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Amazon Updates the Alexa App

Amazon put a fresh coat of paint on the Alexa App for both Android and iOS with in my opinion a big emphasis on home automation and control. While this new design does not add any revolutionary functionality it is absolutely a nice refresher and makes things easier to use for controlling your home.

The first thing you will notice in the updated Alexa App is that the Smart Home section is missing from the hamburger menu. When I first launched the new app I was confused right away. I had seen screenshots of what the smart home section of the new app looked like and eagerly wanted to see it but could not find it. Fear not because the Smart Home section now has its own icon on the main launcher bar at the bottom of the Alexa App. Clicking on the house in the lower right corner brings you to your devices and from here you can access all of your Smart Home devices as well as your Echo & Alexa devices, your groups, and your Smart Home Skills.

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Once in the new Devices section of the Alexa App, you will immediately notice that your Smart Home Devices are categorized and represented by icons at the top of this page. This is a huge improvement over the long list of devices you used to have to scroll through which could be very cumbersome once you get north of fifty devices. What I do not like however is that Amazon determines what groups things go into and while most of the time this will not be an issue, I would like the ability to change group assignments. As it stands right now you can only change the device type on certain categories of devices, I am hopeful that in future revisions of the Alexa App Amazon will add this functionality and continue to improve upon the base that it has built.

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Clicking into a category in the Alexa App brings you to an almost card based list of your devices. This page reminds me a lot of the Google Now app when it first launched only with a dark theme. The more I think about it it is also a lot like the Phillips Hue App in the way it lays out your devices which is nice as I would love for nothing more than a predetermined theme and layout guidelines for mobile apps so that everything has a similar look and feel but that will never happen.

One thing I have noticed since updating to the latest version of the Alexa App is that some of my devices are showing as offline which is not the case when I look at them in SmartThings so I will have to play around with that and see what I come up with. I have actually been meaning to remove all of my devices from Alexa and start fresh for some time so this might be what puts me over the top. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the devices that are showing offline as they span multiple categories and some of them are even virtual devices in SmartThings so not sure how a virtual device would be offline. This is a very fresh app redesign that appears to be a major overhaul so I guess some issues are to be expected and I am sure I will get them ironed out quick enough.

What I really like about the new design and Smart Home focus of the Alexa App is that speaker groups are also more prominently displayed and accessible right from the same device page. No more having to jump to different sections of the app depending on what you were trying to set up. Having everything device related in one section really does make the Alexa app easier to use and makes managing your devices and setting up your Smart Home easier.

I am a big fan of dark themed apps. While I liked the true black used in the last Amazon Alexa App this newer greyish black is nice as well. I probably would have worked in some true black perhaps as a secondary color in the card style device lists but I am in no way a UI design person and can only talk from what I think I might like. I do commend Amazon on sticking with the dark theme however and that is something that I wish more companies would do. I mean do any of you actually like looking at white screens?

Overall I am excited about the new Amazon Alexa App. While the Alexa App is not something I use much and I think that is probably the case for most people it is nice to see Amazon still putting time into polishing it up nicely and giving us a refreshing look at it.

What are your thoughts about the new Amazon Alexa App? Let me know in the comments below.

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Mike View All

I am passionate about the IoT and connected devices. Using connectivity to automate our lives will empower civilization to achieve greatness.

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