Amazon has now expanded Alexa's SMS functions by allowing users to send texts to any phone, rather than just limiting them to messaging other people via the Alexa app.
However, the expanded SMS features only work for Android users, so iOS folks are out of luck with this one, unfortunately. Also, they must have the Alexa app installed. To begin sending SMS texts, open the Alexa app, navigate over to the Conversations tab, then choose Contacts, then My Profile, and toggle the Send SMS feature on. For now, Amazon isn't saying if the new feature will cross over to iOS devices.
Alexa Enables SMS: Some Caveats
A few things to keep in mind: requesting Alexa to send a message will trigger the device to first attempt to send messages through the Alexa app by default, assuming the recipient has it installed and properly set up. It will only send via SMS if that option is unavailable. But asking it to send a "text" will instantly trigger SMS functions.
Also, texting 911, participating in group messages, sending MMS, won't work with the new feature. There's only so much one can do when they can't actually see chat bubbles. Anyway, this feature could still be useful for when, say, one needs to quickly send an SMS to a friend that they're heading out the door.
Users who want to disable SMS features can do so by going to their contact card in the Alexa app and toggling it off.
Competing With The HomePod?
Amazon's rollout of the new feature is great timing, considering the launch of the Apple HomePod — which allows the ability to send iMessage and SMS messages via Siri — is just days away. This is perhaps a preemptive strike by Amazon to make its Echo lineup much more appealing than the Cupertino brand's first attempt at smart speakers.
It's an exciting period for smart speakers in general, with Amazon leading the race, Google trying — and succeeding — to catch up, and Apple just entering. It remains to be determined whether Apple's $349 HomePod speaker will be successful, but industry competition is always a good thing for consumers.
SMS texting should be rolling out now to all Amazon devices that are Alexa-enabled and support messaging and calling, though the new feature isn't available yet on third-party Alexa speakers.
Thoughts about Amazon Alexa? Would you use it to send SMS? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!