Tech Guide

This is Amazon Alexa on a phone, and it isn’t threatening Siri anytime soon

CNBC: Huawei Alexa featured
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Amazon's Alexa is now available as a voice assistant on the Huawei Mate 9. It's the first smartphone in the United States to offer Alexa, an assistant that's otherwise only found on the Amazon Echo and Fire TV. It represents Amazon's intentions to make its AI available everywhere. But is it really that big of a deal? Will it give Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant a run for their money? Here's what you can do with Alexa on a smartphone.

Alexa is only available on the U.S. version of Huawei Mate 9 right now, an Android smartphone that sells for about $600 from retailers like Amazon. In this case, it exists as a separate application called “Huawei Alexa.”

Todd Haselton | CNBC

When you open the app you’re presented with a single button. Just tap it to ask whatever you want from Alexa. You can also get started by saying “Alexa,” but only if the app is open. You can perform the same tasks you would with an Amazon Echo at home.

CNBC: Huawei Alexa Main screen

Here are some ideas to get you started: Ask about the weather, turn on connected lights (if they’re already set up), check your calendar, ask random questions, listen to your Amazon Flash Briefing and more.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Alexa on smartphones works with American English, British English and German. You can bet support for other languages is coming.

CNBC: Huawei Alexa Languages

Here’s a trick: You can also launch Alexa by knocking and drawing on the screen. You need to configure this in the settings. It’s a clunky way to get Alexa up and running.

CNBC: Huawei Alexa Knock Draw
CNBC: Huawei Alexa Final
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Alexa works well on a smartphone. It was able to quickly answer a question about the weather and read me my daily news briefing. I even turned off my living room lights from work.

Still, it's not as good as Siri or Google Now for several reasons.

First, you can't just call up Alexa from across the room as you might with Google Now or Siri on newer iPhones. You have to manually launch the app. Also, while Siri and Google provide visual cues, like graphics that show the latest sports scores or the forecast, Amazon only provides answers through your phone's speakers. It would be better served by adding some eye candy.

Amazon is going to want to get this in as many places as possible, especially for folks who are used to having an Echo in the living room or Amazon Fire TV on their televisions. For folks who already use Siri or Google Assistant, however, Amazon's going to need to spice this up a lot more.

Maybe that's why it's making its debut on a phone that's probably only known among enthusiast circles.