If you have an Amazon Echo in your home you already know how useful it can be. In addition to turning on your lights, playing music, and checking the weather, you can also use your Echo devices to make phone calls and video calls—even if the people you’re calling don’t have an Echo device of their own.
Here’s how it all works:
Which devices are capable?
Fire tablets (fourth generation and later) with the Alexa app
Compatible iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets with the Alexa app
The first thing you need to do is give Alexa access to your contacts. Head over the the Alexa app on your iPhone or Android phone and tap the Calling & Messaging tab on the bar at the bottom of the screen (the icon second from the left that looks like a chat bubble). If you haven’t already enabled it, the app will ask permission to access your contacts and register your phone number. (That’s for caller ID purposes. If you opt-out, your calls will show up as “Unknown.”)
Once you finish, you’ll instantly be able to call and message your friends and family who have Echo devices. Then, placing a call is as simple as asking Alexa to call someone. For example, if you want to call your mom, just say, “Alexa, call mom.”
What if the person I want to call doesn’t have an Echo?
If you try to call someone who has an Echo, Alexa will automatically ring it (assuming they’ve also signed up for calling and messaging in their Alexa app).
If your recipient doesn’t have an Echo device (or it isn’t enabled), Alexa will do one of two things: call the Alexa app on their phone (if it’s been set up to receive calls), or dial the number associated with the contact. If there are multiple numbers attached to a contact, it will ask which one you want to call. Then say, “mobile” or “home phone,” and Alexa will dial the appropriate number.
Can I call a number that’s not in my contacts?
Yes, you can call a number that’s not in your contacts by speaking the number to Alexa (e.g. “Alexa, call 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0”).
Can I make international calls?
You can call Echos in any country that supports Alexa-to-Alexa Calling & Messaging, but non-Echo landline and mobile calls are limited to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Can I call any number?
Alexa will be able to dial most numbers, but there are a few notable exceptions:
Emergency services numbers (e.g. “911”)
Premium-rate numbers (e.g. “1-900” numbers, or toll numbers)
Any local X-1-1 numbers or abbreviated dial codes (e.g. “211,” “411,” etc.)
International numbers (numbers outside of the US, Canada, and Mexico)
You don’t actually need an Echo to make a call using Alexa. If you open the Calling & Messaging tab on the mobile app, you can call anyone on your contacts list. Just tap the name of the person you want to call. If they have an Echo device, you’ll see icons for voice and video calls at the top. If not, you can tap one of their other numbers to use Alexa Calling to call a landline or mobile number.
How do I end a call?
Simply say, “Alexa, end the call” or “Alexa, hang up.” On Echo Spots and Echo Shows, you can also tap the red phone icon on the screen.
If you initiate a call from an Echo Show or Echo Spot, it will default to a video call, as if you were using Apple’s Facetime or Google Duo. If you don’t want to be on camera, just say, “Alexa, turn the video off” or tap the camera icon on the screen.
How do I answer an incoming call?
When a call comes in, your Echo will play a ringing sound and its ring will glow yellow. To answer the call, just say, “Alexa, answer the call.”
Can I block numbers?
You can block numbers only if they’re in your contacts list (but don’t worry, you won’t be getting any spam calls on your Echo). Go to the Calling and Messaging tab in the Alexa app, tap the contacts icon in the top right, and then open the three-dot menu in the right corner of the next screen. You’ll see an option for “Block Contacts.” Select it and then choose any contact you want to block.
Can I call another Echo in my house?
A feature called Drop In lets household members instantly connect to Echo devices in other rooms. To enable it, tap on the “Set up Drop In” banner at the top of the Calling & Messaging screen. Then tap Profile Settings and flip the “Allow Drop In” toggle blue. (You can also say, “Alexa, drop in” and complete the setup via voice.) You’ll now be able to use your Echo as an intercom by asking to drop in on an Echo in a different room. You’ll need to call it exactly by name though, so make sure you remember what your Echos in other rooms are called.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.