Amazon adds hands-free Alexa to tablets
Amazon announced a revamped generation of its Fire HD 10 tablet, which will have — among other capabilities — a hands-free mode for accessing the Alexa virtual assistant, similar to how Alexa is accessed in Amazon’s Echo products, according to TechCrunch.
The new Fire HD 10 will cost $149 with ads on the lock-screen or $164 ads-free, either way a sharp discount from the $230 price tag the original Fire HD 10 had on it when it was launched in late 2015.
The new version of the tablet is scheduled to be available starting Oct. 11 in the U.S, U.K., Japan and Germany. It will also run the Amazon Fire OS, based on Android, and have higher screen resolution than previous versions, along with other enhancements.
It’s no secret that Amazon has been looking to get Alexa into as many devices as possible — many of its own, of course — but also more smartphones and appliances from other manufacturers. This is the latest step in its effort to make Alexa as ubiquitous as possible.
That being said, this isn’t the first time Alexa has been added to a Fire tablet. The virtual assistant can already be used in several other Fire models, but so far the voice feature can only be activated by touch. The difference with the restyled Fire HD 10 is that Alexa can be accessed and used hands-free, much the same way as it’s used in the Echo smart speakers.
TechCrunch made the point that with its high-resolution video screen and hands-free access, the Fire HD 10 can become something more like a cheaper version of the video-enabled Echo Show device announced earlier this year. That redundancy might seem strange, but again, Amazon’s Alexa strategy is all about ubiquity. Making Alexa easier to use on this Fire tablet just makes it more likely that the tablet will be used — with Alexa’s help — to make purchases from Amazon.
After many years of offering different kinds of mobile devices, Amazon is still not a major player in tablets or smartphones. We have heard speculation recently that the online giant could give smartphones another try, but in the meantime Alexa — and Amazon’s willingness to move closer to using the Android operating system — could be significant to giving Amazon a boost as mobile commerce continues to mature. That, and price — you certainly aren’t going to find an iPad for $149.