I love my Amazon Echo Show device for a lot of reasons. It cycles through my favorite photos to remind me of better times. It lets me watch shows and movies while I'm cooking or doing chores. I can even get video news briefings, check the weather, and watch YouTube through an actual web browser like Mozilla's Firefox or Amazon's Silk (hello Google/Nest?). However, hands-down one of the neatest things it can do is easy peasy, hands-free video calling with Alexa. I'll show you how it's done.
Products used in this guide
How to set up Alexa calling and messaging
Before you can start making video or audio calls on your Echo Show device, you'll need to set up the capability within the Alexa app itself.
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
- Tap on the Communicate button on the bottom menu bar (it looks like a chat bubble).
- Verify your mobile phone number.
- Grant Amazon permission to use your phone's calling and messaging capabilities.
Import your phone's contact list when prompted so that Alexa can call who you ask her to.
Now you can start communicating with your contacts from the Alexa app or your Echo or Echo Show smart speakers.
Calling isn't just for smart speakers. It's also worth pointing out that once you've enabled these communication features in your Alexa app and imported your contacts, you can make free voice calls to any mobile phone or landline to anyone between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
So even if grandma doesn't have an Echo or a smartphone, you can still ask Alexa to call her if your hands are full while washing dishes or folding laundry. The only catch here, and it's an important one, is that you can't use Alexa or an Echo device to call emergency services (i.e. 911).
Now that you've set up your communication preferences within the Alexa app, let's go make that first video call.
How to make a video call on an Amazon Echo
- From your Echo Show device, ask Alexa to call one of your contacts.
- The person who you are calling will see an image/card of you with the option to accept or reject the call by tapping on their Echo Show home screen buttons or by saying "Alexa answer" or "Alexa ignore."
- When the call starts, say "video on" or press the video camera icon on the screen.
- If at any point you want to turn off the video only, you can say "video off" or press the video camera icon again.
- When you are ready to hang up, say "Alexa hang up."
So easy, right? Any of your contacts who also have an Amazon Echo device with communication preferences enabled will be able to hear your voice during a call, and if they use an Echo Show or the Alexa app on their smartphone, they can engage in a video call with you if they so choose.
The other neat trick you can do with Echo and Echo Show devices is to use an Alexa-specific feature called Drop In. Drop in can be used within your own home between multiple Echos as a sort of intercom system, where you could say "Alexa, drop in on Amy's room" so you can let Amy know that she still needs to do the dishes.
Alternatively, if your friends or family have the Drop In feature enabled on their Echo devices and opt to accept Drop In calls from you, you can ask Alexa to "drop in on mom" so that you can check-in and make sure your mother is doing okay.
How to make a Skype call on an Amazon Echo
If you already have a Skype account, you can enable Skype calling from your Echo device through the following steps.
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone or visit alexa.amazon.com.
- From the menu, open Settings.
Click or tap on the Communication tab.
- Click or tap on Skype.
- Follow the prompts onscreen to connect your Skype account with your Alexa account.
Once connected, you can ask Alexa to "call grandad on Skype" or say "Alexa, Skype Jason."
Hot tip: whether you use the Skype integration or the Echo's built-in communications platform, you can also ask Alexa to call a specific number (including area code), and she'll dial it for you. The one exception to this is emergency services. To do that, you'll need to have an Echo Connect device and home phone service.
Our top equipment picks
If you need a new Echo Show device or if you want to get one for a friend or family member, I recommend you skip over the 10-inch Echo Show (2nd Gen) and get one of these newer, more privacy-focused models. At the very least, you can recommend that your friends and family who have non-screened Echo devices use the Alexa app for video chatting!
Echo Show 5
A compact Alexa display
Amazon's small screen Alexa device features a touchscreen display, microphone, speakers, camera, and built-in camera cover. Slide the shutter over the lens to protect yourself from potential spying eyes. You can use this device to check the news, stream shows on Amazon Prime, find recipes, interact with Ring devices, and much more.
Not just a way to set up your Amazon Echo devices, the Alexa app is a valuable tool in its own right.
Amazon Alexa App (Free at Google Play)
The key to unlocking all of your Echo's capabilities, this app can also serve to hold your notes, to-do lists, and send and receive calls and messages with Alexa.
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