The whole point of virtual assistants is that they're supposedly easier to use and less of a hassle than doing things yourself, which is why they're controlled by voice commands. Amazon's cheapest Fire tablets also include Alexa, but until now you had to hold down the home button to make her pay attention.
Now, though, Amazon is adding fully hands-free Alexa functionality to Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets, but only if the screen is on or the device is plugged in.
The new feature is rolling out this week, and all you need to do to activate it is pull down the quick access menu and tap the Alexa Hands-Free button. Alternatively you can head to the settings menu, where you choose 'Alexa' and then toggle the 'Hands-Free' option.
This new move increasingly blurs the lines between the Fire Tablets and Amazon's own Echo Show, which offers a more visual Alexa experience. When I asked Amazon what the difference was, they said that the Fire Tablet is designed for personal entertainment while the Echo Show is supposed to be used by everyone and has a UI that 's still informative at a distance of 10-20 feet away.
That doesn't explain a whole lot, like whether the Echo Show has Alexa features Fire tablets do not, so take from that what you will. They're designed to be different, but I see no reason why the Fire tablet wouldn't be a nice a low-cost alternative for some people. It also has YouTube and Google apps, because they're FireOS is just a fancy version of Android.
If you have an Alexa-capable Fire 7 or HD 8 tablet, the hands-free functionality will be arriving soon in the form of a free update. So if you want to take advantage of it, make sure everything is up to date.