For the past several years, owners of Amazon Echo devices had the option of integrating celebrity “personalities” into the digital assistant Alexa, but the company is ditching the service. Very soon, you’ll no longer be able to ask Samuel L. Jackson to put your children to bed, say “Hey Melissa, tell me about Bridesmaids,” to Melissa McCarthy, or get advice from Shaquille O’Neal.
While you can’t spend $US5 to buy the service anymore, if you’ve already purchased any star voices, you’ll be able to continue to enjoy them for a bit: McCarthy and O’Neal’s personalities will be on until September; Samuel L. Jackson will be gone on June 7. After that, you can also ask for a refund.
“After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices. Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time, and can contact our customer service team for a refund,” Amazon said in a statement.
How to get a refund for your Amazon celebrity personality
As the above statement says, Amazon is not planning to automatically refund personality purchasers — it’s an opt-in thing. To make sure you get your money back, contact Amazon’s customer service department. You can use the website, or call Amazon’s 24/7 customer service number at 1800 571 894.
Why is Amazon axing Alexa’s celebrity voices?
Amazon didn’t give a reason for pulling the plug on the service, but it can’t be cheap to licence the voices and names of big celebrities, and Amazon is in cost-cutting mode, having recently executed large-scale layoffs to the team that works on Alexa (striking them down with a great vengeance and furious anger maybe?).
While customer reviews of the voices are generally positive — the aggregation rating is 4 stars — there are almost 100,000 reviews for the first voice, Sam Jackson, and only around 4,000 for Shaq, who was introduced later. This doesn’t suggest it’s a vital or popular feature. Each celebrity had a limited set of queries they could respond to instead of serving as your constant personal assistant, so it was always more of a novelty than a killer app.
These are Amazon customers’ favourite Alexa-enabled devices:
- Echo Dot 5th Generation smart speaker with Alexa ($US49.99))
- Echo Pop Full sound compact smart speaker with Alexa ($US39.99)
- Echo Show 5 smart display ($US89.99)
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