Most interactions with Alexa can be conducted via voice, but the Alexa companion app for smartphones supercharges Amazon’s assistant — enabling you to group together smart devices, create routines with chained commands, customize which sources appear in Flash Briefing (a daily news digest), chat with friends and family, and manage multiroom music playback. Needless to say, it’s handy, and today it’s getting a fresh coat of paint to coincide with the launch of Amazon’s new and refreshed Echo speaker lineup.
The improved app, which was first spotted by NDTV and the Verge, adopts the all-blue color scheme of previous incarnations. There’s a streamlined Devices tab on tap, with buttons for categories such as Hub, Thermostat, Headphones, Plug, and Switch (plus brands like eWeLink and Philips Hue). Tapping one of the aforementioned buttons from the setup screen and confirming your selection enables the relevant Alexa skill. Connected bulbs and other appliances, once added, are visually grouped together by room (Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom, etc.) within the Devices dashboard and can be controlled individually with a button tap.
Also new: shortcuts to calling, messaging, and Amazon’s Drop In voice and video chat feature, and support for Bluetooth multiroom music groups.
The updated Alexa app is available now for iOS devices running 9.0 or newer (both iPad and iPhone), and it’s slowly rolling out for Android globally. (As of publication time, my LG V40 hadn’t gotten it yet.)
The Alexa companion app wasn’t the only assistant app that got spruced up this week.
On Wednesday, Google debuted an improved Assistant interface on Android phones with better imagery for sports highlights, recipes, and weather forecasts and easier access to the visual snapshot of your day, a recently introduced feature that shows reminders and information about your schedule, packages in transit, your commute, and news. And just yesterday it gained enhanced ride-hailing app integration that allows you to compare the wait times and prices of Lyft, Uber, and other services without leaving the Assistant interface.