If you've got multiple Alexa devices spread throughout your house -- and let's be honest, who doesn't at this point? -- you need to drop in on them more often. Why, you ask? Well, for one, the alternatives -- shouting at, texting or just outright ignoring the other people in your home -- are all quite rude.
But more than that, Alexa's drop-in feature is useful in a lot of ways that maybe aren't so obvious at first.
To get there, don't think of dropping in the way you imagine voice or video calls. You're not catching up with friends or spending virtual facetime with your distant family. Dropping in with Alexa is more about connecting and sharing spaces than hopping on a call. It works best when the experience is more ambient than, say, attentive.
To show you what I mean, here are five scenarios where dropping in with Alexa does the trick. Scroll to the end to find out how to do it.
Drop in on children while also encouraging their independence
I have an elementary-age daughter who likes and, experts will tell you, needs to practice and expand her sense of independence. But I'm a dad, so I like to keep tabs on a girl who, left to herself, is liable to convert her loft bed into a terrarium or her bathroom into a doll-sized water park.
So, when my daughter's and my tasks diverge -- say, I need to fold laundry while she's cleaning her room, or I'm making dinner while she's taking a bath -- I'll drop in on either the Echo Show 8 in her bedroom or the Echo Dot in her bathroom and we'll just sort of, like, be there with each other, even though we're in separate rooms.
A lot of times neither of us say a word, but I can hear her splashing in the bath (she's old enough to handle bath time alone -- believe me, I've researched it) or I'll look up and see her putting away her L.O.L. Dolls (sometimes where they belong, sometimes not). Other times she'll ask for a snack, or something to drink, or whether I'd rather be a shark or a hippopotamus (because that's the kind of stuff she thinks about).
Either way, it's great because we get to feel close without anyone (me) breathing down anyone else's (her) neck all the time. Also -- hippopotamus.
Helping out with remote school, homework or other studies
I'll admit, I haven't done this yet myself -- my daughter's still young enough that homework requires my full attention as much as hers. But I've heard tell of other parents using drop-in to check in on their kids throughout the day while they're attending remote school (and mom or dad are working from home) or being at the ready to answer questions and give suggestions, feedback or encouragement while the young ones do their homework.
Either way, it's the same principle as above -- you can be present with your child while you both work independently, providing as much or as little help as they need, when they need it.
Group calling, home edition: Drop in on all your devices at once
For a couple of years, I lived in a household with six humans, two gerbils, a dog and a cat. Smart home tech was just beginning to take hold and Alexa hadn't quite emerged yet, but if I'd had as many Amazon Echo devices then as I do now, I'd have been using them to drop in on everyone all at once to make announcements, ready the troops or get everyone's thoughts on dinner.
The ability to drop in everywhere at once and have a sort of group-chat experience is relatively new. To do it, just say, "Alexa, drop in on all devices." Note that if you have more than one Alexa device in any given room, you may want to disable drop-in on one of them to avoid eardrum-piercing feedback.
Drop in on someone who may not be near their phone
I never venture into another room without my phone. Others, however, aren't so tethered. If you live with someone who treats their phone like an on-again-off-again companion and doesn't always respond to messages or calls when you need them to, you can drop in on a specific device (dropping in on all devices isn't supported on the mobile app) with an important question, announcement or just, you know, to say hi.
To drop in from outside, open the Alexa app on your mobile device. On the bottom menu bar, tap Communicate. At the top of the screen tap Drop In and select the device you want to drop in on. Note: Cat, dog and gerbil responses will depend upon training. Results may vary.
Send an announcement to all your devices, even from mobile
This isn't technically dropping in, but they're in the same ballpark. If you don't know where that phoneless person might be and you just want to say, "Hey, call me!" or you need to make an announcement to everyone in the house without two-way communication, you can use the announcement feature (even from mobile) to send a voice memo to all your devices.
From inside your home, just summon Alexa from the nearest Amazon Echo and say, "Announce" followed by your message. "Dinner is ready," perhaps, or "The game has started!"
From outside the home, there are two ways. Open the Alexa app and tap Make an Announcement, then either type your message then tap the blue arrow to have Alexa deliver it or tap the microphone button to record your own message, then tap the stop button when you're finished and the blue arrow to send.
How to drop in with Alexa: The nuts and bolts of it
To drop in on a specific device, you can either refer to the device by its name (mine are all named a combination of the room and the specific device, e.g. "master bedroom Echo Dot with Clock") or, even better, if you've created "rooms" in the Alexa app, you can just say, "Alexa, Drop in on the living room."
You can also drop in on friends and family who've given you permission and vice versa. To grant someone else permission to drop in on your devices, open the Alexa app and tap Communicate on the bottom menu bar, then tap the contacts icon in the upper right corner. Scroll to (or search for) the contact you want to allow access, then, under Permissions, toggle on the setting for Allow Drop In.