Hey Alexa, where did the celebrities go? Amazon ditches our favourite voice-overs

Say goodbye to the sonorous tones of Samuel L Jackson, even if you paid for them

Samuel L Jackson recording his voice for Alexa
(Image credit: Amazon)

Bad news for anybody who bought celebrity voices for their Alexa-powered Amazon products: Amazon is removing the feature, and your Amazon Echo won't be able to bring you the dulcet tones of your favourite celebrity.

The voices belonged to Samuel L Jackson (above), Shaquille O'Neal and Melissa McCarthy, and while they weren't very expensive – the launch price was 99c before increasing to $4.99 – it's still a bit annoying to lose a feature you paid for. 

Speaking to The Verge, Amazon spokesperson Eric Sveum explained: "After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices. Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time, and can contact our customer service team for a refund.”

There's one bit of good news: while Samuel L Jackson previously posted on his website that his voice would be removed from April 2023, it's still working this week. Amazon says it will pull the plug on 7 June. 

Why is Amazon removing the celebrity voices?

Amazon isn't saying, but it's likely to be part of a plan to revamp Alexa. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the Alexa division is losing tons of money, and of the 18,000 recent layoffs at Amazon some 2,000 of them came from the Alexa and Echo divisions. Amazon is streamlining and, according to a report in Insider, plans to reboot Alexa to make it more of a rival to the current crop of ChatGPT-style apps. 

That report says that Amazon may make Alexa "more proactive and conversational"; the celebrity voices, while fun, are fairly limited in what they can do and are presumably no longer a good fit for what Amazon wants to do.

I do hope Amazon is also working on Alexa's own voice, though: while the US voices sound quite nice to my ears, I'm not so sold on the UK ones – and it's the same for Siri, who on my devices is an Irish woman rather than an English woman or man. It'd be nice if the next generation of Alexa gave us some regional accents to make him or her feel more like part of the family. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).