In case you missed the announcement during Amazon’s very busy hardware event earlier this week, the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show have all gained the ability to place voice calls to numbers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico for free. If you want to receive calls from regular numbers, you’ll need the new $35 Connect box that Amazon unveiled on Wednesday, which also allows you to use your home telephone number for Echo calls and dial emergency services like 911 or premium rate / international numbers.
But this is still a nice upgrade from the original version of Alexa calling that Amazon rolled out, which only let you call other Echo owners or people with the Alexa app installed and set up on their smartphone. Now you can just tell your Echo to call anyone in your contacts or speak out a specific number to dial.
Once you’ve set up Alexa calling and messaging, your own mobile number is linked to the device and will show up to recipients when you call. This is actually a bit odd since it lets you call yourself with your own phone number from an Echo. You’ve got the option to opt out of displaying your number, in which case other people will see “unknown caller” when your Echo rings them. I’m not sure why you’d really want to do that, as this “unknown caller” caller ID issue is the major annoyance with Google Home’s voice calls right now. The company only shows a recognizable phone number to people you’re dialing if you’re a Google Voice user. Google has said it will be able to display mobile numbers for other user soon, but Amazon has beaten it to the punch.
Unfortunately, you can’t dictate SMS messages with your Echo yet; Alexa’s messaging capabilities are still Echo-to-Echo (or the Alexa app) only for now.