Ever wanted to check your email on an Alexa device? Now you can.
On Monday, Amazon announced some new Alexa capabilities. Chief among them was the ability to read and delete email. The company also is enabling location-based reminders and routines (tied to the smartphone Alexa app) and other incremental local search improvements. However the email capabilities are the most compelling of the announcements.
Works with Gmail and Outlook. In order to access email on Alexa, users need to add their email accounts under “settings” in the Alexa app. The “calendar” setting will update to “email + calendar.” It currently works with Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail and Live.com. You have to choose the account and sign in with your password.
Once accounts are linked, you’re supposed to be able to “read, compose, send and permanently delete” email. However the compose function wasn’t working. When I asked Alexa to “compose” or “send a new email,” it responded “I’m not quite sure how to help you with that.”
It worked well, however, when I asked it to read email.
Alexa will read the sender and subject line. Then it asks whether you want to “read, reply, delete, archive or next.” If you ask Alexa to read the email, it will read you the full text of the email. On an Echo Show, with a screen, it will also show you the subject line and sender but it doesn’t show the full email text or images.
I found it was a quick way to get through and delete unwanted emails. You can also reply easily. Alexa will read back your reply and ask if you want to send. There’s also an option to include a signature that says “sent via Alexa.”
Why you should care. Email marketers should pay attention to this update. Reading email is another useful feature for Alexa devices that will provide more utility for owners. If this should gain widespread adoption it would put more pressure on marketer’s email subject lines and copy. Most users won’t see any text or images (though Show users will see a sender name and subject line) and will have more limited information to determine whether to save or delete.
Marketers will have a more constrained audio canvas to grab attention and avoid deletion. The key will be to prevent deletion for later consumption on a desktop computer or smartphone. And now that Amazon has done this, expect Google Home to match the feature fairly soon.