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How to use Alexa with an Android phone

Amazon has brought Alexa to all Android devices. Here's how to get her on your phone.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Over the years, Alexa has popped up in a number of places we would never have expected it before -- in refrigerators, carsthermostats, televisions and even lamps. But it's taken longer for Amazon's handy personal assistant to arrive on our pockets.

Last year, Amazon made Alexa accessible from every iOS device by adding it to the Amazon Shopping app. Then Huawei added Alexa to its Mate 9 phone. And HTC updated the HTC U11 to make Alexa the primary digital assistant.

Now all Android phones have access to Alexa. Here's how to use it.

alexa-on-android
Taylor Martin/CNET

How to use Alexa from your Android phone

Surprisingly, there are multiple ways you can access Amazon's digital assistant from your Android phone. Regardless of how you summon Alexa from your phone, here are some things you might say:

  • "Reorder paper towels."
  • "Track my package."
  • "Play my Flash Briefing."
  • "Play Stuff You Should Know."
  • "Read Ready Player One."
  • "What's the weather like?"
  • "Turn on the office lights."
  • "Tell August to lock the front door."
  • "Open Big Sky."
alexa-in-alexa-app-2
Taylor Martin/CNET

Alexa app

An update at the beginning of 2018 brought Alexa into the one place it should have been all along: The Alexa app. Now when you open the app, the Alexa symbol is located in the center of the tool bar at the bottom of the app. Tapping this will cue up the assistant just as it would when you say the wake word to an Alexa speaker.

Amazon Shopping app

The first place Alexa was available on Android was the Amazon Shopping app. When you open the app, you'll see a microphone icon in the upper right corner, above the search bar. Before, this was simply a voice search function that you could use to find stuff to buy or track your orders.

Now when you tap the microphone icon, you can access the full power of Alexa, all from within the Amazon Shopping app. You can do things like stream music from Amazon Music, listen to your audiobooks (or have Alexa read your Kindle books to you), control your smart home, listen to the news and so on. You can also enable skills to play games, get more in-depth weather and much more.

amazon-shopping-alexa-android
Taylor Martin/CNET

In essence, it's nearly a full preview of what Alexa can do. You won't be able to stream music, podcasts or radio from third-party streaming services such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn or Pandora. But the main difference between using Alexa within the Amazon Shopping app and from an Alexa speaker is the lack of a wake word in the app. 

The first time you tap the microphone icon, you'll be met with a brief informational card about Alexa. Tap Try Alexa. After Alexa is turned on, tapping the microphone will automatically cue up the voice assistant, and you can begin speaking a command. If you don't issue a command within a second or so, Alexa will timeout.

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Amazon Music app

Amazon truly wants Alexa to be ubiquitous and available everywhere. The assistants presence in the Amazon Music app is evidence of that. When you open the app, you'll be prompted to get started with Alexa and have to give the app permission to access the device microphone. Once you do, with the app open, just say, "Alexa." The assistant will fire up just like it would with your smart speakers. The idea is that you can control your music hands-free, but you can also issue almost any command or queue up skills from within the Amazon Music app.

Set Alexa as the default assistant

On Android, you can also set Alexa as the default digital assistant (replacing Google Assistant). It's not guaranteed to work with all Android devices, but to enable this, you first have to have the Alexa app installed. Next, open Settings and navigate to Assist app. Select Amazon Alexa. This won't work with hands-free activation, however, and it will prevent the "Hey, Google" wake phrase from working. Instead, you will need to long press on the home button to summon Alexa after you set her as the default assistant on Android.