Back in early January, Huawei released the Mate 9 smartphone in the United States with a price tag of $599. To some, the Mate 9 came with unremarkable specs including a 5.9-inch 1080p display and a 2.4GHz Kirin 960 octa-core SoC with 4GB of RAM. However, the feature that arguably got the most attention was Huawei’s intention to bring Amazon Alexa integration to the Android device.
Today, Huawei is following up on its promise by delivering an over-the-air (OTA) update for the Mate 9 which adds Alexa integration, albeit in a somewhat neutered form. For starters, you’ll need to have both the Huawei Alexa app and the Amazon Alexa app installed to get up and running. And that leads us to the first major drawback of this functionality — you have to have the Huawei Alexa app open and press the microphone button to invoke Alexa. So, you can’t simply call out to your smartphone on the other side of the room to order a set of headphones from Amazon or have dinner delivered with Prime Now.
At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be much different than how Alexa has been integrated into the new Amazon shopping app for iOS. In that case, an iPhone or iPad user needs to have the Amazon app open in order to access the power of Alexa. In other words, Huawei’s solution still isn’t hands-free. With devices like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot — which are always plugged into a wall outlet — invoking Alexa is as simple as calling out “Alexa” and then adding your query.
According to Huawei, it is working to Amazon to integrate voice keywords for Alexa, and that support may come at a later date.
For now, you can control your smart home devices, place orders on Amazon, check on your order status, get weather updates and catch up on what’s happening in the news. However, you won’t have access to the Amazon Music library (something that is possible with the Amazon iOS app). What at first seemed like a great addition to the Mate 9 now seems a bit deflating; at least until Huawei can work with Amazon to at least meet feature parity with its iOS counterpart and enable true hands-free interaction with Alexa.
If you’d like to give Alexa a spin on your Huawei Mate 9, the OTA update will be available later this afternoon.