Amazon now lets you make hands-free calls on all Alexa devices
“Alexa, call my mother.”
Yes, the future of hands-free calling is here after Amazon announced the new Echo Show on Tuesday, a version of its popular smart speaker with a touchscreen that looks like a ’90s television. With the Show, the company announced video calling for the device as well as free voice calling and messaging on the Alexa platform to all Echo devices, as well as the Alexa app, which can be used on iOS and Android.
To call, just ask Alexa—no hands needed. There’s also a messaging feature, which allows you to share voicemail style audio messages, and receive them via the device and the Alexa app. Alexa uses a VoIP service to make the calls.
At its core, this is simply a landline for 2017. Landline phones having been on the decline for years, but the desire to talk to people while at home is not going anywhere. A video update to the landline may sound trivial, but it’s significant for parents with young children and the elderly. The seamlessness of the video call will be key—something that can only be tried and tested when the device launches in June.
Echo is available in a handful of countries and continues to expand internationally, which will make the incentive to use Alexa’s free calling and messaging even stronger. The incentive to use it is similar to Apple’s FaceTime, which found great success with iOS users. Amazon has a much larger market share in the smart speaker space—about 70 percent, according to a recent eMarketer survey—as compared to Apple’s 17.8 percent share of the smartphone market. (Of course, there are many more smartphones in the world than smart speakers. But it’s still a nice head start for Amazon.)
Amazon’s calling and messaging could be used regardless of phone or laptop operating systems, with Alexa being the uniting platform. Being able to make free calls to your home from anywhere in the world is another feature that is technically possible in many different apps and devices, but it’s extremely powerful when done as seamlessly as the Echo promises. Google’s competing smart speaker, Home, doesn’t allow that yet, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company add the feature as it already has a number of apps with similar functionality.
The feature will be rolling out to the Echo, Dot, and Alexa App for iOS and Android on Tuesday.