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Alexa’s behind Verizon’s smart display, but please don’t sell me a Fios package

Amazon certainly loves saving the best for last. Alexa Live 2021 is in full swing, and while most of the stuff announced at the virtual event is primarily geared for developers, there was an unexpected nugget in the form of a product announcement. It looks like Verizon will soon be launching its own smart display complete with a brand new voice assistant that will channel all of Alexa’s abilities. But instead of saying “Alexa” to initiate a voice action, it’s going to be “hi Verizon.”

Brands will soon be able to build their own custom voice assistants built on Alexa technology, which is pretty helpful when you think about all the money that would be poured into research and development from scratch. Amazon is helping out brands by giving them access to Alexa’s vast functionality with what Amazon calls the Alexa Custom Assistant Momentum. I’m very much intrigued by this prospect, but the last thing I want to have happen with this marriage is a new smart display that’s trying to sell me a FiOS package incessantly.

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This new program brings back memories of the Amazon Fire Phone, Fire Tablet, and just about any of the handful of ad-subsidized phones from Motorola. The latter is especially peculiar because the phones were sold at low prices because users would be exposed to various Amazon advertisements. Yes, it’s annoying, but the tradeoff here is the discount on the product.

The Moto G5 Plus held in hand.

Back to the Verizon smart display, I wouldn’t be shocked if its voice assistant were to provide advertisements in its responses. One of my colleagues has already expressed how Alexa can be overly chatty at times, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The last response anyone wants to hear is a pitch to add a laundry detergent recommendation to your cart when all you’ve asked Alexa was a simple question about the weather.

Also, I don’t know how I feel about a smart display potentially hounding me to upgrade to a better Fios package. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this happens, especially if this follows the same strategy used by the other gadgets I mentioned above.

A gateway to your own personal troubleshooting technician

Interestingly enough, there were some juicy bits of information that Verizon shared in regards to its upcoming smart display. The specs aren’t too out of the ordinary for a smart display: An 8-inch 1280 x 800 display, 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a front-facing camera with a shutter. If the pictures found in the FCC filing are proof, there’s nothing to be excited about. But its mundane design hides the broader picture of it being your own personal at-home troubleshooting technician.

FCC filing image of the purported Verizon smart display.

While most techy folks such as myself have no problems setting up various smart home devices, others can struggle in trying to set it all up — and having it tied harmoniously together with existing smart home devices. And of course, customers will be able to leverage Verizon’s smart assistant for various troubleshoots, account questions, and even add or remove services from their plans.

It’s like being able to visit a Verizon store, but it’s all accessed through this smart display. That’s great for both customers and Verizon because this smart display is meant to help out throughout the home. I can also envision being able to use the voice assistant to change the channel all through voice actions, which would be the logical evolution of what’s employed currently — using the cable box remote to speak out actions.

Amazon’s presence in more places

Leveraging Alexa’s abilities into its smart display will undoubtedly help Verizon to carefully build up its own portfolio of Verizon branded smart home devices. Just look at what its competitor has done around home security, Xfinity developed its own home security solution. Verizon doesn’t currently have its own, choosing instead to rely on selling third-party security cameras and sensors. However, it’s Amazon who’ll be benefiting the most out of this new venture. Smaller companies may be able to benefit as well due to tighter budgets that wouldn’t necessarily adhere to the development of a voice assistant service from the ground up.

Amazon Echo Show 8 on table.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

I’m all for the smarter, more helpful home. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Amart displays are the command centers of the home. With Amazon Alexa powering this upcoming Verizon smart display, it won’t be long before we start seeing competitors follow suit — giving Amazon an even larger piece of the pie at home.

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