New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

  • New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Alexa, which powers Amazon's popular home automation device Echo, has gained a growing following over the past two years for its ability to answer questions, turn on lights, and order goods from Amazon.com.

Amazon has unveiled reminders and named timers for Alexa, its powerful digital assistant that resides inside of the Echo line of smart speakers and some other smart devices. However, Amazon's Echo speakers remain our favourites right now.

Amazon is constantly updating Alexa with new skills, ranging from the mundane to the critical-reminders and lists being the latter.

Both features are relatively minor updates, but they reflect the increasingly broad scope of Amazon's Alexa as it broadens its reach throughout the home. What's more interesting are the impressive numbers of users who are getting the most out of their smart speakers, and actively engaging with the newest features.

The update could also give early clues on what to expect from the next iPhone, which is due to be announced in September, marking the device's tenth anniversary.

Read our Echo tips and tricks guide to find out about the best hidden features and Alexa easter eggs. That said, no one outside of Amazon actually knows how many Alexa speakers the company sells because Amazon doesn't report hardware unit sales with its earnings. Reminders and named timers are ready for U.S. users now, with a wider rollout to Germany and the United Kingdom coming in the next few weeks. Considering how common and useful setting a timer is, the addition is one that should've been available since Alexa's inception.

Also new: You can now tell Alexa to set a reminder for you - I just told her to remind me at noon the roof inspector is coming. Active reminders can be tracked within the Alexa app. Now you can set named timers that will also tell you why you set the alarm in the first place. With Echo, there's no need to search for your phone just to check the time. With this update, you'll no longer need someone to remind you to pay your credit card bill.

The middle of the chart is less interesting, with things like timers and reminders being expectedly somewhat-used features. For example, you could ask "Alexa, how much time is left on my tea timer" and have that specific countdown detailed.