Amazon just made it easier to buy stuff through Alexa

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Amazon has unveiled a slate of new Alexa-focused developer features as part of its annual Alexa conference – and some could substantially alter the way we interact with the retailer’s smart home devices. 

Designed to enhance the real-world usability of Alexa-powered products like those in Amazon’s Echo Dot and Echo Show lineups, the upgrades include the ability to implement multiple voice services on select devices, a suite of features to let you more seamlessly purchase products through Alexa, and more frictionless Alexa device setup.

Soon, for instance, you’ll be able to ask Alexa a load more shopping-focused questions for products specifically surfaced by developers building Alexa skills including “What are the Amazon reviews?,” “How much does it cost?” or “When can it be delivered?” Why would developers do this? Some could earn commissions on the products Amazon customers buy through the system.

Separately, Amazon announced a new software developers kit -- Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) SDK for Matter (the new smart home standard supported by Amazon, Apple, Google, and others) to simplify the development process for device makers. Device makers using ACK SDK for Matter will also be able to leverage Frustration-Free Setup (FSS). FFS for Matter will allow customers to add Matter-compliant smart home devices to Alexa with a zero-touch experience, where devices are automatically connected to the network, and setup can begin as soon as the device is powered on.

Amazon also announced a partnership with audio maker Skullcandy during its recent developer conference. The pair have teamed up to let owners of the latter brand’s upcoming Push Active and Grind Series headphones use both “Alexa” and “Hey Skullcandy” commands interchangeably – a partnership that bodes well for the future of multi-assistant devices (soon, perhaps, we may be able to choose between using Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant on our iPhones).

The Amazon Echo Show 15 being used to watch TV shows

(Image credit: Amazon)

These updates aren’t the first new Alexa Skills to be announced in 2022, either. At this year’s annual re:Mars conference, Amazon revealed a decidedly creepy Skill that gives Alexa the ability to mimic other people’s voices, and a few months back, the popular voice assistant learned how to respond and perform actions without needing to hear the “Hey Alexa” command.

Sure, some of Alexa’s recent updates might sound like superficial novelties, but more than 20% of all Alexa interactions last year involved customers engaging with a Skill (an Amazon spokesperson told TechRadar that “tens of billions" of Skill-based actions were performed in 2021) – and we, for one, welcome any features that make our occasionally troubled relationship with Alexa run just that little bit smoother. 

Amazon told us that some of these Alexa development tools, like the Alexa Shopping Kit and Alexa Skill Deals are available to developers now. Others will be rolling out soon.

Correction: July 20, 2022

An earlier version of this article implied that Amazon customers could log in to Alexa-enabled devices without their Amazon login. The information was incorrectly shared with TechRadar. Amazon has since clarified that the Matter integration will ease setup but did not address, specifically, account log-ins.

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.