It seems like every week there’s another article running down the feature set of the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Of course, at the end of the article, the author states which one she likes better. Well, this week they’re at it again, but this time it seems that Amazon may have one-upped Google Home. What feature did Amazon release to challenge Google Home? It wasn’t Petlexa, although if real, that would be a fun one. Instead, it was something that many Echo users have been waiting for -- the ability to use a skill without enabling it first.
Why is using a skill without needing to enable it first such a game changer? For starters, there are more than 10,000 skills, which you can peruse either at amazon.com/alexaskills or on the Alexa app. In the past, if you had an interest in using one, you’d first have to know exactly what the skill’s name is and then say “Alexa, enable [skill name]”. While this would allow you to finally take advantage of the skill, it required the user to know the exact skill name in order to first enable and then subsequently interact with the skill.
Enter Amazon’s update. With its latest update a user can ask to use a skill, without even knowing what the skill name is. The Amazon Echo is smart enough to then know what you’re trying to do, and will guide you through the process of finding the skill that makes the most sense for you to use, based on your request. For example, say you wanted to order a pizza. Before this week you’d have to have already enabled the Domino’s, Pizza Hut or other pizza skill. Now you can say “Alexa, order a pizza” and she will respond with:
“Looks like you’re trying to order a pizza. If you’ve already enabled a skill such as Domino’s or Pizza Hut, say Alexa, open Domino’s or Alexa, open Pizza Hut. Otherwise, go to the Alexa app, tap on skills then search for the skill you would like to use.”
As you can see, she’s trying to guide you to make a choice, instead of requiring you to know exactly what to say. It’s a huge step forward.
Let’s say that you did know the name of the skill and what you wanted to do with it. The process has now been streamlined, since as mentioned above, you no longer have to enable the skill first, before using it. For example, you can now say “Alexa, ask Daily Affirmation for my affirmation”. After a slight pause, she will respond with the answer. And when you look up the skill, you’ll see that the skill has now been enabled.
The best part about this new enhancement is that a user now has immediate access to more than 10,000 skills, without having to think. Contrast that with Google Home, which as of this writing was offering up approximately 150 Conversation Actions, and it’s clear that Amazon is still comfortably in the lead when it comes to #VoiceFirst.