Amazon Alexa is adding a feature that will make it way more useful than Siri or Google Assistant

Key Points
  • Amazon announced new developer tools on Tuesday
  • They'll allow products with Alexa, such as the Echo, to read out notifications to users
  • Third party apps aren't able to do this with Google Assistant or Apple's Siri yet
David VanderWaal, vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA, left, and Michael George, vice president of Alexa, Echo, and Appstore at Inc., speak about the Amazon Alexa partnership with the LG InstaView Door-In-Door smart refrigerator
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon announced on Tuesday that its Alexa smart digital assistant will soon be able to read out notifications from any device with Alexa installed, including the Echo.

Alexa is the first to get this sort of functionality, and it's one that Siri and Google Assistant still lack. Owners of the Amazon Echo will soon be able to walk in the front door and ask it to read out any notifications from various third parties, such as the latest headlines from The Washington Post or weather threats from AccuWeather. (Imagine if you could just place your iPhone or Android phone on the counter and ask it to do the same.)

This functionality will require developers to use new tools that Amazon announced on Tuesday, including the Alexa Voice Service and Alexa Skills Kit, which will be available soon. That means that the scope for the sorts of notifications users can expect is really only limited by what developers decide to add.

If a financial services app tracks specific stock movements, for example, you might soon be able to ask Alexa for notifications related to your portfolio, like a quick overview of how an index or stock performed. Or perhaps for notifications you received from Facebook or Twitter or your email account.

The function will work relatively similar to Amazon Alexa's new voice calling feature, which allows users to ask Alexa on an Amazon Echo to read out voice messages left by other Alexa users. A green notification light spins around the top of the Echo showing a user that there's a voice message; the same light will be used as a notification indicator for third-party apps.

In some ways, this can be thought of as the smart answering machine of the future. Once upon a time we walked in the house and pressed play on our answering machines to hear voice messages left by people trying to reach us. Now, when Amazon rolls out this new feature, we'll be able to tap into Echo and other Alexa-enabled products to listen to voice messages left by other Alexa users, notifications from apps and more.

Amazon said the function will start rolling out in the coming months.