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Hands-On

Updated Reverb app tries to bring Alexa to the iPhone and Mac

While examining Reverb, AppleInsider determines Alexa in name only is no Alexa at all. The new app aims to bring Amazon's personal assistant to the Mac, but in our tests it fell short.




Alexa is Amazon's equivalent of Siri and it - or she - lives in the company's Echo and Dot devices. Now Reverb for Amazon Alexa 2.0.2 wants you to be able to use Alexa on your Mac and the new version does bring a significant new feature. It works. Some of the time, just not all of the time and not for the main reason you'd use Alexa for in the first place.

When we first tried Reverb, it didn't actually do anything meaningful, or work very well at all. The updated version 2.0.2 still has its moments of failing to notice when you're talking, or when you stop.




However, this was never going to be a serious application: it isn't made by Amazon and you're not going to order any products over it. So, Reverb is really a way to find out what you think of Alexa without buying a new device.

The prevailing wisdom is that Alexa is superior to Siri —but your mileage may vary and so might your need for privacy. But, if you wait to hear about Amazon's sales figures you're going to wait a long time.

All you can be reasonably sure of is that Amazon hasn't sold remotely as many devices as Apple has sold iPhones. So, with millions of more people using Siri than using Alexa and the Echo, Amazon's assistant is going to get fewer criticisms by volume.

Consequently the only way you can really assess Alexa and whether it's any use to you is to try out the service and Reverb does give you a flavor of how it all works.

When it does.

With the real Alexa, a genuine boon is how well its microphones hear you so just calling out 'Hey, Alexa' across the room will get you a quick response. With Reverb, you have to launch the app, then click and hold down the mouse while you ask whatever you want to ask.




There's not a great deal you can ask. You could copy the TV ads and ask Alexa what the height of Mount Everest is. You could ask one of the funnies that it's programmed to josh with you about. So "Alexa, surely you can't be serious?" does indeed get you the Leslie Nielsen's "Airplane" response of "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."

Certainly, you can ask Alexa what the weather is today and that's the one thing which worked every single time we tried - except it always told us it was cloudy in Seattle when we're some thousands of miles away from there.

You could ask Reverb to set a timer for you and it may very well do it. Or might not. Depends, really —just on what, we're not sure.

What it definitely can't do is order anything from Amazon for you, which might be a good thing. What it definitely can do is make you conscious of the irony when you ask Siri on your Mac to "Search the web for 'what can I say to Alexa?'".

Reverb 2.0.2 is free on the App Store and we're not shocked. For the Mac, Reverb 2.0.2 requires macOS 10.12.2, is also free, and worth every cent.