Amazon Echo's Alexa is getting push notifications, but they won't annoy you

A pulsing green light on your Echo device could soon mean there's breaking news—or your pizza's here.

An image of an Amazon Echo 2
Credit: Jon Phillips

Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, has more than 12,000 skills available, and in the coming weeks some of them will be able to send notifications to your Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices.

To start, just four skills will have notifications available including AccuWeather, JustEat, Life360, and The Washington Post. Shopping updates from Amazon's storefront are also coming presumably for item price tracking and the like. Amazon didn't say when notifications would go live for users other than it will happen "soon."

These notifications won't work the same as they do on your phone, where every app immediately wants to start buzzing. Instead, Alexa notifications have to be enabled by users on a per-skill basis.

When a notification arrives there will be a chime, and Echo devices will also have a pulsing green light. The smart speakers won't just start blurting out whatever the information is when a notification lands, either. Instead, users will have to say "Alexa, what did I miss?" or "Alexa, what are my notifications?" Then Alexa will fill them in on breaking news or weather updates.

Anyone who regrets enabling notifications will be able to get rid of them. Users can also temporarily stop notifications by putting Alexa into "do not disturb" mode via voice command or the Alexa app.

While notifications are starting small, Amazon will make the feature available to all developers in the coming months. At that point, Alexa fans can expect many more skills to be notifications-ready.

The impact on you at home: While it may sound handy to get notifications on your Echo device it really only makes sense for certain situations. To get your notifications, you still have to ask Alexa to give up the goods, which makes news and weather seem kind of pointless since you could just ask for them instead. That said, some skill notifications make all kinds of sense, including food delivery or Life 360's family location information. The key will be to figure out which skills really need notifications, and which ones you're better off using on an on-demand basis.

This story, "Amazon Echo's Alexa is getting push notifications, but they won't annoy you" was originally published by TechHive.

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    Amazon’s Echo is versatile and powerful; it's a terrific value all around. Read the full review

    Pros

    • Exceptional voice-recognition capabilities
    • Very fast and extremely responsive
    • Extremely versatile, offering music playback, connected-home control, weather and traffic reports, and much more
    • Very good app support, plus an IFTTT channel

    Cons

    • Inferior audio features compared to the least-expensive Sonos speaker
    • Flash feature would benefit from additional news sources
    • Can’t control Philips Hue lighting scenes
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