’s 2019 Alexa skill of the year: A closer look

Amazon Alexa market Analysis

Earlier this week, announced their finalists for the Alexa skill of the year. We decided to take a look at these skills and give our own data-driven hot-takes on these finalists (all this data is US-based). You can learn more about the skills after our predictions. We can’t make an accurate prediction on who will win because we don’t know how the winners are chosen, but there are some clear favorites in our analysis/opinions.

Daily Dilemma: Not sure why this skill is on this list since it has no ratings or reviews. Cool that they got some recognition from though. (I noticed these skills are submission-based. Makes a bit more sense)

Starbucks Reorder: This skill is interesting because it’s a major brand integrating voice into people’s routine (order your usual drink). However, based on the reviews, people don’t understand the skill’s functionality and people expect more from something attached to Starbucks.

Wait Wait Quiz: This is a very popular skill that lets people participate in a popular segment from a popular radio show. NPR is really killing it on Alexa. I’d say this skill had a good chance to win if it wasn’t for their wonky voice recognition (according to several reviews), which is a bit strange.

Economist Espresso: I don’t have much to say about this. It’s Alexa reading high quality content from a recognized news source.

Mastermind: This is another very popular skill, but based on the reviews, it seems they recently changed something (removed the Android app?) that reduced the skill’s functionality. People aren’t happy about this previously well-received skill’s newest update.

NPR: This is another solid skill for NPR. I don’t know if it’s particularly groundbreaking, but it’s well liked and solid, which is groundbreaking in itself for a skill from a big brand.

Skyrim Very Special Edition: What started out as a joke, is the perfect example of using voice to allow users to engage with your brand through voice. This is probably the more innovating use of voice among the finalists. I hope other IPs will look at this for inspiration for providing their fans some fun content.

7-Minute Workout: Using Alexa for exercise is a totally underutilized use case. This skill is well liked and delivers on what it promises. It’s not particularly sexy, but it’s the type of use case that can be integrated in your routine and benefits from voice. Will it win? I’d be surprised, just because it’s not particularly “voice-exclusive”. Could it become the next BeachBody? I hope so!

Sleep Sounds: This is the most popular skill in the list by one of Alexa’s most popular developers. At the end of the day though, it’s a sound skill.

Stephen King Library: This is a great use of Alexa and hopefully it will pave the way for other similar “recommendation” use cases backed by major brands. Should it win? Probably not, but it should be remembered as one of the first great branded recommendation skills.

Coursera: This finalist is wild because this skill has 0 ratings and it came out in October 2019.

The Vortex: I wanted to like this finalist, but the reviews highlight some game mechanics that, while innovative the voice space, are very unpopular (time-gated progression and aggressive microtransactions). Read the selected review below for a good explanation.

Kids Court: Kids Court is a solid skill that won 2018’s Kids skill challenge. It’s a beloved skill with a proven track record that uses Alexa in a totally innovative way (it’s actually the skill I used to set the bar for my own Alexa challenge submission). It’s the safe pick among the finalists.

Prediction: Skyrim!

Kids Court by Pretzel Labs – 4.3 out of 5, 337 ratings, 102 reviews

When someone’s being unfair or nasty, bring them to court and let Lexy judge!

Selected review: Caught my daughter on her tablet when she was suppose to be going to sleep. I decided that I would give this app a try as for a punishment idea. The verdict was for the defendent to dance around like a monkey. Boy did she hate doing that. I know it’s not a substitute for actual discipline, but helps calm the mind to come up with an appropriate punishment for the crime. (4 out of 5)

Daily Dilemma by VoxLR8 – No ratings

This engaging skill will present you with a new dilemma every day. Come back the following do to see how your results compared with the rest of the country.

The Vortex by Doppio Games – 4 out of 5, 2055 ratings, 52 reviews

You have awoken on a derelict space ship, stalked by a hostile alien entity. Command a ragtag team of robots to reclaim your vessel, discover the mysteries of the past, and survive the Vortex…

Selected review: this game is great, or would be if it wasnt a mobile game in disguise. i would love to actually sit and play for a few hours or even 30 minutes. but unfortunately, i have to wait for 4 hours within the first five minutes of the game as I dont want to expend precious materials this early. if you want to put microtransactions in your game then fine, thats your perogative. But dont shove it down my throat. I saw it was developed by ex Bioware people. that made me super excited as ive loved most of their games. barely got 3 stars because i know it has potential and it is good, for what I could play of it. (3 out of 5)

Coursera by Inc.Coursera – No rating

The Coursera skill for Alexa provides you with the information you need to keep up in your courses on Coursera. 

Stephen King Library by Simon & Schuster – 4 out of 5, 26 ratings, 13 reviews

By answering a series of questions, you will receive a reading list of Stephen King books best suited to you.

Selected review: I love the voice talent who provides an engaging, dramatic introduction and guides you through a series of questions in order to find a book suited to your tastes.  I found the questions a bit long, but the voice talent keeps me on track!  Give it a try! (5 out of 5)

Sleep Sounds by Invoked Apps LLC – 4.7 out of 5, 3469 ratings, 3400 reviews

Sleep Sounds plays calming sound loops to help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, relax, meditate, or drown out distracting noises.

Selected review: I have been using this app for over a year. The last month or so when I activate it, the app asks me to subscribe monthly for a fee. Tonight the app asked me to rate it…
careful what you ask for!
When I ask Alexa to open the app it is because it is time for bed… now all of a sudden it starts asking me to subscribe, asking me to rate it…this is super annoying when I am the last one in bed. The talking from the app wakes my husband. The sound is not on a continuous loop and will cut out then restart (of course the subscription will fix that). I used my phone’s app for white noise prior and will now return to it. (1 out of 5)

7-Minute Workout by Pargee – 4.3 out of 5, 2143 ratings, 385 reviews

This revolutionary workout experience has been built from the ground up to offer more variety, more control, and over 45 new exercises to better help you achieve your fitness goals.

Selected review: I just got Alexa for Christmas and I wanted to workout more. I then realized after a bit of searching i can ask Alexa to help me workout. At first I didn’t know how to do some of the exercises, but if you look in the activity section on the app, on your phone, it shows and breaks down the exercises. So next time you go to do your 7 minute workout, you’ll know how to do the workout along with Alexa. also when she asks if you are ready you can say how do i do that or what is that, she will then explain to you how to do that specific exercise. Sorry to the people who deactivated this but i think you should give it another chance. Since i just started I’m not sure about the results but I’m happy to not always have to run to the gym or wait to workout with a friend. Thanks Alexa (5 out of 5)

Skyrim Very Special Edition by Bethesda Game Studios – 4.5 out of 5, 3036 ratings, 290 reviews

Bethesda Game Studios is proud to present Skyrim… for Alexa. Yes, that’s right, the version of Skyrim you never saw coming has finally arrived on the platform you never asked for.

Selected review: It’s like if the ever-loved Lydia kept a journal and that journal was turned into an interactive adventure. This is truly classic Skyrim, complete with sass, inside joke bugs, and your favorite songs. I love playing this when I have some down time or at night to get a dose of Skyrim without being subjected to a screen. 10/10, definitely recommend! (5 out of 5)

NPR by NPR – 4.8 out of 5, 26615 ratings, 116 reviews

Listen to live radio from a nationwide network of NPR Member stations providing you with access to news from your community and around the world.

Selected review: My personal radio won’t picknup signals in my apt. Then I discovered Alexa could play my favorite radio station, NPR. She plays the a.m. news  when i tell her Good Morning. She plays Wait, Wait Dont Tell Me even when I miss it in real time.  Plays my local NPR station in real time whenever I ask.  Great! (5 out of 5)

Mastermind – AI Assistant for Software Dev Teams by Convessa, Inc. – 4.2 out of 5, 1544 ratings, 1236 reviews

As a developer, you now have your own AI-powered assistant that learns your development workflows and intelligently streamlines commands across the various tools you use to deliver software – Jira, GitHub, GSuite, Microsoft and more.

Selected review: This used to be a must have skill that allowed you to interface with your Android phone through Alexa. I would have given it 6 stars if I could a year or so ago. Now its sadly a has been with only 1 star for old time sake. You could ask for your txt messages, check battery level, locate your phone etc. Now because Google wouldn’t grant Convessa certain permissions the company made their app all about software developers and is now pretty much useless for 99% of users. Too bad. (1 out of 5)

The Economist Espresso by The Economist – 4 out of 5, 85 ratings, 11 reviews

Espresso tells you what’s on the global agenda in the coming day, what to look out for in business, politics and, most importantly, what to make of it.

Selected review: This skill is unique in that the content is dictated by Alexa, and not a audio clip produced by The Economist (4 out of 5)

Wait Wait Quiz by NPR – 4.3 out of 5, 2343 ratings, 125 reviews

This interactive game hosted by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis lets you answer fill-in-the-blank questions from this week’s news.

Selected review: This is fun it is terrible at keeping score. It often scores correct correct answers as wrong.  I experimented last week, and played one game over immediately after hearing all the correct answers.  I repeated them exactly as they had  even said in the previous game, and I still only got four right! Perhaps I have a really thick accent that I am completely unaware of! Not sure if it’s the game or the device, but either way, it’s not working well. (3 out of 5)

Starbucks Reorder by Starbucks Coffee Co. – 3.9 out of 5, 493 ratings, 204 reviews

We’re making it even simpler to get on with your day. Just login with your Starbucks account and choose your preferred store and usual order. Then ask Alexa to get your Usual started for you.

Selected review: A lot of folks have given this skill poor reviews but it seems they are not reading carefully the description of what the skill is intended to do. It’s not intended to allow you to order whatever you want. It’s a way to request your regular order from your regular store. In this vein it works perfectly. It would be nice though if the app were a bit more robust (4 out of 5)

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