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Amazon’s Fire phone was a failure, so it’s turning every Echo speaker into a phone

Published May 9th, 2017 11:46AM EDT
Amazon Alexa Calling

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Today, Amazon unveiled its thoroughly-leaked Echo Show, a $230 touchscreen Echo with streaming video for new and entertainment, which also happens to make video calls. But if you already have an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, the device you already own is getting in on the action, too, with hands-free Alexa Calling and voice messaging to and from any Echo user.

The new features, which Amazon notes are “coming soon,” will function a lot like the hands-free calling features that already exist on both iOS and Android. Once you activate the voice calling feature, simply asking Alexa to call the person you want to contact will prompt the device to initiate the call and, when you’re on the receiving end of a call from one of your own contacts, you can say “Alexa, answer the call” to begin your conversation.

However, because Alexa works without user names or numbers, the device itself won’t be where your contacts are stored. Instead, the Alexa app on your smartphone will pull and sync your contacts, matching you up with whichever of your friends and family also have a calling-enabled Echo device synced with their own phones.

In addition to live calls, Alexa will also have the ability to record and send voice messages to your contacts, or store them locally for other people in your home to listen to later. Think of it like a sticky note on your fridge, but in the form of a brief audio blurb.

Amazon notes that all of these voice features will work across Echo devices, so you can use an Echo Dot to call someone with an Echo or Echo Show, and vice versa. The features will be added in free update which will roll out at some point in the (presumably) near future.