Amazon now offers an Alexa-powered calling and messaging service.
It's a new way to contact family and friends who also have Echo devices in their home or the Alexa app installed on the iOS or Android device. The best part? The feature is completely free to use, as it works over Wi-Fi and cellular data, so you don't need to invest in a mobile talk plan. Here's everything you need to know about it, including how to set it up and start placing calls or sending messages.
Called Alexa-to-Alexa calling and messaging, the free service was introduced by Amazon in May, when it unveiled its latest Echo-branded speaker, the Echo Show, which has a display and is focused around letting users place audio and video calls. To extend such functionality to other Echo devices, Amazon developed calling for Alexa. It helps you keep in touch with friends who have a supported Echo device or the Alexa app on their iOS or Android phone. Not only can you place a call using the service, but you can also leave a voice message or text message.
To call, you need an Amazon account, a valid mobile phone number, and the Alexa app on a device running Android 5.0 (or higher) or iOS 9.0 (or higher). The service needs to be set up using the Alexa app (it verifies your number), but you can also call using just the app. Alternatively, after set up, you can use the service with an Echo or Echo Dot.
Download the Amazon Alexa app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, or make sure you're running the latest version of the app on your device. To sign up for the servce in the Alexa app, simply open the app, then select the Conversation icon on the home screen, and follow the prompts on the screen. You will be asked to confirm your name, enable access to your contact list, and verify your phone number through SMS. Amazon said Alexa uses your phone's address book to find people you know who have the Alexa app or a supported Echo device. Also, the feature can use phone data but doesn't use text messages and minutes from your mobile phone plan.
Place a call
To place a call via the Alexa app, select the Conversation icon on the home screen, then tap the Contact icon in the upper corner. Doing so will show your contacts who have the Alexa app or a supported Echo device. Simply tap on a contact and then you will see an option to place a call.
To place a call via your Echo, say "Alexa, call [name of contact]." The contact will need to be listed under the Contact screen of the Alexa app, and you will need to say their name exactly how it appears in the app -- or else Alexa won't understand your command. When you call someone, it will ring through their Alexa app and their Echo device, and they can answer on either.
Same thing goes for you. All incoming calls or messages are delivered to your Alexa app as well as supported Echo devices registered to your Amazon account. When you receive a call, your Echo device will sound an alarm and glow, and your Alexa app will notify you too. You can choose to answer or ignore the call. You can answer the call by saying "Answer" or by answering from your phone. If you don't want to answer the call, you can say "Ignore" or ignore it from your phone. If you get a call while you're already on a different call, the incoming call will just go to a different Echo device. There is no time limit to a call. When you want to end your call, you can say "Hang up" or select the end button from your phone. Lastly, while your call is active, the lights on your Echo will glow green.
Send a voice message
To send a voice message via the Alexa app, select the Conversation icon on the home screen. Your existing conversations will appear on the Conversations screen. You can also tap the Start Conversation icon in the corner of the Conversations screen and then select a contact to start a conversation. Whichever method you use, a separate screen will pop up for that contact, and if you've already communicated with them using Alexa's calling service, you will see a history of your voice messages. Tap the blue microphone button at the bottom of the screen to send a new voice message. It will be delivered to your friend's Alexa app and Echo device. Once again, they will get a notification from the app or the lights on their Echo device will glow.
To send a voice message via an Echo device, simply say "Alexa, send [name of contact] a message," and then tell Alexa the message. Anyone can access their voice messages from the Conversations screen of the Alexa app or by saying to their Echo "Alexa, play my messages."
Send a text message
To send a text message via the Alexa app, select the Conversation icon on the home screen. Your existing conversations will appear on the Conversations screen. You can also tap the Start Conversation icon in the corner of the Conversations screen and then select a contact to start a conversation. Whichever method you use, a separate screen will pop up for that contact, and if you've already communicated with them using Alexa's calling service, you will see a history of your messages. Tap the keyboard button near the microphone at the bottom of the screen to send a new text message. It will be delivered to your friend's Alexa app, and, they will get a notification.
Do Not Disturb
Amazon offers a Do Not Disturb function so that you can block Alexa from alerting you about calls and messages. To turn on Do Not Disturb say, "Alexa, don't disturb me." To turn off the feature say, "Turn off Do Not Disturb." You can also schedule Do Not Disturb for specific days and times in the Alexa app. Select Settings from the Menu, then select your device, and Under Do Not Disturb, select Scheduled. From there, use the slider to turn on or off Do Not Disturb, then select Edit to change the time it begins or ends, and select Save Changes. Keep in mind Do Not Disturb is not available on Alexa devices from other manufacturers.
That's it for now. However, Amazon said it plans to eventually introduce call waiting, as well as the ability to transfer calls between devices, place calls on hold, leave voicemails (different from voice messages), and place a three-way call.
At launch, the feature is only available in the US.