Picture it: you're standing in the kitchen cooking up a saucy chicken dinner with a bottle of BBQ sauce in one hand and the chicken in another. You want to call your brother to check in, but you can't reach for your smartphone on the other side of the kitchen without putting everything down. Your Amazon Echo is on the counter playing Bruce Springsteen while you cook. Instead of drying your hands and picking up the phone, you can now ask Amazon to call any other Alexa user — like your brother.
This is a new feature that Amazon announced earlier this week. Alexa users who own an Echo, or who have the app installed on their iOS or Android smartphone, can now call or message one another for free. You can't call individual rooms yet – like from the dining room up to your kid's bedroom, that feature will launch this summer – but you can call other users.
I've been testing it for a couple of days and I'm blown away by how fun it is to use Alexa to place calls. I get a genuine buzz of excitement when I see my Echo suddenly light up with a green light, alerting me that a friend is calling. The calls are clear, too, and Amazon even lets you send voice messages (think of them as a voicemail) or text that can be spoken by Alexa to another user. I can clearly see how Amazon may be able to use the Echo to totally disrupt everything from enterprise phone systems to how and when we communicate by voice.
Society has moved away from clunky phone systems at home, at least most of us in the younger "millennial" generation, but the Echo, which exists as a smart assistant capable of streaming music, providing sports scores, reading the news and more, isn't a boring old phone. Instead, it can simply double as one. And, better yet, there's no monthly fee to use the feature.
Want to try it for yourself? We'll walk you through how to get up and running now.