New Echo Wake Word, Skill List Improvements & The Rumor Mill

Echo owners have been clamoring for a new wake word alternative to the existing choices of “Alexa” and “Amazon”, and this week Amazon came through with a third wake word option: “Echo”.


Echo Wake Words


To change your Echo’s wake word:
1. Open the Alexa mobile app.

2. Tap or click Settings.

3. Tap or click the name of the Echo whose wake word you want to change.

4. Select the desired wake word from the drop-down list.

5. Tap or click Save.

As the screenshot above shows, Amazon warns that it will take a few minutes for the new wake word choice to go into effect and you will not be able to use the Echo itself or the mobile app during that delay.

Granted, this is not the custom wake word solution many users have been hoping for, but as I explained in Echo Custom Wake Words: Why Isn’t This A Thing Yet?, there are some very good reasons why user-defined, custom wake words aren’t yet available and probably never will be.

Personally, I have no plans to change the wake word on either of my Echos. I think of the black cylinder as the house and Alexa as the nice, helpful librarian lady who lives in it.


Alexa Skill Sort


Improvements To Skill Listings In The Alexa App
This is another area where users have been asking for changes for a long time. Now there are not only paging controls at the bottom of each page of skills listings in the Alexa app, but three sort options have been added.

As shown in the screenshot above, you can now sort skills alphabetically by title, in descending order by average review rating (this is now the default sort) or by release date.


The Echo Rumor Mill

Echo Mini? It’s been a couple weeks since The Wall Street Journal broke the news that a “source” at Amazon reports a new, smaller, portable, rechargeable, less expensive Echo will soon be released by Amazon. Amazon neither confirms nor denies this rumor, as per usual, and no additional specifications or images of the device have yet been leaked online. I haven’t written about it yet because there’s nothing concrete to report. If/when this rumored new device is released, I’ll buy one and do a thorough write-up here.

On a side note, some are expecting Amazon will unveil this new Echo, reportedly code-named “Fox”, in its first-ever Super Bowl ad. The link goes to the USA Today site, where you can view a teaser for the ad.


Combo Echo/Fire TV Voice Remote? The voice remote for Echo hasn’t been available for purchase for a LONG time, and more puzzling still, its listing page says, “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” That’s usually Amazon’s way of saying it may never be back at all, at least not in its current form. Some are theorizing that since Alexa has been integrated with Fire TV via the Fire TV voice remote, Amazon’s intending to bring out some kind of combo remote that will work with both devices. Again, Amazon’s not saying.


Alexa For Smartphones?
Fortune reports that Amazon’s intending to get back into the smart phone game, but not with hardware. From the article:

Instead of focusing on redesigning the hardware…Amazon wants to have its core services—–such as its Firefly product scanning technology–—integrated directly into the device’s operating system.

Another plausible scenario would see Amazon’s voice-assistant Alexa, currently restricted to the Amazon Echo smart speaker, built directly into a smartphone. Using Alexa, users can request sports scores, place orders through Amazon, listen to current news, and control smart home products like lights and thermostats.

I’ve often found myself wishing I had Alexa functionality available when I’m out and about, but when I think about it I can already have access to pretty much everything Alexa has to offer via my tablet or smartphone. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what form this integration takes, and whether or not Alexa can give Siri a run for the money.


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