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Posts tagged with "Amazon Echo"

Apple Heavily Promotes the Amazon Echo’s Apple Music Integration

At the end of November, Amazon announced on its blog that Apple Music would be coming to Echo devices the week of December 17th. The music streaming service showed up on Echos a little earlier than expected last Friday, December 14th.

Today, Apple began promoting Apple Music’s availability on Echo devices through three different channels. The Echo integration first appeared on the App Store, which gave the Alexa app top billing in a Today tab story that highlights the new feature. Apple is also promoting the Echo integration on the Apple Music features page of its website along with other third-party devices like PCs, Android devices, and Sonos music players. Finally, late in the day US time, the Apple Music app began delivering push notifications highlighting the Echo feature.1

Amazon’s Echo devices aren’t the first third-party hardware to get Apple Music support as the Apple Music website demonstrates, but it is unusual for Apple to promote another company’s hardware alongside Apple Music to this degree. It’s also surprising because, in the two weeks that followed Amazon’s announcement, Apple said nothing. Nor did it acknowledge the change four days ago when the Alexa app was updated.

I wouldn’t be surprised if promoting the Echo was part of a bigger deal that got Apple products back on Amazon shelves in early November. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s still interesting to see Apple, which offers the competing HomePod, put so much promotional weight behind Amazon’s smart home speaker.


  1. I’m not a fan of promotional push notifications like these, which violate App Review Guideline 4.5.4 against using push notifications for advertising and promotional purposes. Unfortunately, that’s a rule that Apple has violated itself before and one that it has never meaningfully enforced against third parties. ↩︎

Apple Music Is Now Available on the Amazon Echo

Although Amazon initially indicated that it would be out the week of December 17th, Apple Music support has begun to roll out on Amazon Echo devices today in the US.

To set up Apple Music on the Echo, open the Alexa iOS app and go to the Music section of the app’s Settings. You won’t see Apple Music listed as an existing service, so tap the ‘Link New Service’ button, which will list Apple Music along with several other services.

Once you’ve logged in with your Apple Music credentials, the Apple Music Skill is enabled, which allows you to say things like ‘Alexa, play my New Music Mix on Apple Music.’ You can separately set Apple Music as your default music service, which lets you use Alexa to request music without specifying ‘on Apple Music.’ When you make a request for music Alexa will let you know that playback is coming from Apple Music with a response like ‘Playing New Music Mix from Apple Music.’

Not all of the Apple Music features that work on a HomePod work with an Echo. For example, although Alexa will acknowledge your feedback if you say you like a song, that does not result in the songs being marked as ‘liked’ in Apple Music or iTunes. Nor can Apple Music be triggered through third-party Alexa apps like Astra. However, for basic playback of playlists, albums, and songs, the new integration works well.

At least one thing you cannot do with a HomePod is available on the Echo. With Apple Music activated, you can set alarms to play specific playlists as Zac Hall demonstrates on 9to5Mac, which is handy.

Overall, Apple Music’s integration with the Amazon Echo is about what you would expect. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber and use Echo devices, the option of using your Apple Music subscription is a nice addition, but it’s also a development that has the potential to help drive consumer adoption of the Echo and Apple Music.


Apple Music Coming to Amazon Echo Devices

In a blog post published this morning, Amazon announced that Apple Music is set to launch on Amazon Echo devices next month, starting the week of December 17.

According to Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, Echo users will be able to ask Alexa, the device’s built-in voice assistant, to play their favorite songs, artists, albums, playlists created by Apple’s curators, as well as radio stations available on the service. Beats 1, Apple Music’s own live radio station featuring artist interviews and daily programs, will also be accessible via the Amazon Echo, the company said. The integration will be enabled just like any other skill on the Amazon Echo by connecting your Apple Music account to Amazon’s device using the Alexa app.

“Music is one of the most popular features on Alexa—since we launched Alexa four years ago, customers are listening to more music in their homes than ever before,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president, Amazon Devices. “We are committed to offering great music providers to our customers and since launching the Music Skill API to developers just last month, we’ve expanded the music selection on Alexa to include even more top tier services. We’re thrilled to bring Apple Music – one of the most popular music services in the US – to Echo customers this holiday.”

While Apple Music has long been available on Android in addition to iOS and macOS (and on Sonos speakers in addition to HomePod), the upcoming Amazon Echo integration marks a major shift as Apple Music has never been able to integrate with competing smart speakers through third-party voice assistants. It’ll be interesting to see if the Amazon Echo integration will be more limited than the HomePod’s native Apple Music access, which we’ll make sure to test once Apple Music’s Alexa skill goes live next month.


Voice Control is Coming to the Alexa App Soon

Amazon is adding voice control support to its Alexa app on Android and iOS. According to TechCrunch:

The addition of voice commands means users can speak directly to their handset the way they would an Echo — to play music, trigger Alexa skills and the like. The update is being rolled out over the course of the coming days through Google Play and Amazon’s own Appstore. A similar update is also on the way for the iOS App Store, but its timing is still up in the air, likely due to Apple’s stricter vetting process.

Unlike Google and Apple, Amazon doesn’t have a smartphone platform for its smart assistant. That puts Amazon at a disadvantage because it precludes users from activating Alexa with a trigger word on Android phones and iOS devices. Still, the move feels like a natural extension of the services surrounding Alexa and Amazon’s Echo products.

There’s precedent for this sort of app on iOS too. Astra is a simple iOS utility that acts like an Echo device. It’s registered in the Alexa app alongside any Echo products you own. Pressing the microphone button lets you issue the same commands you can to an Echo. It remains to be seen what Amazon’s update to the Alexa app will mean for Astra, but in any event, it will be interesting to see where Amazon’s push into mobile leads.

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Apple and the Alexa Ecosystem

I recently read two interesting takes on the ever-growing Alexa ecosystem as it relates to Apple that made me think about the future of Siri and HomeKit. Here’s M.G. Siegler on Amazon’s plan to put Alexa everywhere:

The Echo Dot was the number one selling device across all of Amazon during the holiday shopping season. (The Fire TV stick with the Alexa-enabled remote was the second-most popular product.) Again, no absolute sales numbers beyond “tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices” — more than we usually get, by the way — but no matter: tens of millions is impressive enough.

I’ve been thinking about this recently not just in the context of putting Echoes in hotels, but also relative to Apple. As we’re all well aware, Apple had to delay their foray into the space, the HomePod, into 2018. But not only did they miss the all-important holiday shopping season, I’m increasingly thinking that they may have missed the boat.

Believe me, I know how dangerous this line of thinking is with regard to Apple. Apple is almost never the first-mover in a market. Instead, they prefer to sit back and let markets mature enough to then swoop in with their effort, which more often than not is the best effort (this is both subjective in terms of my own taste, and often objective in terms of sales). But again, I increasingly don’t believe that this will be the case with their smart speaker.

Amazon has entered the speaker and home automation market with Alexa-enabled devices in two ways: first with their own Echo products, then with a growing roster of third-party manufacturers that are baking Alexa into their devices and almost treating Amazon’s assistant as a “standard” feature like WiFi or Bluetooth. There’s a fascinating parallel between Amazon Web Services – a suite of components embedded in the majority of modern websites and web apps – and Alexa Voice Service – a suite of voice APIs now embedded in hundreds of automation devices, general-purpose accessories and appliances, and web services.

Here’s Ben Bajarin on what Alexa’s presence at CES tells us about the ecosystem surrounding Apple:

While many Apple defenders want to dismiss the momentum we are observing with the Amazon ecosystem on display here at CES, while Amazon is similarly not present just like Apple, I believe it is a mistake to do so.

It is easy to say that because Apple was never present at CES that the show didn’t mean something to them or their ecosystem. It is easy, and correct to say that CES was not, or never was, a measure of the health of Apple’s products. It is, however, incorrect and dangerous to miss that CES had been, for some time, a barometer for the health of Apple’s ecosystem.

As I mentioned, our ability to measure any platforms ecosystem from what we observe at CES, is the main reason so many are paying attention to what is happening with Amazon’s Alexa platform. Google Assistant is certainly more present than it was last year, however, when you look at how third parties are talking about-and marketing-their support of these assistants they are putting significantly more effort into talking about Alexa than Google Assistant. Which is a telling signal. Again, to reiterate this point, third parties used to market, and spend energy talking about their integration with iOS or support of iPhone/iPad with the same rigor they are now talking about Amazon’s Alexa. This can not be ignored.

You could argue that most Apple-compatible gadgets and accessories announced at CES used to appear in tech blogs only to be forgotten a few months later because they were fads, vaporware, or ultimately not essential to the growth of the iOS ecosystem, and that the same will happen with Alexa-enabled devices we’ve seen this year. The difference, I think, is that this new generation of home automation products is an ecosystem in itself with higher value than, say, the iPad keyboards or stylii we used to see at CES. Alexa hasn’t “won”, but it has momentum among third-party companies making products that are or will soon be in our homes, sharing the same space of our TVs, routers, consoles, and mobile devices.

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A Roundup of CES Home Automation and Apple Accessory Announcements

CES is a big, messy spectacle that has everything from vaporware and products you didn’t know you needed – and probably don’t – to truly cool new gadgets. We’ve been following the announcements this week and have rounded up a collection of the most interesting and promising gear we’ve seen so far. Many of these products have not shipped yet, so we haven’t had an opportunity to try them, but these are gadgets we will be watching closely throughout 2018 and that are likely to turn up again on MacStories later this year. CES doesn’t end until Friday, so be sure to check back for updates on any additional announcements that catch our eyes.

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Automating Your Holiday Lights Inside and Out

It’s easy to get carried away with elaborate and expensive home automation projects when you’re just starting out. A better place to begin though, is with a simple, temporary setup that doesn’t cost a lot but will still give you a glimpse of some of the conveniences of home automation without making a big commitment. When I heard that iHome had introduced a reasonably-priced outdoor smart plug, I knew immediately that it and some holiday lights would make an excellent home automation starter project.

This is by no means a Clark Griswold-level undertaking. My family’s holiday decorations are fairly simple. In the front yard, we put up lights in the bushes and on the columns on either side of our front door. Inside, we have a Christmas tree in our living room with lights. The first step was to put up the outdoor lights the weekend after Thanksgiving on what turned out to be a mercifully warm day.

After the lights were up and working, I plugged them into the iHome’s iSP100 Outdoor SmartPlug, which I connected to an outdoor outlet near my front door. The iSP100 is about as simple as you can imagine. It has a short cord attached to a plastic box that holds its electronics. One end plugs into a standard US outdoor electrical outlet, and the other end takes two or three-pronged electrical devices.

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Amazon Announces Multi-Room Music for Echo Devices

In a press release today, Amazon announced the newest feature addition to its Echo devices:

Amazon today announced an all-new Alexa feature that lets you control and synchronize music across multiple Amazon Echo devices in your home. Starting today, you can target music to a specific Echo device or a group of devices—just ask. Soon, this ability will be extended to control multi-room music on other connected speakers using simply your voice.

The feature is currently only available on Echo devices, but Amazon has also announced a couple new tools to help expand Alexa-powered audio to other speakers. There’s a new Alexa Voice Service SDK that device makers can adopt to enable their speakers to play music in sync with Echo devices. That SDK will be made available early next year. And there is also a new set of Connected Speaker APIs, available today, which allow third-party speakers to be controlled via an Alexa-enabled device.

It should be noted that multi-room audio is only available through a handful of music services. Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn are available today, while Spotify and SiriusXM support is coming soon.

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