Alexa makes its full smartphone debut with a new HTC U11 app
As promised, HTC has pushed out an Alexa app for its HTC U11 smartphone, marking the first time that Amazon's smart digital assistant is available on phones as a fully fledged rival to the likes of Google Assistant and Siri.
Technically, the Huawei Mate 9 launched last November won the race to add Alexa integration, but on Huawei's phone the Alexa app had to be opened up manually – there was no voice activation to make the assistant accessible from anywhere on the device.
That means HTC U11 owners are the first to be able to use Alexa as a genuine, integrated digital assistant on their phones, though they're unlikely to be the last. If you have one of the flagship HTC handsets, head to the HTC Alexa page on the Google Play Store to find your free download. It's US only for now, but HTC says localized versions are on the way.
The HTC U11's special squeezable frame can be used to launch Alexa if you don't want to use your voice or launch the assistant like a normal app. You can follow the prompts inside the HTC Alexa app to set this up.
If you've not yet been introduced to Alexa, Amazon's smart assistant now boasts more than 15,000 skills, and can tell you the weather, read out your upcoming events, answer questions, play music, set reminders, control all kinds of services and smart home devices, and plenty more.
For now, Amazon seems content to let other developers work out the details of putting the Alexa assistant on phones, though it recently added the app to its own range of Android tablets.
With Cortana and Google Assistant now both available on iOS and Android, the battle of the mobile smart assistants is well and truly underway. Recently released statistics from Verto Analytics show Siri is the most-used assistant app, though its share of the market is falling as Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant gain ground.
There's no doubt these assistant apps will grow in scope and capability in the year ahead. Apple has another slew of Siri updates planned for iOS 11 later this year, including visual suggestions and follow-ups to queries, and more natural-sounding voices.