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Amazon Makes It Easier to Use iTunes, Spotify With Its Echo Speaker

Sometimes Amazon works well with rival services. Still has a way to go in this case.

Amazon via YouTube
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Amazon has made it easier to play music that doesn’t come from Amazon on Echo, its not-yet-officially-released connected speaker. But not that much easier.

While a Saturday update brought voice control support for three third-party music services to the intelligent talking speaker, it didn’t fully integrate them. So if you want to use Echo’s voice control to navigate music from Spotify, iTunes or Pandora, you must first pair it with a device that has those services. That’s an upgrade from an earlier iteration of Echo, which only let you turn music services on and off after pairing.

So now it’s easier to jam out with your mom and dad to some rock music.

It’s puzzling why Amazon hasn’t integrated third-party music services into Echo’s software, as Sonos has for its connected speakers. For now, Echo works best with Amazon’s own music, as well as Web radio options from iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

This strategy might make a bit more sense if Amazon never integrated rival services into its devices. But that’s not the case. Amazon’s Fire tablets, for instance, work with Netflix, Pandora and Spotify, all of which compete with its in-house services. Why isn’t the company taking a similar approach with Echo?

Here’s Amazon’s email explaining its latest update to Echo, which is still only available to customers who request an invitation:

Dear Amazon Customer,

We hope you’re enjoying Echo. We’re working hard to add many of the features you’ve asked for, and we would like to update you on two new features.

Voice control for Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora: You can now enjoy hands-free voice control for these popular music services. To get started, simply connect your phone or tablet to Echo by saying “Alexa, pair my device.” After you start playing your music, you can easily control it by saying the wake word and: play, pause, stop, next, or previous.

Simon Says: You’ve likely heard some of Echo’s jokes—now there’s another way to have fun with Echo. You can get Echo to repeat whatever you have in mind by starting with “Alexa, Simon says…” Here’s a fun tip: you can covertly use the remote control from another room to get Echo to repeat what you say and surprise your family.

In addition to these new features, we’ve made numerous improvements based on your feedback. We have increased response speed and accuracy for many of your questions, expanded coverage of facts from Wikipedia, and added new spelling words and definitions. The companion app is now available on iOS and Android 5.0+, and you can now use the app to bulk delete items from your to-do and shopping lists. And we are just getting started.

Thanks for your feedback so far, it’s been immensely helpful. Keep sharing your thoughts on what else we can do to make Echo even better—you can always provide feedback through the Echo app.

The Amazon Echo Team

And here’s a four-minute Echo infomercial from Amazon. If you’re like me, you’ll assume after the first few seconds that this video is going to turn into a Mr. Show/Too Many Cooks-style parody. And then you realize that of course it won’t do that, because Amazon doesn’t really have a sense of humor.* The whole point of this spot is to sell a new tech device and Amazon has gone with this straightahead squaresville delivery because it works. But then you keep watching and you think: Certainly there’s going to be some kind of self-conscious wink at the viewer, right?


* Exception that proves the rule.

This article originally appeared on

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