Amazon finally makes it easier to find skills for Echo
Like an app store, Alexa's skills are now organized by category with new search and refine features.
Amazon has been adding new “skills” for its Echo personal assistant almost as fast as developers can make them, but ask any Echo owner and chances are you’ll hear a common refrain: It’s impossible to browse and find new skills to bolster what Echo can do.
Amazon has finally overhauled the skills section of the Echo mobile app, putting all skills into 20 browsable categories and adding new search and refine tools, as well.
Along with the more user-friendly skills library, Amazon has announced that there are now more than 1,400 skills available for Echo (and its companion devices, Tap and Dot).
For the non-Echo user, skills are like apps for your smartphone or tablet that make Echo more useful by expanding Alexa’s capabilities. There’s a Jeopardy skill, for example, that lets you play a short game of the Jeopardy game show by talking to Echo. Brands and publishers including Kayak, NBC News, Capital One, Fitbit and StubHub have created skills for Alexa. Amazon says there are more than 10,000 registered developers working on skills.
Prior to this week’s overhaul of the Alexa app, all the available skills were dumped together with no discovery tools beyond basic pagination. Now, Echo users will find all the skills organized into 20 categories such as Connected Car, Smart Home, Shopping or Travel & Transportation. There’s also a search box and some skills are highlighted in featured sections like “Customer favorites” and “Skills trending this week.” There’s also a tab for Echo owners to see the skills they’ve already turned on. It’s a huge improvement. (To be fair, there was really nowhere to go but up. Imagine your smartphone without an app store; that’s pretty much what it was like.)
As this collection of skills expands, it’s imperative that Amazon continue to make them easier to find. It needs to do that to continue enticing developers to build new skills that expand what Echo/Alexa can do, and to entice consumers to buy and use Echo in the face of pending competition from Google Home and rumors that Apple will launch its own in-home device eventually.