AT&T on Friday will become the first US mobile carrier to let its customers dictate text messages to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant.
Alexa, which Amazon customers can access via the Echo and Echo Dot portable speakers, will be able to save mobile phone numbers and send text messages to a predetermined list of contacts.
As with any Alexa skill, you'll need to enable the AT&T texting feature via the Alexa website or mobile app, or by saying "AT&T Send Message" to your Echo speaker. Once enabled, you can add up to 10 frequent contacts to the skill and send them text messages—you can't send a text to just any number.
Echo's voice recognition is already leaps and bounds better than what your average smartphone can do, but it's unclear how the AT&T skill will handle errors or words Alexa doesn't understand. We'll know more once the skill goes live tomorrow, including whether or not Alexa will read your texts back to you before you send them. It's also worth noting that this is for sending messages only; Alexa won't alert you when you have an incoming text.
Competition in the smart home hub arena is heating up for Amazon, which was previously the sole entrant until Google released its Home speaker last month, powered by the Google Assistant. Alexa's main advantage is its skills—more than 3,000 of them—which in addition to AT&T messaging include everything from reading email to controlling lawn sprinklers.
Google Assistant, meanwhile, lacks any third-party API, which means outsiders can't write new hooks into it. That will change in December, so we could see more carriers support text messaging on both Google Home and Echo.