I think Echo calling is a neat feature, but it was a bit limited at first.
Calling other Echo users is pretty neat, but it seemed a little gimmicky.
You could also use a feature called “Drop In,” which lets you start a voice call with another Echo without the other person having to answer the call. The Drop In feature is off by default, so you have to enable it for each device you’d like to use.
I can see this being handy for keeping track of elderly friends or relatives if they haven’t checked in for a bit.
Alexa really got interesting when Amazon introduced calling phone numbers.
Did you know you can just ask Alexa to call a phone number and she’ll connect you?
There is a contacts section of the Alexa app on your phone where you can sync your phone’s contacts to the Alexa app so you can just say, “Alexa, call mom” and if there is a contact in your Alexa app for mom, the call will commence.
You can also say, “Alexa, call 214-555-1212” and Alexa will dial that number.
Amazon is using the internet to place the calls. You can specify in the Alexa app whether you want your cellphone number to appear as an outgoing caller ID number, but you don’t have to have a number show at all.
Of course, these are speakerphone calls, and with the nice array of microphones on each Echo device, the voice quality is pretty darn good.
In fact, I got to thinking about how well those Echo microphones can hear. I can speak in a normal voice from my kitchen, and the Echo Dot in the living room can hear my commands.
Our house isn’t huge, but the three Echo Dots we have can pick up our voices from anywhere in the house.
With Echo Calling, the Echo devices are now very useful for making an emergency phone call. If you fall and break your leg, instead of having to drag yourself to wherever you left your phone, what if you could just say, “Alexa, call Jim” and you can talk from wherever you are in the house?
There are several brands of medical alert systems that you can wear around your neck or on your belt. Alexa could only be used if you fall within voice range of an Echo, but a few strategically placed Echoes in your home can make calling for help a lot easier.
You can’t use Alexa to call 911 using Alexa Calling. But if you have a landline or a Voice over IP service like Ooma or Vonage, you can buy a $35 box called the Echo Connect to make a connection between your phone line and the Echo devices in your house.
With the Echo Connect, you can dial 911 because the address information from your phone line will be transmitted to 911 when you call.
Oh, and if you have a Google Home device, it has virtually the same call-making functionality.
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Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at email@example.com.