Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Amazon’s iOS problem and opportunity

Amazon recently held an event in which the company announced a whole bunch of products, ranging from a new high-end Echo to take on the likes of Sonos, to a pair of glasses that contain a Bluetooth headset and microphone.

The majority of these products are either powered by, or provide access to, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Take the glasses, for example. Here are Dan Seifert and Chris Welch at The Verge:

The glasses pair with your Android phone and can read out notifications, make phone calls, and play audio, including music and podcasts. You can also ask Alexa for rundowns of your calendar, the news, weather, and the usual things you’ve come to expect. A “VIP” filter will let wearers choose which notifications they want read aloud and which should remain only on their phone for later. However, Amazon notes that iOS is unsupported out this time, leaving out iPhone owners entirely.

If you have a pair of these glasses, you can long press to gain access to Google Assistant, bypassing much of Alexa’s ecosystem altogether. This is cool — Android users like to have options, and Amazon is working to deliver.

Alexa is always going to play second-fiddle to Google Assistant and Siri, which are native to their operating systems. Amazon is stuck in a layer above, having to deal with things like Bluetooth pairing and notification forwarding to remain useful. And as Seifert and Welch point out, Android makes this easier than iOS. Look no further than Fitbit if you want a non-Amazon example of how big of a pain this can be.

This is the dark side of Apple’s ecosystem. It’s fantastic that the Apple Watch is a great wearable iMessage client, but Apple keeps others at an arm’s length. The company says this is to ensure a good customer experience, and I believe that, but increasingly, legislators are raising their collective eyebrows at such actions.

If Apple were to be forces to open up iOS, Amazon could stand to gain a lot of ground. Alexa becoming a true sibling of Siri’s would make some of Amazon’s products more appealing to iPhone customers.

I don’t know what the future of this is, but if I were Amazon, I wouldn’t bet the company on Alexa-infused glasses any time soon.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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