Back when HTC announced the squeezable U11, it said the handset would be the first to use a "hands-free wake word" to access Amazon's Alexa. Now, thanks to a new software update and app, the voice assistant is available to owners of the well-received handset, bringing most of the Alexa experience found in Echo devices to the smartphone.
The U11 isn’t the first phone to integrate Amazon’s assistant. Huawei rolled out Alexa support for the Mate 9 back in March, but that requires users to launch an Alexa app first. The U11 is the first handset to feature always-ready, hands-free access to the service.
As with the Echo and Echo Dot, just saying the wake word – “Alexa” – launches the AI. Users can also take advantage of the handsets squeezable feature to invoke Alexa.
U11 owners have Alexa's 15,000+ skills available to them, which includes listening to Amazon Music, receiving news briefings, buying items with an Amazon account, and controlling home devices.
The U11 supports Google Assistant, which can also be voice activated thanks to the phone’s support for dual wake-words. But unlike Alexa, Google’s product can change a handset's settings and open apps, though Amazon could improve integration as more smartphone manufacturers adopt Alexa.
With HTC’s (non-vocal) Sense Companion also present, U11 users can choose from three virtual assistants. That may seem excessive but each one has its advantages, and those with Echo devices will likely welcome the addition of Alexa, which makes the U11 an even more appealing prospect.