one of the above handsets and use Alexa hands-free, be prepared to leave the Alexa app open if you want that feature to continue working from April. While the feature will be discontinued from April 1, it’s no joke for those who prefer Alexa over Google Assistant.