As of April 2019, Amazon had over 90,000 functions ("skills") available for users to download on their Alexa-enabled devices,[30] a massive increase from only 1,000 functions in June 2016.[31] Microsoft's AI Cortana became available to use on Alexa enabled devices as of August 2018.[32] In 2018, Amazon rolled out a new "Brief Mode," wherein Alexa would begin responding with a beep sound rather than saying, "Okay," to confirm receipt of a command.[33] On December 20, 2018, Amazon announced a new integration with the Wolfram Alpha answer engine,[34] which provides enhanced accuracy for users asking questions of Alexa related to math, science, astronomy, engineering, geography, history, and more.
Both devices work with a variety of smart home lights, thermostats, plugs, and more, but Amazon’s Echo definitely works with a greater range of brands and products. The key difference is that with Apple’s HomePod, the compatible devices need to be HomeKit-enabled, where Echo-compatible smart home products don’t (necessarily). If you’ve already got some connected home products installed, you can check and see which platform it’s compatible with.
Given Amazon's strong belief in voice technologies, Amazon announced a US$100 million venture capital fund on June 25, 2015. By specifically targeting developers, device-makers and innovative companies of all sizes, Amazon aims at making digital voice assistants more powerful for its users.[177] Eligible projects for financial funding base on either creating new Alexa capabilities by using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) or Alexa Voice Service (AVS).[178]
From there, you can ask Alexa all sorts of questions: You can ask her to play music, ask about the weather, or ask her to convert measurements for you. You can also use her to shop for products on Amazon or to control other smart home devices in your home. A number of third-party apps and services work with Alexa, so you can do things like order a Domino’s pizza, or ask for the latest Washington Post headlines. Amazon calls each of these different capabilities “skills.” One of her newest skills is the ability to work as an intercom system in your home.
The flash briefing skill submission process provides the steps to submit descriptive information about your skill and configure one or more feeds for each skill. You can then test your skill in your Alexa-enabled device and provide additional information about how you handle customer data and privacy. Once you've provided this information, you can submit your flash briefing skill for certification and use by customers.
These devices are first and foremost, a speaker. If you plan to use the device to play your favorite tunes on the regular, Apple’s HomePod may make more sense. In its WWDC keynote, Apple really played up the HomePod’s audio chops—and it’s more expensive price tag would also suggest that it’s got higher quality drivers and woofers inside. However, we have not tested this in person, so this is speculative (for now).
In the actual Settings section of this menu, you can customize your Alexa experience further. You can manage Amazon Shopping notifications, adjust what content you want in your daily flash briefing of the day’s headlines, and choose what sports teams you care about for your sports update. You can also enter in your home or work address to get traffic updates for your daily commute, and sync with your calendar (Gmail, Outlook, or iCloud) to know what’s up next on the day’s schedule.

**UPDATE** I discussed this issue with Customer Service who, by the way, have the best Rep's in the world. Their engineers reviewed my data and concluded the sounds being recorded were coming from a TV in the room. At first it was hard to agree with them but after I listened over and over to a few of the recordings it was apparent it was from the TV. My Bad!! I'm back to being an Echo fan. 😊

Until recently, Siri’s only been available on an iOS device, Mac, or (in limited form) through your Apple TV. However, in June, Apple debuted its true Amazon Echo home competitor: the HomePod. Unfortunately, if you want one now you’ll have to wait—it’s not shipping until December. Still, we can make some comparisons about the two lines of products, as well as how Alexa and Siri compare as disembodied virtual assistants.
Google and Amazon each have different strengths here. Google, naturally, has the ability to answer some pretty darn complex questions—it is Google, after all. Alexa does better with more simple queries. Amazon’s AI, thanks to its third-party skills, can actually respond (or act) on a wider variety of requests than you can with Google’s assistant, though. So if you want your smart speaker to be more of an actual assistant—performing tasks for you, ordering things on Amazon for you—Alexa is what you want.
Amazon Alexa, known simply as Alexa,[2] is a virtual assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers developed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news.[3] Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users are able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing "skills" (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps such as weather programs and audio features).
Now I am still learning about this product. Every new thing I try I am pleasantly surprised. I plan to get at least a smart home door lock and thermostat to use with it in the future, and several light switches. I am no great fan of the "RING DOORBELL" (due to frequently needed battery recharging) at this point, but I understand Amazon has purchased that company and will soon have an interface app available to use with the "Ring System" If you want to keep up with the march of technology, this device is probably your best doorway to that end, since Amazon is committed to pursuing it. Others may drop out along the way. (NEW) I made a hands free phone call to my son this moring as a test of the phone capabilities. Sound on my end was like he was in the room. The Alexa app and it's capabilities are evolving technologies. Features will be added. (Mine did an update download while playing music) Don't be disappointed. It is attractively packed, and very capable, but the "instructions" are not detailed and are sketchy. Lean about it online as I did before you purchase it. Read as many reviews as your eyes and attention span will allow, and take the plunge! An education awaits you!
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