Launched in 2014, Alexa became Amazon's digital assistant. Alexa has the ability to recognize speech, respond to requests, create calendar events, play music, and recite emails. In 2015, Amazon allowed Alexa to be compatible with non-Amazon products, making it even more successful. Consumers were once able to link their Gmail and Microsoft accounts to Alexa and, upon command, Alexa would read emails and delete them.
Amazon's sudden one-week notice
The notice came on Nov. 2 in an email from Amazon. "Beginning on November 8th, 2021, email access will no longer be supported for Alexa customers." The email also explained that email-related functions such as reciting, deleting, and moving would be disabled, and that customers would no longer be able to link their accounts. With the notice, anyone who originally opted for the email function would be logged out automatically.
The email added that "routines" and package tracking would also be removed. If a customer plans to receive a product from a non-Amazon company, they won't be able to use Alexa to track it. The only feature that remains is asking "Alexa, where is my stuff?", and that's for Amazon deliveries only.
Mixed feelings from Alexa users
On Reddit, users discussed Amazon's sudden change to email functions. Many commenters felt good about the change, though many happy comments weren't from actual Alexa consumers. Non-Alexa users claimed that having Alexa read emails to them would be too stimulating. It's uncertain if these sentiments were from users of Google Assistant, an Alexa rival.
However, there are a few customers that aren't happy with the change. Aside from losing a helpful feature, a main point of contention for customers was that the notice didn't come with enough time for adjustment. Other consumers mentioned the tool was especially useful when driving, or if an elderly family member needed to access their email with as little hassle as possible.
So why the sudden change by Amazon?
Priding itself for being technologically advanced and having over 40 subsidiaries (such as self-sufficient AmazonGo Grocery stores, Amazon publishing, and Whole Foods partnerships), Amazon seems to be taking a huge step backward by removing a tech feature from Alexa. TechHive requested clarification from Amazon regarding the change.
An unnamed Amazon spokesperson replied, saying, "We regularly evaluate the features and experiences available to customers and prioritize those that make customers’ lives easier and allow them to get the most out of their Alexa experience. As with everything we do, we will continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback."
While that appears to be a good enough reason, consumers are still making speculations, such as Amazon receiving pushback over privacy concerns. Some also believe that it has something to do with Gmail's new two-step authentication feature. In the meantime, people will have to get comfortable scrolling through their emails again.