Mobile Trends

Amazon Alexa Has Got Skills — But Does Anyone Care?

Amazon’s Echo and (little sister) Dot smart speakers must be the runaway technology success of recent years. In a little less than four years, the virtual home assistant has gone from something we never knew we needed to a must-have device.

Alexa – the smart speaker’s smooth-talking operating system has become a familiar sound in homes around the world. Despite this huge success, according to press reports, app developers have yet to hit pay dirt on the platform.

Got Skills

There are currently around 80,000 apps (or “skills” as Amazon prefers to call them) available for Amazon’s smart speaker and, like the smartphone app eco-system before it, developers aren’t letting their imaginations limit what you can do with the device.

The problem is, while developers’ imaginations are running wild, Alexa users just don’t appear to be that imaginative.

The vast majority of smart speaker users’, employ their devices to listen to music, set alarms and, at a push, turn their bedroom lights off. Alexa might be capable of doing many different things but at the end of the day, it’s a glorified radio/alarm without the benefit of a visible clock.

Even Amazon’s dominance in eCommerce circles isn’t driving vast numbers of people to do their shopping via voice. Sure, you can order a pizza or an audiobook very easily via your smart speaker – but how many people are ordering fast fashion or booking flights via the device?

This isn’t to say the smart speaker isn’t useful – but much like Amazon’s previous runaway tech success — the Kindle — it impacts will only be seen across certain niches. For everything else, it seems, people will continue to rely on their smartphones.

Note: I have little doubt the smart speaker has helped increase the popularity of audiobooks, online radio and fuelled the resurgence of the podcast. All of which, by the way, is also available on your smartphone.

The Smartphone Success Story

By the time the smartphone app store had reached four-years of age, both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store had more than half-a-million apps. These have continued to grow at a phenomenal rate with the Play Store now boasting of more than 2.6 million apps.

The reason for this is quite simple. The smartphone just solves so many more problems than a voice-powered device. Think about the way you can engage with a smartphone (voice, touch, vision) and it completely eclipses the smart speaker. While voice might appear to be a more natural way of communicating with a device (and it’s certainly incredibly useful on a smartphone) — when it’s the only option available it has its limitations.

In many ways, the smart speaker (as a device) when compared to the smartphone represents a bit of a regression in terms of technology.

“In many ways, the smart speaker (as a device) when compared to the smartphone represents a bit of a regression in terms of technology.”

Learn more about how voice enabled technology is doing in the app eco-system:

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The Old New

Voice might be winning all the headlines as the latest must-have technology — and as a vital tool in the smartphone eco-system — we won’t argue with that. However, it’s worth remembering that just because something is shiny and new doesn’t mean it will replace tried and tested systems.

Note: Speak to anyone involved in email marketing and they will tell you about numerous technologies that have popped up over the years and were supposedly going to replace email. Most of these so-called killer applications have been lost to the mists of time. The ones that have survived (for example social media) have somehow strengthened the email eco-system. The moral of the story is perhaps, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. In many ways, voice is to smartphones as social media was to email. It makes the smartphone’s proposition even stronger.

Should You Develop a Voice-Enabled App?

Sure, why not?

If you have the time and resources to add to your portfolio of apps, and no expectations of a quick return – it’s always a good idea to extend the range of your apps and Amazon’s virtual assistants might be a great place to explore.

But if time and resources are limited – don’t let the smooth-talking virtual assistant fool you. Your smartphone app has to be your number one priority.

Talk to Digital Turbine

Talk to the app marketing experts at Digital Turbine to learn how we can help you reach a more engaged audience via their smartphones.