Playing catch-up with Apple, Google, and Samsung, Amazon has announced it’s bringing Matter-over-Thread support to its Echo devices this spring. It will also expand its support of the new smart home standard to more device types — including thermostats, blinds, and sensors — in addition to light bulbs, plugs, and switches. The company also confirmed at CES this week that all of its remaining compatible Echo and Eero devices will be updated to support Matter at the same time.
Amazon is also solving a major annoyance for its smart homes: the Alexa app will remember when you change a device name either in the Alexa app or in the manufacturer’s app and reflect that change everywhere.
Amazon first announced its phased rollout of Matter support last year. At the time, with millions of devices getting over-the-air updates to become Matter controllers (a way to add Matter devices to your home network), the company said that it wanted to proceed slowly to make sure everything went smoothly. Messing with people’s smart homes can get, well, messy — as Apple discovered last month with the botched rollout of its new Apple Home architecture.
Amazon also says its Alexa iOS app will be updated in the spring to support adding Matter devices. Currently, while you can control Matter devices with it, you can only add them to your home using an Android phone.
Once Amazon’s Matter rollout is complete, you will be able to use any Matter device on any Matter platform. So if you picked up an Eve Energy smart plug that used to only work with Apple Home, it can now work with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Samsung SmartThings. It can also be controlled by any of those platforms’ voice assistants.
Of note, however, you will not be able to control a Matter controller with another Matter controller. So you can’t ask Alexa to have your HomePod Mini play music or use a Google Nest Hub and an Echo device in the same multiroom music group. This is because Matter controllers aren’t Matter devices — and also because speakers aren’t a Matter device type yet.
Matter also means that when you go to buy a new product, you won’t have to worry about whether it works with your Alexa smart speaker, your Google Pixel smartphone, and your spouse’s iPhone. If it works with Matter, it will work with everything.
But there are not a lot of Matter devices out there yet — likely because manufacturers are waiting on the platforms to roll out the infrastructure. At CES this week, there have been lots of announcements around both new and old products gaining Matter support, so those devices should be available to buy in the next few months.
With the rollout of Thread support, Amazon will update its 4th-Gen Echo smart speaker to be a Matter controller and a Thread border router. And to help with the current slightly messy Thread situation — where if you have multiple border routers from different manufacturers, they don’t always talk to each other and might create multiple Thread networks in your home — Amazon is announcing credentials sharing for Thread.
“The credentials sharing feature simplifies the setup of Matter over Thread compatible smart home devices by facilitating the sharing of Thread credentials between Alexa and developer apps,” Matt Davidson, senior product manager of Matter at Amazon, told The Verge. “Our Matter setup flow for Thread devices will allow the user to connect their Thread device to any Thread network in the home (similar to their ability to connect to any Wi-Fi network for Wi-Fi devices) in addition to using the network created by an Echo device (4th Gen).”
Amazon fixes a major smart home annoyance
At CES this week, Amazon also announced a seemingly small but genuinely exciting change for the Alexa app. It will now remember when you change a device name either in the Alexa app or in the manufacturer’s app and reflect that change across apps.
This means that, soon, when you add a device to Alexa and name it, that name will be shared with the manufacturer app, and any changes you make later will also be shared. This will also work with any groups you create.
For example, the Kitchen Lights group you set up in the Philips Hue app will also show up in the Alexa app. And if you add a Hue bulb to that group in the Hue app, it will appear in the Alexa app in that group, too, as long as you have linked the Philips Hue Alexa skill.
Now, device data, such as whether your smart thermostat is online or if you’ve renamed your bedroom light or deleted your Christmas tree smart plug, will all be synchronized between Alexa and manufacturers’ apps.
Hopefully this will do away with the problem of multiple devices with the same name. This is the reason Alexa sometimes tells you that “you have more than one device with the name ‘light’” when you ask it to turn on the lights. Amazon says this feature is in developer preview and will be applied on an app-by-app basis.