New Alexa feature lets you text Amazon's voice assistant with commands

iPhone 12
(Image credit: DenPhotos/Shutterstock)

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant (or should we say 'text assistant'?) has now got a new messaging function, meaning US users can send texts direct to Alexa instead of asking it questions out loud. Who needs friends to text, eh?

The feature is currently in preview – as spotted by The Ambient – and only available on iOS for a select number of users, but it marks a new shift in strategy for Amazon's AI darling, and could well expand out to the global iOS and Android smartphone market in time.

Asking Alexa questions over text isn't much different from typing a query into Google, of course, but the feature does allow you to harness other Alexa functions in your smart home, such as turning on connected smart lights or similar. 

If you're not in the vicinity of an Alexa compatible device like an Amazon Echo speaker, or don't want to speak aloud in a public place, it's a convenient workaround that still lets you make use of Alexa's intelligent capabilities. Pocket-Lint obtained comment from Amazon on the matter, being told that "everything you can currently say to Alexa can now also be typed using your Alexa mobile app."

It is worth noting that Google Assistant has been able to do this for a while, but it certainly expands what Alexa is capable of – and further narrows the discrepancies between the two major smart assistants.

The times, they are a-changing

Amazon continually brings out iterative updates to its smart assistant and its various connected devices, from small changes like the text messaging feature above – or the webcam support that's come to the Amazon Fire TV Cube – to big design overhauls to its range of smart speakers.

It's easy to focus on the more external alterations, with the standard Amazon Echo in particular having gone from 'steel tower' to 'fabric cylinder' to 'Pixar villain gadget' in the course of just a few years.

But Alexa is really the key product connecting Amazon's smart hardware, and it'll need to keep improving to stop Google Assistant (sorry Bixby) becoming the smart assistant of choice in the decade to come.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.