Phone calls often come at the most inopportune moments; there are few things more frustrating than having your phone ring when your elbow-deep in washing up or fighting off rogue red shells in a tense Mario Kart tournament.
However, if you have an Amazon Echo speaker or smart display, that could become a thing of the past, as you can now make and receive calls using Alexa – totally hands-free.
The service, which has been available in the US, Canada, and Mexico for a while, recently rolled out to the UK, meaning more people than ever can take advantage of Alexa Communication.
According to Amazon, Alexa Communication is “a service that provides calling and messaging between supported Echo devices and the Alexa app at no additional cost”, and includes Alexa-to-Alexa calling, Alexa-to-Alexa messaging, and mobile/landline calls.
Here’s everything you need to know about making calls and messages with Alexa.
Signing up to Alexa Communication
The first thing you’ll need to do in order to make and receive calls with Alexa, is to sign up for Alexa Communication.
To do this, open up the Alexa app on your smartphone and tablet – it will need to run iOS 10.0, Android OS 5.1, or FireOS 184.108.40.206 or higher to work.
Then, select the Communicate icon (it looks like a little speech bubble) and follow the on-screen instructions to verify your mobile number.
How to make Alexa calls with your voice
If you want to get in touch with a friend over your Echo, you can call that contact's landline, mobile, or – if they have one – their own Echo speaker using just your voice.
Say you want to call your friend Alicia. To call her on her mobile say “call Alicia’s mobile”, or to call her on her landline say “call Alicia on her home phone”.
If you have multiple Echo speakers in your home, you can also use a feature called Drop In to connect devices like a two-way intercom – so, if you want to tell your housemate that dinner’s ready but don’t want to trek all the way upstairs, you can use the Echo Show in your kitchen to ‘call’ the Echo Spot in their bedroom.
Both users need to grant permission before the Drop In feature is enabled – once enabled, the light on your Echo pulses green and you’re connected with the other person straight away.
Who can I call with Alexa?
You can call any mobile number, landline, or compatible Echo speaker using Alexa; however, there are a few exceptions.
For example, you can’t call the emergency services, or “premium-rate numbers”. You also can’t call numbers outside of the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico, as these are the only regions that currently support Alexa calling.
We'd like to see emergency services integrated in future: for people who can't access their phone, or who have possibly suffered a fall in their home, being able to call an ambulance hands-free seems like a great life-saving measure. While London's Metropolitan police service is said to be working on this feature for its residents, it's something that's yet to be implemented.
Can I receive calls on my Echo speaker?
Yes you can – but there are some limitations if you’re in the UK, as only Vodafone Red pay monthly customers can receive calls on Alexa speakers via the network’s OneNumber service.
When you have an incoming call, the light on your Echo device turns green and a ringtone will sound (your handset will also ring). Alexa will then tell you who’s calling based on your contacts list – to answer the call, just say “answer”.
If you don’t want to answer the call, you can also say “ignore”. This will stop the ringtone from playing on your Echo speaker, but not your handset, although you can adjust your handset to mute its ringtone if you’d prefer to only be alerted via your speaker.
For those who have multiple Alexa speakers around the home, you can set a specific one to act as hub for inbound calls – so they don't all ring – and you can easily enable and disable inbound calls.
What about Alexa Messaging?
You can also send SMS messages hands-free with your Echo device. Simply say “Alexa, send a message”, and Alexa will ask for the name of the recipient. Once you’ve given Alexa the contact, you’ll be asked for the content of the message after which you can dictate what you want your SMS to say. Once you’re done, Alexa will send the message to your contact.
It’s also possible to do this using the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. Just open the app and select the Conversations button.
Select the name of the person you want to send the message to and hold down the microphone icon to dictate your message. You can also do this the old-fashioned way by typing on your devices keyboard if you wish.
This doesn’t send messages to their phone directly – it will be sent to the recipient’s Echo speaker and Alexa app on their smartphone.
When they receive a message, the light on their Echo will flash yellow – to hear the message, they just need to say “play message”. They’ll also receive a notification on their smartphone or tablet via the Alexa app, where they can play the contents if they’re away from their Echo speaker.
Should I buy an Amazon Echo?
If you don't have one already, any of the speakers in the Amazon Echo range can make a fantastic addition to your home – but is now the best time to buy one of these popular smart speakers?
Amazon Prime Day 2019 is coming up very soon; while we don't have an exact date yet, we're expecting it to kick off for 48 hours from midnight July 15.
The sale grows in scope and ambition every year and there's no reason to not think that Amazon Prime Day 2019 won't be the biggest one yet – which means we could see some fantastic deals on the entire range of Echo speakers.
Plus, with the Amazon Echo Show 5 soon to be launched, you may find that the previous Echo Show (2nd generation) gets a sizable discount from other retailers.
In the meantime, you can keep an eye on the best Amazon Echo prices with our deals finder below:
- Amazon Echo Show 5 price, release date, news, and features