Lenovo is working with Amazon to get the Alexa voice assistant into a range of Motorola smartphones, and in the process, looking to depose Google’s voice assistant technology.
The partners will first focus on developing an Alexa “Mod,” a block that will attach to a Moto Z modular handset. The companies will then integrate Alexa directly into a variety of Moto handsets and devices, Lenovo said during a press conference in Barcelona on Sunday.
The Moto Z is much like Google’s Project Ara, where individual parts like speakers and projectors can be added to boost the functionality of the handset.
The exact details of the Alexa Mod for Moto Z weren’t provided, but an onstage image showed a speaker that could hook up to the handset. It looked like a flatter and curved version of Amazon’s Echo or Echo Dot.
After the press conference, a spokesman clarified that the image was just a conceptual design, not a product. The final Alexa Mods for Moto Z will be announced and shipped later this year.
A blog entry on Moto’s website gives an idea of how Alexa will work on Moto Z. Users will be able to use Alexa to control a smart home, check news, or request a cab from Uber.
As the year progresses, there will be deeper integration of Alexa into a broader range of Moto smartphones. Users won’t need to press keys or unlock screens to speak or ask Alexa questions.
Essentially, the voice assistant will be continuously active, waiting to hear commands, for which the Moto phones will always need to be listening, much like the Echo or Echo Dot. That gives Alexa a distinct advantage over Google Now, for which phones need to be unlocked. The always-listening nature of Echo Dot, however, has disadvantages including privacy concerns.
Google Now will still be available on Moto smartphones, which run Android. But companies are now taking sides in the Alexa versus Google Assistant battle. For example, Nvidia has turned to Google Assistant as the voice assistant in its Shield TV boxes, introduced at CES.
Lenovo has already integrated Alexa into Smart Assistant, a prototype device it showed at CES that looked and functioned like Echo. Alexa was also integrated in a broad range of other gadgets and smart devices at CES. In addition, Amazon has integrated Alexa into its Fire TV products.