I love my BlackBerry. I also love my Alexa. Combine both and I’m a very happy camper.
Virtual Assistants are everywhere now. And they’re just getting better. My first experience with using one was on BlackBerry 10, and I would really only use it to send text messages while driving. Beyond that, an assistant was a non-starter for me. Then I discovered Amazon’s Alexa, and I was hooked.
Now, every phone platform already has an assistant already. You’ll see iPhone users calling out to Siri, you’ll see Android users walking around saying “Ok Google”, Windows Phone users (if you ever run across one) speak to a phone version of a video game character, and of course, the aforementioned assistant on BB10.
Of all the assistants I’ve tried, Google’s seems to be most capable on a phone. It understands me exceptionally well, and is quick. It’s amazingly quick. But it lacks personality, and nearly everything I ask it, results in something appearing on my phone. Really now, if I’m speaking to my phone, and reading or viewing from my phone, why am I speaking to my phone? I still just can’t seem to get the hang of this, and using the assistant (except when driving) just seems forced. For me, it’s just as quick, if not quicker to go to where I want on my phone and get the information myself, without ever speaking to Google.
Alexa is different. Alexa is nearly conversational. I have a few Amazon Alexa devices about my house, and I’ve grown accustomed to just speaking to Alexa, and having Alexa answer. Let’s be honest, the answers I get are not as full featured as what Google will give me, and there are several times that Alexa will tell me that she doesn’t have an answer. But when she does, she’s speaking to me, not showing me something on my phone, and that makes a big difference.
I’ve really come to depend on Alexa. And surprisingly it’s not in any of the ways which the platform is usually advertised for. I do not have an automated home. I’ve been refusing starting down this path, because I know how I get. I know that the first time I buy a smart lamp, it will set me down a path in which everything will be automated, and I will need to find a second job. I don’t have Alexa connected to my Amazon account for shopping. I won’t be ordering a pizza or an Uber through my Alexa.
I use Alexa for organization. When I suddenly remember that I need a gallon of milk, I don’t have to write it on a list, or grab my phone and look for an app, I just tell Alexa to add a gallon of milk to my shopping list, and it’s there. When something comes up I need to schedule, I’ll simply tell Alexa to add it to my schedule. I cannot tell you how convenient that is. Of course, these items show up immediately on my BlackBerry. My shopping list resides within the Alexa companion app within my BlackBerry, and the calendar entries show up on a synced Google calendar which of course, shows up within my BlackBerry Calendar. Alexa is also my voice activated DJ through using Pandora (that’s just my fave, there are a few streaming music options).
Sadly, Amazon’s devices aren’t really mobile. Even the Amazon Tap which is a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker still obviously requires a Wi-Fi connection. Luckily, there’s an app for that. You can find it in the Google Play Store.
Reverb is that app. Reverb brings Alexa to your Android powered BlackBerry phone. After installing the app, you log in to your Amazon account and the Reverb app on your phone appears within your Amazon Echo companion app as just another Echo device. Upon opening the app you’re presented with a circle with a microphone in it. Press the button, hold it, and speak, and the same Alexa you’re used to speaking to now comes right through your phone. Strangely enough, I don’t like the actual app itself. Having to press and hold the button seems a little old school for Alexa. But I don’t open the app anymore. Somewhere along the line, between the time I first installed the app, and this last week, they’ve added a widget to the app. This widget is perfection!
The same little circle with microphone sits wherever you place it on your homescreen. A simple tap, starts the app listening. You don’t need to hold the button when you speak. This is the functionality I wanted within the app. And now, I’m not digging in to the app when I want to add a task or a calendar appointment. Just a simple tap to my home screen, and a simple tap feels remarkably faster than the press and hold on the home button to be able to say OK Google.
If you’re a fan and user of Alexa, and want to carry the service with you, the Reverb app does an amazing job of bringing the experience to your BlackBerry. And if you don’t use the service, but would like to give it a real world test without purchasing the hardware, here’s a way to do so.
You can grab the Reverb app here.