Amazon ends special Alexa feature on some Android phones

Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant has proven to be a useful tool. But thanks to the less-than-enthusiastic reception for the Amazon Fire Phone in 2014, Alexa has been an assistant without a smartphone to call its own. Still, Amazon has made deals allowing 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 those “Alexa Built-In” phones, you may have already received the bad news. According GeekWire, Amazon is notifying owners of these devices that it is shutting down Alexa Hands-Free on March 31, 2023. iOS and Android users will still be able to ask Alexa to manage 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 App Store and for Android devices from Play store.
Confirming the news about Hands-Free Alexa, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We regularly review our features to ensure we’re investing in services that will delight customers, and have decided to discontinue support for this feature. ” The spokesperson added that continued sales of these models will be up to individual phone makers and noted that Amazon “continues to invest in the Alexa experience within the Alexa app to provide customers with a seamless way to access their favorite features and experiences”.
Although the reason for Amazon’s decision is officially unknown, the company said Android updates could negatively impact hands-free Alexa even before the deadline. And that might be a clue as to why Amazon decided to discontinue this feature as it seems concerned that Google will eliminate system-wide microphone access for the digital assistant.

Additionally, Alexa is one of the business units of Amazon that has been hit by mass layoffs. Recently, the company announced that it expects growth of only 2% to 8% for the current quarter and announced its intention to lay off 10,000 workers. Business has been troublesome enough for Amazon that its shares have fallen nearly 45% year-to-date.

The Amazon website lists the following Android phones as offering the Alexa hands-free kit:
  • 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 hands-free Alexa, be prepared to leave the Alexa app open if you want this feature to continue working from next April. Even though the feature will be cut from April 1, it’s no joke for those who prefer Alexa to Google Assistant.