Amazon is rolling out a software update for its 2017 tablets and, among other things, it adds support for using the Alexa voice service without touching your tablet.
Or rather, it expands that feature. It had previously been available for the 7th-gen Fire HD 10 tablet as long as it was running Fire OS 5.5 or later. Now it’s also available for 7th-gen Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets running Fire OS 5.6.1 or later.
Here’s how it works: you can enable or disable Alexa hands-free mode by tapping an icon in the Quick Settings panel (swipe down from the top of the screen to see it).
This basically lets you turn Amazon’s $50 and up tablets into Amazon Echo-style devices that you can interact with by voice even when the screen is off and you aren’t touching the tablet. Well, sort of.
There are a few restrictions to keep in mind:
- Alexa hands-free only works on the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 when the tablet is in use or plugged into a power source.
- It may not work on a low-power source either, like a USB port on a computer.
- Fire tablets don’t have far-field voice detection, which means you’ll need to be reasonably close to your device to talk to it.
Still, it’s nice to have the option of using Amazon’s voice assistant software without first having to unlock your tablet and press a button.
Amazon’s US support page doesn’t mention Fire OS 5.6.1 yet, but there are details about the update at Amazon.de and Amazon.jp has a download link if you want to sideload Fire OS 5.6.1 before an over-the-air update is pushed to your device.
Oh, and if you’ve previously installed the Google Play Store and other Google apps and services on a Fire 7 or Fire HD 8 and were worried that the next Fire OS update would cause them to stop working, a few folks at xda-developers who have already received the update and report that Google Play continues to work after Fire OS 5.6.1 is installed.
via Caschy’s Blog
I wasn’t aware of the need for the tablet to be plugged in. That probably explains why it’s been hit or miss for me–I have two tablets and share a power plug between them.
Edit: I just checked and my 10″ tablet does not need to be plugged in. I see your comment only pertained to the 7 and 8 inch models.
Glad to hear that Google Play services continues to work. Also glad you can disable the hands-free mode.
It’s off by default.
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