How To Make Phone Calls with your Amazon Echo
TechJunkie reader question time again and this time it’s about the Amazon Echo. A reader contacted us on Monday asking ‘Can I make phone calls with my Amazon Echo? I read that I can but don’t know how’. Until October 2017, you could not make calls outside Amazon using Alexa but thanks to a recent update, you can.
Previously, you could message other Amazon Echo users in a direct call between devices. Now, an update allows the Echo to make calls to any number in Canada, Mexico and the United States. To be able to receive calls from those numbers, you will need the new $35 Amazon Connect. It links to your existing number and allows you to break out of the Amazon ecosystem and receive calls from anyone in the three supported countries. More locations will be added.
So the short answer is yes you can now make phone calls with your Amazon Echo. You don’t need any equipment to make outgoing calls but you need a Connect box to receive them.
Setting up the phone call function on your Amazon Echo
Until this change, Alexa was more a walkie-talkie than phone. You could talk to other Alexa users using voice calls within the Amazon network and chat for as long as you like at no cost. Presumably Amazon records all your conversations to ‘help improve the product’ like it does when you give Alexa commands, but aside from that seems to work okay.
With this update, you can now call just about any number in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Emergency calls are not supported though so it cannot entirely replace a phone just yet.
So how does it work?
To make phone calls with your Amazon Echo you will need an Amazon account, an Echo and a cellphone contract. Most of us already have all three of these, so let us move on to setting everything up.
- Open the Alexa app on your mobile device.
- Select Conversations (the little speech bubble) from the bottom menu.
- Follow the setup wizard to enter your phone number and link it with Alexa.
Amazon will send an SMS to your phone to verify. Verify with the message and setup is complete. Give it a few minutes for that text to arrive as when I was testing with a friend, it took almost 6 minutes for that SMS to arrive. If yours doesn’t, there is a Resend Code option in the setup wizard.
You will have to allow Alexa to access your contacts list but in return you can use voice commands to make and receive calls.
Making a call using Amazon Echo
When everything is set up, making a call with Alexa is simple. You just have to ask.
- To place a call to a contact just ask Alexa – ‘Call mom’. ‘Call Jason’, ‘Alexa call Adam’. You get the idea.
- To call another Echo – ‘Call Jason’s Echo’.
- To call a number, just ask Alexa – ‘Alexa, call 555-365-1123’.
- To end a call, tell Alexa – ‘Alexa, end call’.
- To turn the call volume up or down, ask Alexa ‘Alexa volume up’ or ‘Alexa, volume down.’
You can also use the Alexa app apparently but I’m not sure why you would when you can just ask for what you want. The Alexa app can only make Echo to Echo calls right now, not calls to external numbers. That is likely to change soon enough though.
- Open the Alexa app on your device and select Conversations.
- Select Contacts and the contact who also has an Echo.
- Select Call to do just that.
The new system supports caller ID too. This is definitely necessary when using Echo Connect as many people I know will ignore calls from private or unknown numbers. Being able to identify yourself with Echo makes it much more likely that your call will be answered.
Receiving a call using Amazon Echo
If someone calls you, it’s useful to know how to answer it. The Echo should flash green when an incoming call happens and your phone should ring. You just say out loud ‘Alexa, answer the phone’ and it will do just that. If the number is in your contacts list, Alexa will tell you who is calling. If the number is not in your contact list, it won’t say anything.
For Echo to Echo calls, Alexa announces who is calling. This function is not yet possible with external callers. You can then say ‘Alexa, answer’ or ‘Alexa, ignore’ depending on what you want to do.
Amazon Echo and Echo Connect
The Echo Connect will be released on 13 December 2017. It costs $35 and will ship direct from Amazon. From the literature already released, it looks like it will plug into the mains and connect to your network via WiFi. It will connect to your phone line with a built-in phone jack. It will be compatible with most versions of Echo, Echo Show, Echo Spot and Echo Plus. It will also play nicely with the Alexa app.
Once set up, it interfaces the Echo and your phone line to allow you to make and take calls from non-Echo numbers. The Echo Connect will then use your landline if you connect it to that or VoIP if you have VoIP service.
The other neat thing about this system is that it is free. Amazon does not charge for calls, either in or out. How long this will last remains to be seen but even if you don’t use VoIP and place landline calls, you’re not charged a dime. This is an added bonus if your line rental doesn’t include free calls.
While we obviously haven’t been able to test the Echo Connect, we have used Echo-to Echo calls a lot. As long as you have a decent WiFi signal, calls are crystal clear, include no lag and work very well. The audio played out of the Echo speaker or your connected speakers is clear and the entire system works very well.
There is of course the risk that Amazon does record calls like it does Alexa commands but we don’t actually know for sure yet. If you don’t mind that possibility, the system is great.