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Should You Optimize Your Mobile App for Voice Assistants?

11th April 2017

Amazon’s disruption of the voice assistant market is crossing over to the mobile app audience.

Amazon’s goal has always been to create the smart home of the future by enabling a variety of connected devices from one central hub. That’s why it was no surprise earlier this year when Amazon announced they were integrating the dulcet tones of their favorite personal assistant into the iPhone. When optimized for the smartphone, Amazon’s main shopping app will now allow you to discuss purchases and shipments, play music, or ask Alexa questions about the weather.

This prompted us to imagine a conversation about this recent development and its effect on the earliest of digitized assistants.

“Alexa. Will optimizing the Alexa app for my smartphone give Siri a complex?”

“Answer. Apple’s Siri will be sorely vexed if you link your smartphone to my growing brain.”

Optimizing the Digital PA for Smartphones

If you’re not familiar with Alexa, “she” is the voice-activated computer that resides in an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Alexa operates via a library of third-party voice apps, or “skills.” Each skill teaches Alexa a new function that can help you do everything from find out the weather to order a pizza without using your hands – at least until the pizza arrives.

Alexa just hit the 10,000 skills milestone. Why should you care?

Enabling a mobile app to use Alexa will not only allow you to ask questions but actually work for you. Right around the same time as the smartphone announcement, Ford, Amazon, and Starbucks announced new Alexa functionality – Ford’s SYNC3 would not only offer voice-activation leveraging Alexa, you’ll be able to order your Starbucks during your am commute.

Well played, Amazon, well played.

Like all technologies, this is the next in a series of evolutions for Amazon. The mega-retailer has been tinkering with a hands-free helper, and in 2015, they made the decision to open Alexa up to developers. The Amazon developer portal now lets programmers create and sell HTML5 and Android apps.

Self-service APIs and code strings make adding skills to Alexa fun – which is exactly the point. With the news in February, that Alexa hit 10,000 skills, it’s clear that the PA is becoming a foundational platform for a variety of activities. While some would point out that Google Play blows that list out the water, the milestone is important because Amazon is really just getting started.

Digital PAs have been around since 2011, when Apple introduced Siri, of course, but what Amazon did was break the tie between voice assistants and mobile applications. That innovation signals that the move to circle back around to smartphones is likely not a nod toward history, but instead the beginnings of something that may be unique, interesting, and potentially even helpful. This is the strongest reason for you to consider optimizing your mobile app for voice assistants like Alexa.

Digital personal assistants are integrating with the technology around us at a lighting rate, from game consoles to refrigerators. Our interactions with these technologies are going to continue to push the envelope on how we use them.

It’s clear that digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home are here to stay and constantly evolving. What they’ll be when they grow up isn’t clear yet, but we do know this – the digital personal assistant of the future will be everywhere you are.


Squareball Studios (SBS), is a creative, design, and development agency of mobile applications and software systems. We have helped develop solutions for Fortune 500 companies and partnering with startups on initial ideas and seeing them succeed.

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