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How to use Drop In with your Amazon Echo speakers

Amazon released a new update to Echo devices and the Alexa app that allows users to drop in on one another or use the speakers as a household intercom.

Amazon

Back in May, Amazon introduced voice calling and messaging to its Echo-branded smart speakers. Pending the release of the new touchscreen-equipped Echo Show, Amazon rolled out a new feature that piggybacks on voice calling: Drop In.

This is intended for calling relatives and checking in on them with video or voice calling. But for users with multiple Echos or Echo Dots scattered around their house, it also doubles as an intercom system. You can drop in on the kitchen from the upstairs Echo, or check in on the kids in their bedroom from the Alexa app on your phone.

Here's how to set up and use Drop In.

How to setup Drop In

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Ry Crist/CNET

For starters, Drop In is slightly different than a voice call in that those you allow to Drop In on you can literally drop in whenever. When dropping in, the person on the other end doesn't have to answer, you connect automatically and it works like an intercom system. You can immediately begin speaking and you can hear anything happening near the speaker you've connected to.

If you Drop In on an Echo Show (from the Alexa app or another Echo Show), you and your contact will see a frosted glass video that will clear up after connecting.

Taylor Martin/CNET

To use Drop In, you will need at least one Echo device and a smartphone with the Alexa app installed (or a friend or relative with an Echo). It's currently only compatible with the Echo, Echo Dot (first- and second-generation), Echo Show ($179.99 at Amazon.com) and the Alexa app.

With the Alexa app, you can initiate a Drop In session, but you cannot receive a Drop In call. (You can, however, receive a voice call from the Alexa app.)

First, make sure your Alexa app is up to date (at least 2.1.22 on iOS and 2.1.23.2 on Android). And if you haven't already, sign up for Alexa Calling and Messaging. Open the Alexa app on Android or iOS and tap the Conversations icon (the text bubble in the middle at the bottom of the app) and follow the on-screen prompts, such as entering your first and last name, as well as your mobile number.

Drop In should be enabled by default, but to make sure it's on for a specific speaker, open the Alexa app and tap the hamburger icon in the top left to expand the menu. Tap Settings and select the speaker from the list. Under General check that it says On beneath Drop In. To restrict Drop In calls to only from within your household, tap Drop In and select Only my household.

Allow contacts to Drop In

By default, since it could be a very intrusive feature with serious privacy concerns, Amazon does not allow just anyone to use Drop In to contact you. Instead, you have to enable Drop In for the specific contacts you want to be able to Drop In on you. And they must enable it for you to Drop In on them.

To enable Drop In for a contact:

  • Open the Alexa app and open the Conversations tab.
  • Tap the contact icon in the top right (the icon shaped like a person).
  • Select a name from the list of contacts.
  • Tap the toggle beside Contact can Drop In anytime.

To see everyone you have allowed to use Drop In to contact you, open the Contacts menu once more and select yourself. Under Others Who Can Drop In on My Devices, everyone with the permission will be listed. Tap Remove if you no longer want the contact to be able to use Drop In with you.

If you want to temporarily stop Drop In, enable Do Not Disturb.

To use Drop In, just say, "Alexa, drop in on [contact name]." Alternatively, you can manually initiate a Drop In session from the Alexa app by opening the Conversations tab and:

  • Selecting your conversation with a contact who has allowed you to Drop In and tap Drop In in the blue bar at the top.
  • Tapping the Contacts button in the upper right. Select a contact and tap the Drop In logo beneath their name.

How to use the Amazon Echo as a household intercom

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You can initiate a Drop In call to your own household from the Alexa app under the main Conversations tab or or your profile.

Taylor Martin/CNET

When voice calling first rolled out, you were able to call yourself and all connected Echo devices (and the Alexa app) would ring, except the device used to initiate the call. For example, I could say to my Echo Dot, "Alexa, call Taylor Martin." The primary Echo and both of my phones would ring. And only the device used to answer would hear the audio.

Calling yourself still works, but the way intercoms work now is slightly different.

Before, you could only ring them all and hope the right person would answer. Now you can specify which Echo device you want to ring.

In order to do this, you must first properly name your Echo devices. Go to the settings for each Echo device and give it a room name, such as Living Room, Kitchen or Office.

Once your speakers are named, say, "Alexa, drop in on the Living Room." The Echo in the living room will ring, just as if it's being called.

From the Alexa app, tap the Conversations tab. Near the top of the screen, you should see a blue bar with a new icon and the words Drop In. (If it doesn't appear, double-check that the app is up to date, force close it and reopen it.) Tap Drop In and a menu showing your devices will appear at the bottom of the screen. Select any one to call that speaker. The call will initiate and will try to make a video call. If you are attempting to call an Echo or Echo Dot, the call will switch to an audio call.

(Note: When we first tried this, the call kept failing. We had to power cycle all Echo speakers before Drop In would work from the Alexa app.)

Once the call is initiated, it's no different than voice calling. The light ring will be spinning green. To answer, say, "Alexa, answer." To hang up, just say, "Alexa, hang up."