A smart device with a built-in voice assistant can take on a range of tasks for you, from setting timers to getting the day’s weather, freeing up your hands so you can get on with other things. .
According to Statista, 157 million US homes owned one of the best smart speakers or smart displays by the end of 2019, but not everyone is using them to their full potential, especially when it comes to making audio, and in the case of smart displays, video calls.
As well as making audio calls to landlines or those with the Alexa app installed on their smartphone, Alexa also offers a feature called Drop In that acts as an intercom so you can instantly head, and if you have a smart display, see what’s happening in different rooms of your home.
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What is Alexa Drop In?
Firstly, it is worth explaining what Alexa Drop In is not. This feature does not work like a phone call, where one person uses an Echo device to call up the other, who then decides whether to answer their ringing Echo speaker or not. Instead, Drop In opens an audio link between two (or more) Echo devices right away, as soon as you ask Alexa to do so.
When you ask Alexa to drop-in on one of your Echo devices or that of one of your contacts, you immediately receive an audio feed from that device. Or if you are using Echo Show smart displays, a video feed between the two devices will open too.
Naturally, there are some critical privacy implications to be aware of here, and Alexa Drop In can only be set up with the permission of the person intended to be dropped in on. And, while it can be used by two people wishing to communicate between different homes (more on that later), most Drop In use cases happen between Echo devices in the same home.
Drop In is one of the few Alexa features that Amazon reserves for its own Echo devices. So while it doesn’t work on Alexa speakers from other companies, Drop In works on almost every Echo device, plus Amazon’s Fire tablets and the Alexa smartphone app. The only Echo products it doesn’t work on are the now-discontinued Echo Look and the battery-powered (and also now unavailable) Echo Tap.
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How to use Alexa Drop In?
Alexa Drop In is switched off on all of your devices by default. To enable it on a specific Echo device, open the Alexa smartphone app, tap on the menu icon in the bottom-right corner, then tap on the settings icon in the top-right corner. Now tap on Communications, tap the toggle switch to the on position, then tap on Drop In and tap On or My Household. The former allows Drop In calls from contacts outside the home, while the second option limits Drop In to Echo devices attached to your Alexa account.
You will need to do this with every device you want to use Drop In with, and turning the feature off is simply a case of following the same instructions then tapping Off on the final menu page.
With Drop In switched on for a single device – an Echo speaker in the kitchen, for example – you can drop in on that speaker from the Alexa smartphone app. Just say: “Alexa, drop in on [Echo device name]” to open an audio feed between your phone and that Echo speaker. This can be a useful tool for quickly making an announcement in your kitchen while away from home; perhaps you’re leaving the office for the evening, or are out food shopping and want to check if something needs purchasing.
Alexa Drop In becomes even more useful when you have several Echo devices in the home. Once enabled on them all, you can drop in on certain rooms whenever you want. This can be useful for telling the whole family that dinner is ready, or that you are heading out. You can say: “Alexa, drop in on all devices” to open an audio feed between the Echo you spoke to and all others in your home.
Drop In doesn’t have to be used to deliver announcements or ask questions. You might also use the feature to check in on your young child while they have a bath, giving them the reassurance that you’re right there if they need you, but giving them the privacy they might also want. In these cases, Echo devices turn into a household intercom, making it easy to quickly communicate between rooms.
On that note, if you have more than one Echo in a room, we recommend only enabling Drop In on one of them, to prevent any annoying audio feedback.
To end a Drop In call, just say: “Alexa, end call” and the connection between the Echo devices will be cut. And, of course, this all works both ways. So anyone in the home can use any Echo device to drop in on any other, or all others.
To show when an Echo device is being dropped in on, the device sounds a chime and the light ring will turn green, then spin while the call is active. Drop In cannot be used to call up someone’s phone via the Alexa app, it can only be used to call an Echo device, either from another Echo or from the Alexa app.
As we mentioned earlier, Drop In can also be used between Echo devices on different Wi-Fi networks, and therefore in different homes. There are clear privacy issues here, so Drop In should really only be used between two Echo owners who clearly understand how the feature works, and how to switch it off.
To receive Drop In calls from a certain contact, open the Alexa smartphone app and enable the function on your Echo devices, outlined above. Then return to the Alexa app, tap on the Communicate icon in the lower-left, then the contacts icon in the top-right. Now search for the contact you want to use Drop In with, tap on them, then tap the switch marked Allow Drop In. You can now receive Drop In calls on your Echo devices from that contact, but you cannot drop in on them, unless they go through the same process in their Alexa app.
When setting up Drop In from your contacts, the Alexa app explains how “this contact and their household members can instantly connect to your Echo devices for a video or voice conversation.” The app also explains: “Interactions with Alexa, and motion sensors on Echo Show, will be used to show a recently active indicator that lets them know whether you’re available.”
This is an automated system though, and you can’t manually set your status to away. If you don’t want contacts to drop in on you, you need to switch the system off. To do this, tap the Communicate icon in the Alexa app, then the contacts icon in the top-right, followed by your own name. Here you can toggle the Allow Drop In switch on or off.
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