Amazon Alexa has finally come to a smartphone. The US version of the Huawei Mate 9 recently received a software update containing Amazon’s virtual assistant. Now that Google Assistant is on smartphones running Marshmallow and up, how does Alexa stack up in comparison?
The biggest difference is that there is no voice trigger for Alexa. While you can say “OK Google” to bring up Google Assistant, you’ll have to open the Huawei Alexa app to use Amazon’s assistant. Once in the app, you can say “Alexa” to trigger her. This one detail is the downfall of Alexa on the Mate 9.
There is another solution, and that’s to use Huawei’s “Knuckle Draw” functionality. You can set it up to launch Alexa when you draw a letter, like an e. This requires two hands and often fails to recognize that I’m using a knuckle, though.
You use the separate Amazon Alexa to set up your account, smart home, and other details. This is the case for all Alexa-enabled devices. The main Huawei Alexa app is only for speaking to Alexa, with no other features.
As far as functionality, it can do much of what an Amazon Echo can do. You can control smart home devices, get info like weather and news, order items from Amazon Prime, and more. There is plenty you can do, but you cannot listen to Amazon Music or set alarms and timers. When you have the app open, it’s just as useful as any other Alexa-enabled device (which is quite useful).
Unfortunately, the app is light on visual feedback. All you see is an animation for listening, a “thinking” prompt, and a mute button. You don’t see what you said in text, you don’t see her replies, and you don’t see any info like weather on-screen. Google Assistant shows all of the info on the screen so you don’t have to rely on listening, which should be integrated into this app.
All in all, Amazon Alexa on the Huawei Mate 9 is not really worth using over Assistant. Unless you have your phone with the screen on and the app opened at all times, you can’t use it on the fly. And really, that’s what Alexa is all about: thinking of something and doing it immediately, without touching any devices.
Google Assistant has become quite capable, and with “OK Google” triggering no matter what app you’re in, it’s always at your metaphorical fingertips. It’s more useful at almost every level.
Thankfully, this is only the beginning. Amazon and Huawei are planning to update the Alexa functionality in the future with timers and alarms, music, and more. Hopefully this includes makes the app always listen for the hotword. We look forward to seeing what Huawei brings to the table and what Alexa can really do on mobile. After all, Alexa can technically do a lot more than Google Assistant, so a mobile version is something many people would absolutely use. Even now, it’s nice to open it once in a while and use it.
And if you’re thinking that Alexa is the only reason to buy the Mate 9, this is not the case. It’s a wonderful device on its own, and it’ll see improvements to Alexa in the future.