This story is part of, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Alexa is no doubt a fun sidekick. It can host a, it at the end of a long day and it even has a . But more importantly, Alexa is super practical. One of the main perks of Alexa is that it can streamline your daily communication.
That's right -- if you have an Amazon Echo Flex, the latest or one of the many on the market today, you could ditch your landline and use Alexa to make calls and send messages., ,
Not only can you use Alexa to make Amazon Echo-to-Echo calls, but you can use your Echo device to call someone's mobile phone or landline, and use your Echo Show to make video calls. Sound complicated? It's actually simple. All you have to do is say, "Alexa, call Mom" or "Alexa, call (insert name)," and you can start your voice or video call. We'll walk you through what you need to know and how to set up Alexa for calling and video chats. (If you're on the market for a new Alexa device, check out our favorite, and of the year).
Set up Echo-to-Echo calls with these 5 easy steps
1. Get an Amazon Echo device: Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Flex or others
It probably goes without saying, but if you want to engage in Echo-to-Echo communication, you're going to need an Echo device. At least, sort of. You can technically use the Alexa app, too, but that seems like a stretch given how many other ways there already are to use your phone as, you know, a phone.
Here are the devices that offer Echo-to-Echo calls:
2. Download the Alexa app and make sure it's up to date
This one's a biggie since the Alexa app is basically going to act as your call center. You'll need to make sure you've updated to the most recent version, which features a new design and, most importantly, support for the voice chat feature.
To do so, just head to the App Store on iOS devices or the Google Play Store on Android devices and make sure that you've downloaded and installed the most recent version of the app.
3. Set up the Alexa app to prepare for Echo-to-Echo calls
Once your app is up to date, it'll walk you through the messaging setup process automatically upon first launch. You'll just need to follow a few quick instructions, including confirming your name and phone number as well as enabling access to your contacts list.
4. Make sure your contacts are correct in the Alexa app
The Echo messaging feature uses your contacts to match a phone number to whatever name you're telling Alexa to get in touch with. It then uses that number to identify the Alexa user you're trying to reach -- which is why you need to tell Amazon your phone number during setup.
That's all well and good, but it won't work if your contacts aren't up to date. For instance, if you want to send a message to your mom's Echo Dot, you'll need to have an entry for "Mom" in your phone's contacts, complete with the same phone number that she associated with her Alexa account. And hey, speaking of which...
5. Make sure the person you're calling is on board
This obviously only works if both of you follow those first four steps, so you might need to call mom and walk her through the process (or at least send this article her way).
Now for the sticking points -- or at least the things you should be aware of:
- When someone calls you, all of your Echo devices will ring. This includes any phones or tablets that have the Alexa app installed, since you can use those to take calls or listen to messages, too.
- Your Echo will glow green when you have a new message. To hear it, just tell Alexa to play your messages.
- Amazon will transcribe your messages in the Alexa app. The new messaging section of the Alexa app is a little like a voicemail in-box that lists your recent messages and conversations. For the messages, it'll even include transcribed speech-to-text readouts of what was said -- convenient when you aren't able to listen to a message just then. Just be warned that the transcription accuracy is only so-so -- you might need to decipher a confused phrase or two.
How to use your Amazon Echo to call someone's mobile phone or landline
Echo-to-phone voice calls are possible on all Echo devices and most mobile and landline numbers in the, UK, Canada and Mexico. Like Echo-to-Echo calls, connecting an Echo device and a phone is possible through simple voice commands.
Just say "Alexa, call (name of contact)" to call someone from your phone's contact list. You can also specify which number to call if there are multiple numbers -- say a work and a mobile number -- under one contact. Simply say, "Alexa, call (name of contact) mobile" or "Alexa, call (name of contact) work."
If you're wanting to call a number that's not saved in your contact list, say "Alexa, call (phone number)."
While Echo-to-phone calling is convenient and easy, it's not limitless. Emergency services numbers (such as 911), premium-rate numbers or toll numbers (such as 1-900 numbers) and most international numbers except for the US, UK, Canada and Mexico cannot be called through Echo devices.
How to video call using the Echo Show
Whether you have the original Echo Show 5, the , the or the newest -- and largest -- , you can make video calls to your friends and family using the .
Before you can make a call, however, you have to first make sure the person you want to video chat with either has the Alexa app set up on their mobile phone or also owns an Echo Show. There are two easy ways to start a video call.
- Using voice commands: Say, "Alexa, video call (contact name)."
- Using the display: Start by swiping the right side of the display to the left to open the Echo Show feature menu. In the top-left corner of the menu, hit Communicate > Show Contacts to open your contact list. Scroll to the contact you're trying to reach and select the contact name. Next, hit Call under the "Alexa devices" menu to begin a video call.
This is a nifty feature that still works even if your contacts only have a. Plus, the option to do a group video call is available, too. Just make sure that everyone joining enables Alexa's group call features first, then you can create a contact group through your Alexa app and say "Alexa, video call (whatever you named the contact group)" to begin chatting.
So will Echo-to-Echo or Echo-to-phone calling catch on and end up replacing our landlines? Who knows -- but if you're itching to try out calling with your Alexa devices, now you know how.