Amazon’s Echo devices can already control the lights in your house, make you a coffee when you wake up in the morning and deliver things straight to your door, all through a simple voice command. In an announcement last week, Amazon has unveiled a feature made to compete against services such as Skype and even your landline telephone, as users of the Echo device are now able to make calls and send messages to other users at no extra cost.
As it uses your existing contacts and identifies users by their mobile number (a bit like WhatsApp), the new service is easy to use – simply tell Alexa to call or message a contact, and it handles the rest for you. Voice message functionality is built in too, so if your friend does not pick up, you can leave a short recording just like with traditional phones. A message can be left without making a call too if you prefer.
As far as privacy is concerned, Amazon won’t have access to or store any voice calls however voice messages are stored in the cloud, so that they can be accessed across all your Echo devices, and according to Amazon, this also helps its voice message transcription service.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback of this service is that it only works between Echo devices and the Alexa app on smartphones, there is no ability to call normal phone numbers yet. This may limit how many of your friends you can contact, as those who don’t use Echo are unlikely to have the Alexa app installed.
The service is live across all Echo, Android and iOS devices as of last Wednesday, so you can try it out now – just enable the feature within the Alexa app.