Amazon’s Alexa App Climbed to #1 on the iOS App Store’s Top Free Chart After Christmas

After presents were unwrapped across the world on Christmas morning, Amazon's Alexa app [Direct Link] earned the #1 spot on the iOS App Store's Top Free chart, suggesting Echo and other Alexa devices were very popular this holiday season (via TechCrunch).

This marks the first time the Alexa app gained a #1 spot on Apple's App Store, and it remained there for over a day. Currently, Alexa sits at #2 on the Top Free chart in the App Store, having lost the top spot today to YouTube.


Amazon yesterday said that the Echo Dot was the #1 selling Amazon Device this holiday season, as well as being "the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon," with millions of Echo Dots sold. With so many Echo products being purchased for Christmas and other holiday celebrations, users were led to download the Amazon Alexa app so they can set up their speaker, control it, integrate with other smart home products, and more.

Data gathered from Sensor Tower's App Store analytics shows the Alexa app climbing the Top Free United States iOS App Store charts in the days leading up to Christmas and then peaking at #1 on December 25 and December 26. On Christmas day, the Alexa app gained prominence on the Top Free App Store charts in other countries as well, including Great Britain (rising to #2), Germany (#5), and Austria (#5).

Amazon Alexa iOS app data via Sensor Tower

As Amazon's Alexa devices continue to dominate the smart speaker market, Apple has plans to release its own music-focused smart speaker device -- the HomePod -- in early 2018. HomePod will be controlled mainly through the user's voice using Siri, and include access to Apple Music and other expected smart speaker functionalities, like asking about the weather, traffic, setting reminders, timers, and more.

Tags: Amazon, Alexa

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Amazon Aims for Echo Speakers in Every Office With ‘Alexa for Business’

Amazon's aim to bring its highly popular at-home Echo smart speaker into the workplace got underway on Thursday with the launch of Alexa for Business. The announcement, made at the company's annual Amazon Web Services Summit in New York, sets the stage for Amazon's vision to make its virtual assistant the essential office accessory, able to book conference rooms, launch meetings, and order stationery.

Alexa already has features amenable to an office environment, such as the ability to make calls, operate lights, and check security camera feeds. Now Amazon wants developers to build the virtual assistant into apps that manage work calendars, find open meeting rooms, and order supplies.

As an intelligent assistant at work, Alexa for Business makes starting a conference call as simple as asking Alexa to "start the meeting." Alexa for Business can help workers manage calendars, keep up with to-do lists, and make phone calls. Around the office, Alexa for Business can handle tasks like notifying IT of an equipment issue, or finding and booking an open conference room—all with just a few words.
However, it's unclear how many companies will want to buy Echo speakers for every conference room, given the potential security implications of an "always listening" device. Amazon says its Echo speakers don't send anything to the cloud until users wake the devices by invoking them by name. However, Amazon does store requests in the cloud, which it says are used to help improve AI and develop new skills for the speakers.

Amazon sold "millions" of Alexa devices over the holiday shopping weekend, according to a company press release, with previous estimates suggesting it has sold more than 20 million Alexa devices over the last three years. RBC Capital Markets predicts that by 2020, Alexa device installations could reach 128 million. Over the same period, sales of the virtual assistants could result in more than $10 billion in revenues for Amazon, according to the firm.


Amazon has reportedly added hundreds of engineers to its Alexa program to maintain its edge over rivals like Google Assistant, Microsoft's Cortana, and Apple's Siri, all of which are in the process of building out their voice-activated offerings.

However, Apple will be even further behind after it recently delayed the HomePod's release until early 2018. The device was originally slated to launch in December, but the delay means the $349 speaker won't be ready in time for the holiday shopping season, which could lead customers to look at Echo or Google devices instead.


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Amazon ‘Echo Buttons’ Trivia Game Accessories Now Available to Pre-Order

Amazon has made its Echo Buttons, the company's "first Alexa gadgets", available to pre-order on its U.S. website. First announced in September, the $20 accessories come in packs of two and are designed to allow Amazon Echo owners to play family trivia games with the voice-activated smart speakers.


About 3 inches (76mm) wide and 1.5 inches (38mm) tall, the Echo Buttons each have a multi-color LED on top that lights up the push button. The devices are powered by two triple-A batteries and connect to Echo speakers via Bluetooth.

Amazon says the buttons will work with four Alexa skills when they ship on December 19 in time for the holidays, including name-that-song game "Beat the Intro" and "Fourth Down Football Trivia", with support for more sound effect and quiz games expected further down the line.


The Echo Buttons are compatible with all old and new Echo devices as well as the forthcoming Echo Spot, but they don't work with the Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV, or any other non-Echo device.

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Ultimate Ears Debuts ‘BLAST’ and ‘MEGA BLAST’ Speakers With Alexa Support and Charging Dock

Ultimate Ears, a company known for its line of rugged, colorful speakers with high-quality audio, today announced two new additions to its product lineup: the BLAST and the MEGABLAST. BLAST and MEGABLAST are Ultimate Ears' first Wi-Fi connected speakers.


Designed as successors to the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom 2, the BLAST and MEGABLAST feature the same cylindrical body shape, bold design, and vivid colors as their predecessors, but Ultimate Ears has tweaked the look of the two devices, introducing less rounded edges for a sleeker form factor and a more streamlined color scheme.


With the cylindrical design, the BLAST and MEGABLAST continue to offer 360-degree sound, and with the addition of Amazon Alexa support, the two speakers can be controlled hands-free with voice commands. Through Alexa, BLAST and MEGABLAST can play music from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, with support for Pandora and Deezer coming in the near future.

Wi-Fi support in the two speakers means music can continue to play even when your iPhone is in use, and through Alexa, the music can be controlled by anyone, making BLAST and MEGABLAST ideal for parties.


Alexa integration is available in the United States, the UK, Germany, and Austria, and with a BLAST or MEGABLAST purchase, Amazon is offering a three-month subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited. Playing from Apple Music will continue to require a Bluetooth connection to an iPhone.

MEGABLAST has been engineered to be Ultimate Ears' loudest and best sounding speaker yet. It features two 25mm tweeters, two custom 35mm active drivers, and two passive radiators for a maximum output of 93 dBC, which is 40 percent louder than the Megaboom. According to Ultimate Ears, the MEGABLAST features a more powerful mid-range, deeper bass, and clearer vocals and instruments.

BLAST features two 35mm active drivers and two passive radiators with a maximum sound level of 90 dBC.


Both BLAST and MEGABLAST are IP-67 water and dust resistant, drop proof (up to 5 feet) and offer all-day battery life. BLAST will last for 12 hours before needing to be recharged, while MEGABLAST boasts a 16 hour battery life.

Along with BLAST and MEGABLAST, Ultimate Ears is introducing the POWER UP, a sleek white charging dock that's designed to inductively charge BLAST and MEGABLAST. POWER UP is a standalone accessory, but will be sold alongside the two speakers in packages from some retailers.


In the United States, BLAST and MEGABLAST will be available in Graphite (black), Blizzard (white), Merlot (red) and Blue Steel (blue). BLAST is priced at $230, while MEGABLAST is priced at $300. The POWER UP dock is priced at $40. All three products will be available for purchase from Ultimate Ears starting in late October.


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Amazon Rolls Out Alexa Device Messaging and Calling to U.K. and Germany

Amazon is updating its Alexa app today to add support for messaging and calling on Alexa-powered smart devices in the U.K., Germany, and Austria (via The Verge).

The second-generation Echo in Charcoal Fabric

The Alexa voice calling feature will work on standard Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, allowing the devices to call each other free of charge. iPhone and Android owners can also use the Alexa app to call the Alexa-powered devices directly.

Amazon's second-generation Echo devices hit Europe on October 31 and support the feature as standard, while video calling is limited to the display-based Echo Show device, which is set to become available in the U.K. and Germany next month.


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Amazon Reportedly Working on Smart Glasses With Integrated Alexa AI

Amazon is actively developing a pair of smart glasses with Alexa virtual assistant built in, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Designed like a regular pair of spectacles, the device will enable Alexa to be invoked by the wearer at any time and at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans.

The founder of Google Glass is said to be working on Amazon's Alexa smart glasses

The company is reportedly including a bone-conduction audio system in the specs so that the wearer can hear Alexa's voice without inserting headphones.

The founder of Google Glass, Babak Parviz, is said to have been working on the Alexa product since he was hired by Amazon in 2014. Earlier this year, Google re-introduced its Google Glass wearable headset after discontinuing production in 2016.

In addition, The Financial Times reports that Amazon is also working on a more conventional home security camera, and that one or both of these products may appear before the end of this year.

Previous reports have claimed that Amazon is working on a successor to its popular Echo connected smart speaker and plans to bring the device to market this year in time to compete with Apple's HomePod, which is set to launch this December.

According to rumors that first surfaced in 2016, Apple is also working on several different kinds of smart glasses, with the main application of bringing augmented reality experiences to the wearer.

Reports this year suggest Apple's glasses will connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and will display "images and other information to the wearer".

Related Roundup: Apple VR Project
Tags: Google Glass, Alexa

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Alexa Virtual Assistant Coming to Bragi Dash Wireless Earbuds in October

Bragi has announced that Alexa is set to become a new feature of its Bragi Dash wireless headphones later this year. The company revealed at the IFA trade show today that a software update coming in October will allow Dash and Dash Pro owners to talk to Amazon's virtual assistant in both English and German languages (via The Verge).


After the forthcoming 3.1 update is installed, to activate Alexa users will need to either tap an earbud or use the Dash's "4D menu", which relies on motion sensing to enable users to turn their head left or right and select from a virtual menu.

While Dash (and Dash Pro) users can already use their earbuds to activate Siri and Google, today's news means Bragi Dash are likely to become the first truly wireless earbuds to offer Alexa support, allowing wearers to, say, order a ride from Uber or a coffee from Starbucks.


MacRumors reviewed the Bragi Dash Pro ($330) wireless earbuds back in July and found that the gesture controls impress, but some UI and design frustrations remain. You can read the full review here.


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Alexa Virtual Assistant Coming to Bragi Dash Wireless Earbuds in October

Bragi has announced that Alexa is set to become a new feature of its Bragi Dash wireless headphones later this year. The company revealed at the IFA trade show today that a software update coming in October will allow Dash and Dash Pro owners to talk to Amazon's virtual assistant in both English and German languages (via The Verge).


After the forthcoming 3.1 update is installed, to activate Alexa users will need to either tap an earbud or use the Dash's "4D menu", which relies on motion sensing to enable users to turn their head left or right and select from a virtual menu.

While Dash (and Dash Pro) users can already use their earbuds to activate Siri and Google, today's news means Bragi Dash are likely to become the first truly wireless earbuds to offer Alexa support, allowing wearers to, say, order a ride from Uber or a coffee from Starbucks.


MacRumors reviewed the Bragi Dash Pro ($330) wireless earbuds back in July and found that the gesture controls impress, but some UI and design frustrations remain. You can read the full review here.


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Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2 Support Coming to Libratone Zipp Wireless Speakers This Fall

Bluetooth speaker maker Libratone has announced that beginning this fall, Zipp and Zipp Mini speaker owners will be able to use their devices to invoke Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant as well as tap in to Apple's forthcoming AirPlay 2 protocol.

The company said it will make a free firmware download available in the coming months that activates Alexa support in the wireless speakers, which connect to Wi-Fi and have integrated microphones.


Following the update, Zipp and Zipp Mini owners will be able to touch the button on the top of the speakers to ask Alexa for news, sports, traffic updates, and all the other things that can be done on Amazon's Echo range of speakers, including controlling smart home devices.

Libratone intends to add Apple AirPlay 2 support as soon as Apple releases the new protocol, which will enable users to stream music wirelessly to multiple speakers of different brands on the same Wi-Fi network. AirPlay 2 is expected to arrive with the release of iOS 11 next month.


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iPhone Users Will Be Able to Say ‘Hey Cortana, Open Alexa’ in Future

Amazon and Microsoft today jointly announced that Alexa and Cortana will soon be able to communicate with each other.


Microsoft said the collaboration will allow access to Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs later this year, and via the Cortana app for iOS and Android at an unspecified point in the future. Similarly, users will be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.

iPhone users should eventually be able to open the Cortana app and say "hey Cortana, open Alexa," to access Amazon's virtual assistant. Alexa can be used to shop and manage orders on Amazon, ask a variety of questions, stream music and audiobooks, check the news and weather, and many other tasks.

However, iPhone users won't be able to say "hey Cortana, open Alexa" from the Home screen, or when the device is locked. Apple only allows third-party virtual assistants to function within their apps, so accessing Alexa via Cortana will be a lot more cumbersome than simply using Siri.

For a complete virtual assistant experience, iPhone users could also say "hey Siri, open the Cortana app" and then say "hey Cortana, open Alexa."

Alexa can already be used in the Amazon app on iOS [Direct Link], while Cortana has been available on the App Store [Direct Link] since December 2015.


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