Amazon to end a special Alexa feature found on some Android phones

Amazon’s Alexa digital helper has proven itself to be a useful tool. But thanks to the less-than-enthusiastic reception for the Amazon Fire Phone back in 2014, Alexa has been an assistant without a smartphone to call its own. Still, Amazon has worked out some deals that allow users of certain Android phones to activate Alexa using a certain phrase. The digital assistant can be activated hands-free from any screen on these handsets, even the lock screen. And the Alexa app doesn’t even have to be open.
If you own one of these “Alexa Built-In” phones, you might have already received the bad news. According to GeekWire, Amazon is informing owners of these devices that it is shutting down the hands-free Alexa feature on March 31, 2023. Both iOS and Android users will still be able to ask Alexa to handle tasks when the Alexa app is open. And with the app open, users can still use Alexa hands-free.
The Alexa app is available on iOS from the App Store, and for Android devices from the Play Store.
In confirming the news about hands-free Alexa, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We regularly review our features to ensure we are investing in services that will delight customers, and have decided to suspend support for this feature.” The speaker added that continued sales of these models will be up to the individual phone manufacturers and noted that Amazon is “continuing to invest in the Alexa experience within the Alexa app to provide customers with a seamless way to access their favorite features and experiences.”
While the reason for Amazon’s decision is officially unknown, the company did say that updates to Android could have a negative impact on hands-free Alexa even before the cut-off date. And that might be a clue as to why Amazon has decided to end this feature as it seems concerned that Google will eliminate system-wide microphone access for the digital assistant.

In addition, Alexa is one of Amazon’s business units that have been hit by massive layoffs. Recently the company announced that it expected growth of only 2% to 8% for the current quarter and announced plans to lay off 10,000 workers. Business has been troublesome enough for Amazon that its shares have dropped nearly 45% since the beginning of the year.

Amazon’s website lists the following Android phones as offering Alexa hands-free:
  • OnePlus 10T 5G
  • OnePlus 10 Pro 5G
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
  • OnePlus 9
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • OnePlus 8
  • Motorola Edge (2022)
  • Sony Xperia 1
  • LG G8 ThinQ
  • Moto G7
If you have one of the above handsets and use Alexa hands-free, be prepared to leave the Alexa app open if you want that feature to continue to work starting next April. Even though the feature will be cut off starting on April 1st, it is no joke to those who prefer Alexa to Google Assistant.