The just announced Echo Show isn’t the only device in Amazon’s lineup getting voice calling support. A new feature dubbed Alexa Calling is coming to the Echo, Echo Dot, and Alexa mobile app today. For now, the calling features are limited to the Echo lineup and Alexa app, but that could be the first step in turning the devices into speaker phones fro our homes.
Alexa Calling is a free voice calling service that lets you chat with other Echo and Alexa app users. You’ll need the updated Alexa app to enable the feature, and it wants to upload your contacts to Amazon’s servers so it knows who you want to call, which no doubt isn’t going to sit well with more privacy conscious users.
The setup process also links your smartphone number to Alexa Calling so friends can use their Echo the Alexa app to call you. That’ll let you make and receive calls when you’re out and about.
The Echo’s familiar blue ring changes to green when you’re making or receiving calls, so you have a visual cue that you’re not in normal Alexa mode.
If you’re cool with getting calls even when you choose not to answer, then you’ll love Alexa Calling’s Drop In feature. Drop In lets other Echo users initiate calls almost like an intercom system. The call connects without the recipient taking any action, which sounds like a recipe for disaster—or at the very least, painfully awkward moments.
Amazon says Drop In is opt-in, and you can set exactly who can call you with the feature. Aside from checking in on elderly relatives, or keeping track of your kids, Drop In sounds like a feature that’s ripe for sitcom jokes and unfortunate tales we tell our friends.
According to Amazon, you should use Drop In to check up on family members, watch the baby in the nursery, and let family know it’s dinner time. In practice, odds are Reddit threads about embarrassing Drop In calls are likely only days away.
Alexa Calling is part of Echo Show, too, which was unveiled earlier today. The Show adds in video calling thanks to its built-in display and video camera.
Amazon failed with its Fire Phone, but that doesn’t mean the company can’t get in on the voice and video chat game. Adding Alexa Calling to the Echo line and Alexa smartphone app is a clever way to slide into that space, and it’s a clever way to help keep customers in the Amazon ecosystem.
Alexa Calling is free to use and is available as an update to the Alexa app for the iPhone and iPad.