Alexa 'Brief Mode' makes Echo less chatty

Alexa is getting less chatty, with Amazon reportedly testing a new "Brief Mode" which would cut down the assistant's confirmations to a simple beep. Although not yet officially announced by Amazon, the new setting appears to be targeted at those who prefer a less talkative smart speaker, particularly as the interactions with the device grow in number.

Until now, Alexa has confirmed instructions to switch on or off connected lights or issue other smart home commands with a chirpy "Ok!" With Brief Mode, however, that response is replaced with a more subdued chime, which merely confirms that the instruction was heard. The functionality was first reported by Alexa users on Reddit, and spotted by AFTVNews.

Interestingly, Amazon used Alexa to announce the new setting, rather than leaving users to discover it in the companion app. As one Redditer relates, they asked the smart speaker to control their connected lighting and got the "Ok!" confirmation as usual, only to be then told that it would be the last time Alexa said that. In future, the assistant explained, a tone would confirm a successful command.

Later on, however, the Brief Mode feature was apparently disabled, with Alexa's "Ok!" reaction returning. Subsequent to that, it was re-enabled, working across all Echo speakers rather than, as at the start, only on first-generation Echo devices. At the same time, a new toggle appeared in the Alexa companion app.

That allows Brief Mode to be turned on or off from the app. "In this mode, Alexa speaks less," the setting explains, "and for some simple messages plays a short sound instead of a voice response." However, not all users are yet seeing Brief Mode mentioned in their app, and asking Echo speakers to enable the setting is not necessarily recognized.

It seems, then, that Amazon is still in the midst of testing the feature – and, presumably, reactions to it – and deploying it progressively rather than in one fell swoop. For those who frequently use their Echo to control smart home devices, being able to reduce the number of times you hear Alexa chattering back is probably a benefit. Others, who interact with the smart speaker more sparingly, may not be so concerned.

The update follows another recent improvement in how Alexa uses speech. Earlier this month, Amazon added the ability for Alexa to answer follow-up questions, continuing to listen after she gave her initial response in case there was a second part to the request or further clarification was required. That setting is turned off by default, however, and can be enabled through the Alexa app.