Amazon didn’t shock anyone when it released its Echo Show device, as the new product was heavily rumored to be arriving. What was unexpected with this release is its new, free, calling and messaging feature. (Though also rumored for a while, we were pretty focused on the touchscreen feature for this launch.) With the new Echo Show touchscreen, users can place video calls to their friends and family. Non-screen Echo devices now support voice calls and messaging. Here are five basic things to know about the new calling and messaging feature on the Echo devices:
How does the calling and messaging feature work?
Anyone with an Echo device or just an updated version of the Amazon Alexa app can communication with each other. There are a few steps that you have to take to set up and activate the feature, but it is easy enough. I was even able to walk my mom through the process without hearing a single curse word from her. Only the Echo Show can support video calling, but anyone that has activated the feature can use Alexa to connect with their contacts.
What does it cost to use the calling and messaging feature?
The calling and messaging feature is free. You just need to have an Amazon account (also free) and download the Alexa app (also free). The cost comes in when if you are planning on using the feature on an Amazon Echo device, in which case you will need to buy that. They start at $49 and top off at $229. This feature doesn’t work through your cell phone, so you won’t get billed for your minutes or your messages. Your phone is only used to run the app and identify your contacts.
Can you only call and message people that have Echo devices?
Nope. The calling and messaging feature will also work through the Alexa app on smartphones. If you have an Echo or an Echo Dot, you can use your device to call people that do not have one as long as they have the Alexa app and have activated the calling and messaging feature.
Can you disable the calling and messaging feature?
This is where we start finding some of the flaws with the new Amazon calling and messaging feature. The good news is that the feature is not automatically enabled. As I mentioned earlier, you have to go through a process within the Alexa app to activate the feature for use. The bad news is that at this time, the feature is not easy to disable once you have turned it on. If for some reason you find that you want to stop using the feature, you have to call Amazon customer service. I’m hoping that Amazon is quick to fix this oversight by giving you an on and off option that is easy to toggle between.
Can you block people from contacting you through the calling and messaging feature?
Unfortunately, at this time you can’t block people from calling and messaging you using this feature once you have disabled it. This is a huge oversight on Amazon’s part, and one they are going to have to fix ASAP. Right now, it’s all or nothing: you either allow everyone to contact you, or you restrict anyone from contacting you.