Amazon Brings Alexa Voice Calling And Messaging To Echo Family

amazon echo
Earlier this morning, Amazon surprised no one by announcing the Echo Show, a touchscreen-infused Echo device that was first leaked last week. One of the pivotal features of the Echo Show is the ability to make voice calls to friends and family members that also have an Echo Show, or those that use the Alexa app.

However, new Echo Show owners aren’t the only ones that will be able to take advantage of hands-free voice calling using Alexa. Amazon has announced “Alexa Calling & Messaging”, which allows anyone with an Echo or Echo Dot to initiate calls or leave a voice message. In a world where more and more people are ditching their landline phones for smartphones (usually, one for each family member), Alexa Calling & Messaging in effect turns the Echo into a reimagining of the shared family phone experience that many of us grew up with.

You can use Amazon’s new service to connect with any contact that has enabled Alexa calling on their Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show or the Alexa app. With those prerequisites out of the way, you simply ask Alexa to make a call to one of your contacts, and they will be notified that a call is incoming by displaying a green light ring on their Echo device (along with a configurable ring tone). They can then ask Alexa to accept or reject the incoming call.

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One feature, which is exclusive to the Echo Show, might have a few privacy issues to contend with. The “Drop In” feature allows someone on your contact list to automatically start a video call using your Echo Show. So, if you have an Echo Show sitting on a shelf in your living room, for example, a contact could essentially automatically turn on your camera and microphone, and begin chatting with you. That could make for some pretty awkward situations if you weren’t expecting your contact to “Drop In” at that particular time.

We should note that Drop In is opt-in, and only you can select who can use the feature. Even so, we could see this feature being abused.

You can download the updated Alexa app here for Android and iOS.