Hands-free with Amazon Alexa on the HTC U11: Alexa everywhere on a phone that is always with you

Throughout the history of HTC, it has been known to be the first to bring various technologies and features to the smartphone world. Today, the HTC U11 is the first smartphone to support hands-free Amazon Alexa activation.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

The HTC U11, check out my experiences with it after a month, is the most stunning smartphone available today with the lowest price for a flagship and capabilities that beat the Google Pixel.

With today's release of the HTC Alexa app for HTC U11 owners, HTC becomes the first to provide hands-free Amazon Alexa support on a smartphone. Huawei rolled out Amazon Alexa support on the Mate 9 at the end of March, but that requires that you first launch the Huawei Alexa app to initiate the voice assistant.

The key component that allowed HTC to pursue the Amazon Alexa integration aggressively over the last several months was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 that supports activation of two hands-free services on one device. The HTC U11 is the first device to support hands-free usage of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Both function extremely well and have been launching for me nearly 100 percent of the time with my selected wake word.

Regular readers here are likely to use Google Assistant or Siri on their smartphones, but millions of regular folks have an Amazon Alexa-supported device in their homes so it made sense for HTC to provide both experiences in order to satisfy all customers.

Amazon sells the HTC U11 and with the new support for Amazon Alexa this phone can be promoted by Amazon as a way to take the Alexa experiene with you wherever you may be without having to own an Alexa piece of hardware. It's all about consumer choice, and the HTC U11 provides it with HTC Sense Companion, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

Amazon Alexa hands-free on an HTC U11: in pictures

With the HTC Alexa app, you don't need to install all of the Amazon apps to experience everything. For example, you can listen to Amazon Music or Audible books without having either Android app loaded on your HTC U11. Just like an Echo device, volume and playback control is performed with your voice commands through the HTC Alexa app. It's great to have a full Amazon Echo experience on a phone like the HTC U11 that also has a solid speaker system.

There are currently more than 15,000 Alexa Skills available and most of them work on the HTC U11. With the Amazon Alexa SDK version 1, there are a few limitations, such as calling and messaging support is not present and timers and alarms are not supported. Amazon will continue to improve the SDK so we will see new features and integration as development continues.

If you prefer to launch Alexa manually, you can now choose to launch it with a squeeze or squeeze and hold using the Edge Sense technology on the HTC U11. Over the past week, I have primarily used hands-free mode since it has been so responsive, but I did try the Edge Sense launch and that works perfectly too.

The HTC Alexa app can be found today in the Google Play Store for the US market. It will be available in the UK sometime this month and in Germany in August. The HTC U11 is already a fantastic smartphone and adding another choice for a hands-free assistant makes it even more compelling.

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