Device Modes

Alexa is available on a range of device modes, which means you can design and build a single voice-optimized experience by using Alexa Presentation Language (APL) that easily scales and adapts to every Alexa-enabled device. From small hubs to widescreen televisions, customers can interact with voice experiences on many different devices. Each device mode has its own form factor, context of use, and set of customer expectations. By following these guidelines, you can bring high-quality visual experiences to any Alexa-enabled device.

Hub

Image of Alexa-enabled hub type devices

Smart displays, such as the Echo Show or Echo Spot, intercoms and other fixed home devices that are used for music, communications, and entertainment. Hubs have a wide variety of screen sizes and often have touch capabilities.

Inputs

All hubs have a microphone, camera, and touchscreen. Don't rely only on the touch screen in your skill. Most customers use a hub at a wide variety of distances and voice should be considered the primary input method.

Screen characteristics

Hub devices have a wide range of screen sizes. Screens are often regular, in landscape orientation, but can also be 1:1 and circular shaped. Using the out-of-box device groupings for a hub can make it easier to target these typical screen sizes. These include: Hub, round small; Hub, medium landscape; and Hub large landscape.

Use

Hubs are used in a wide variety of environments and audiences. Depending on the hub's location, it might be used by one person or shared between many people. When designing for hubs, you can't depend on the customer always focusing on the device. Often, hubs are placed in busy areas of the home or office so a customer might not be looking or interacting with the screen when using a skill.

Distance

The viewing range of most hubs, due to their smaller size, is between 2-7 feet. If a customer chooses to sit next to the device to touch it, they'll be in that 2 foot range, while if a customer is working on other tasks or moving around- they might glance at the device from a 7 foot range. Design for the farthest reasonable distance in your experience as the default sizing for images and fonts.

Television

Image of Alexa-enabled television

Televisions, set-top boxes and projectors that are primarily used for entertainment. Televisions have a range of screen sizes and aspect ratios, can use touch and a remote as inputs, and can have additional speakers connected to create a home theater experience.

Inputs

Alexa-enabled TVs have a microphone to enable voice interactions, in addition to a screen, speakers, and remote. However, a device can range from voice-initiated or touch-initiated using press-to-talk on a remote. Because all TVs have a remote, or 5-way controller, make sure you consider showing selected states for controls. You should also consider that typing on a 5-way can be cumbersome and voice should be considered the primary input method where appropriate.

Unlike traditional TVs, smart TVs can be also connected to the internet to access streaming media services, entertainment apps, and web browsers. Newer TVs can also pair with speakers and supporting home devices that can manage household functions as well.

Screen characteristics

TVs devices have a wide range of screen sizes, aspect ratios, and density ranges. Screens are generally in landscape orientation. Make sure you understand the different densities so you deliver the appropriate optimized imagery.

UI elements and images should use the off-white (#FAFAFA) instead of pure white (#FFFFFF). Pure white feels harsh on large screens. All of the important UI elements need to be displayed within the TV safe area to avoid overscan issues where TV manufacturers scale content slightly at the edge of the frames. While less typical on newer TVs, keep this in mind as you design for all TVs in this category.

Use

TVs can range in usage patterns. Customers might watch TV alone, with other members of their household, or in groups for big live events. Because of this, TVs are very communal with common use cases where multiple customers are using the device simultaneously.

Distance

Since the distance to the device is often 10 feet or more, often TVs will use voice instructions, remotes, and hardware switches to interact with the device. When designing for this type of device, visual elements should be large and clear enough to be visible at at 10 foot distance. Keep your layouts friendly for use with remotes that are not voice enabled.

Consider that customers might be in a relaxed state, either sitting or lying down while consuming entertainment. Ensure that the attention system leverages cues like media playing to use the correct visual cues and sound files.

Settings and authentication

TVs use a constrained model for settings and authentication, where quick tasks are done on the device and more complex tasks like authentication are done using code based linking.

Viewport profiles

Alexa Presentation Language uses viewport profiles, the responsive size category for types of devices rather than designing for each individual device. This saves time and ensures that your designs will look great across a range of devices.

There are several characteristics that make up a viewport profile, the chart below identifies viewports by device type and screen size.

Device Mode Description Input Type
Hub Tabletop smart displays that are used for music, communication, and entertainment. Hubs have a variety of screen sizes. Touch, voice
TV Televisions, set-top boxes, and projectors are primarily used for entertainment. Televisions have a range of screen sizes and aspect ratios and can have additional speakers connected to create a home theater experience. Remote, voice

Screen sizes

Screen sizes are grouped by a breakpoint range (height and width) so you can target multiple devices with one design.

Device Mode Viewport Profile Min-Max Width (dp) Min-Max Height (dp) Reference Size (dp)
Hub Hub Round 100-599 100-599 480x480
Hub Landscape Small 960-1279 100-599 960x480
Hub Landscape Medium 960-1279 600-959 960x600
Hub Landscape 1280-1920 600-1279 1280x800
TV TV Fullscreen 960x540 960x540 960x540
TV Overlay Portrait 300x540 300x540 300x540
TV Overlay Landscape 960x200 960x200 960x200

Adapt your experience

When adapting content across screens, start with the smallest screen size first. This will help you prioritize what is the most important content you need to show at any given time. It also helps you think through touch targets and how closely you can space elements on the screen. When you start with small screens, you can prioritize which devices you'll design for and what your customer experience should be.

Once you've vetted your experience across the smallest screens, it's good to do the inverse and consider your largest screen sizes. This typically covers larger hubs and TVs. When targeting devices with larger screens, it's more than a simple exercise to scale the content up; large screens should take full advantage of the additional screen real estate, and you will need to pay special attention to image quality so that images do not lose their quality as they scale up.


Back to top