Previously, the app has only been a tool for accessing settings of your Amazon Echo devices; adding skills, sending messages, managing shopping lists, etc. Now, with the addition of voice control, you'll have the ability to use Alexa in more places. With this update, you don't even need to be in the same room as your Amazon Echo speaker to control Alexa or ask her a question.
This ability to use voice control with Alexa on a smartphone has previously been available on the Huawei Mate 9, but this new update makes it accessible on a much wider range of devices. Now Android users can control Alexa with ease wherever they are. There is also the promise of an iOS update coming soon, meaning Apple iPhone users will have the same control too.
If you have the update you'll see the big blue Alexa button in the navigation section of the Alexa app. Pressing this button gives you the ability to talk to Alexa. You cannot currently use the "Alexa" hotword as you would with a standard Echo device, but pressing the button gives you the power to command Alexa as you would with those devices. Whether that's to play music, trigger a smart home skill or add something to your shopping list.
We particularly like this addition as it means you can use Alexa's Drop In functionality wherever you are to speak to other people in the house without needing multiple Amazon Echo devices or even if you have several devices but happen to be in a room that's not Alexa equipped.
Unfortunately, there's currently no way to use Alexa voice control outside of the app like there is with Google Assistant, so you do need to have the app open to talk to Alexa, but it's still a welcome update.