Ooma, Alexa. Alexa, Ooma.
(In case you don't get the reference, see David Letterman's notorious Academy Awards shtick.)
The Amazon Echo smart speaker (which often goes by its nom de operation, Alexa) learned a bunch of new tricks at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Among them: how to make nice with the Ooma home telephone system.
(Ooma, Alexa! Alexa, Ooma! Now it makes sense.)
If you own an Echo, it's now possible to use Ooma to place outgoing calls. In fact, you can do this even if you don't have the Ooma Telo hardware; you can set up a free Ooma account and enjoy up to 300 minutes per month of free calls (with a 1,500-minute lifetime maximum).
Before we walk through setting this up, you should know the limitations of this option. Although you can instruct Alexa to dial a number (or a specific person, if you have nicknames set up in Ooma), the end result is merely the call being placed for you. Your phone (home or mobile) will ring, and once you answer, you'll hear the call going through.
In other words, Echo lives up to its "digital assistant" name, effectively saving you the hassle of dialing. Whether or not this is any better than activating Google Now or Siri for voice-powered dialing is open for debate. For the moment, the whole process requires transferring the call to another phone; you can't just use the Echo as a speakerphone.
You can, however, use it to listen to voice mail, simply by saying, "Alexa, use Ooma to play my voice mail."
Now that you're prepared for what Echo can and can't do with Ooma, here's how to set it all up:
Step 1: Open the Alexa app on your phone, tap the Menu icon, then tap Skills.
Step 2: Tap the Search box and type Ooma. When it appears, tap Enable.
Step 3: If you don't already have an Ooma account, enter your phone number, email address and ZIP. If you do, tap Login with an existing account and sign in. Then complete the activation process.
And that's it! In my tests the Alexa-Ooma pairing worked as advertised, though in one instance when I asked it to dial a contact, it instead added an item to my to-do list. But when it worked, which was most of the time, it was fast and efficient. Now Amazon just needs to enable speakerphone capabilities on the Echo.
Need more info? Ooma has a FAQ page devoted to Amazon Echo integration.