Amazon kicked off the smart speaker race with the Echo, but the competition is fast closing in. Google followed up with its Home speaker, and Microsoft has entered the game by putting Cortana in a Harman Kardon speaker. To keep it ahead of the curve, Amazon has updated its Echo to give it the ability to make and receive calls.
Given it was announced at the same time as the Echo Show, the news about the Echo and Echo Dot getting call and messaging capabilities was at risk of slipping under the radar. But the upgrade brings Amazon's two home speakers into line with the new Harman Kardon Invoke, which uses Microsoft Cortana to make Skype calls.
At the moment, calling functionality using Alexa is limited. Users can only call or message other people who have the Alexa app, or an Echo product in their home. The app will show users which of their contacts can be reached using Alexa.
When you receive a call, the light ring on top of the Echo will flash green and the speaker will chime. You can tell Alexa to ignore or answer the call, and messages or missed calls are also forwarded to the companion app on your phone.
Calling functionality is available with an Alexa app update, released for iOS and Android today.