Echo devices can now call US, Canada, and Mexico numbers for free — No extra hardware necessary

All Amazon Echo devices, including the Echo Dot, Echo Show, and the new next generation Echo models, can now make landline phone calls to the US, Canada, and Mexico completely for free without needing anything extra to buy. This is an expansion of the Alexa-to-Alexa calling capabilities released earlier this year which now lets you call regular phone numbers, whether or not the person you are calling has ever used an Alexa device.

When calling capabilities were first added to Echo devices, you needed to use an Echo device or the Alexa app to either send or receive a call. The person you were calling had to have at least set up the feature through the Alexa app and ideally owned an Echo device. Now anyone with an Echo device can call nearly any phone number in the US, Canada, and Mexico using the Echo device and the call is completely free.

To make a call to a landline, you need to first go through the calling setup in the Alexa app by selecting the conversations tab in the app. You will need to give the app access to your phone contacts, so that you can call people by name, and you may be asked to verify your phone number via text message. Number verification is required because when you call a phone number with an Echo device, the person you are calling will see your mobile phone number show up. There will be no indication to them that you are calling through an Echo device and not through your mobile phone. If you prefer, you can opt-out of showing your phone number to the person you’re calling, in which case they’ll see “unknown caller” appear on their phone when you call.

Once you’ve gone through the calling set up in the Alexa app, you’ll be able to simply ask Alexa to call anyone in your phones contact list by name. If the person you are calling has also set up Alexa-to-Alexa calling, it will default to calling their Alexa devices if you just say “Alexa, call [name]” without specifying which number/device you’d like to call.

It’s probably best to get in the habit of asking to call specific devices, so there are no surprises. If you want to call a person’s Echo device or Alexa app, you should say “Alexa, call [name]’s Echo.” To ensure you are calling a person’s mobile/landline phone number, you should say “Alexa, call [name]’s mobile/home/work/office.” Lastly, you can also speak out the number you want to call if it’s not in your phone’s contacts by saying “Alexa, call 2-1-3-5-5-5-1-2-3-4”. Just be sure to include the area code.

If there are multiple people in your home and they have each set up calling through the Alexa app, you will need to switch profiles on your Alexa device to ensure you are accessing the correct person’s contact list. You do this by saying “Alexa, switch to [name]’s profile.” Another reason to ensure you’re using your own profile, and not a family member’s, is that the person receiving the phone call will see the phone number of the profile that is currently selected on the Echo device show up on their caller ID.

While in a phone call through an Echo device, you can say “Alexa, turn the volume up/down” to adjust the volume of the Echo device. To hang up the call, you can say “Alexa, hang up.” Just realize that the person you are talking to will hear you give either of those commands. If you press the mute button on your Echo device during a phone call, it will disable the microphone so the person you are talking to will no longer hear you, but you will still be able to hear them.

You are currently not able to call a phone number through the Alexa app. You must use an Echo device for that. The Alexa app can only initiate Alexa(App)-to-Alexa(App) calls or Alexa(App)-to-Echo(device) calls to people in your contact list who have set up Alexa calling already. You also cannot use either the Alexa app or an Echo device to call “N-1-1” numbers (e.g., 911, 411, 211), “1-900” numbers, or international numbers.

Echo devices also can’t receive phone calls from landline/mobile phones. For that, you’ll need to buy the newly announced Echo Connect for $34.99 and connect it to your home landline. With an Echo Connect installed, your Echo devices will announce when someone is calling your landline, which you can then choose to answer through your Echo device or ignore the call. The Echo connect will also allow you to call 911 and international numbers through your Echo device, but you will be using your home landline to make those calls, and not Amazon’s free service.

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26 comments
  1. Jim Carter says:

    Excellent summary of this new functionality!

  2. Big John says:

    Very cool addition to Alexa’s capabilities. I’ve been playing around with it for a while this afternoon and have come across one problem. When I call a number that answers with a phone tree, like Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that, etc., I have not been able to get the Echo to “Press 1.” Therefore, I can’t make any progress on the phone call. Do you know of any way around this Press 1, Press 2 problem other than making that call on my phone? Thanks for the heads-up on the new service.

    • Big John says:

      Just finished a chat with an Amazon rep. According to him, “this feature is not available at this time.” :)

      • ReVeLaTeD says:

        Curious if you tried emulating the tone using a phone dial pad. Ghetto, I know…but curious if it actually would work.

        • Big John says:

          My phone’s dial pad doesn’t generate any tones. But I downloaded the app “DTMF Tones” from the Google PlayStore, and it seems to work ok. Sometimes I had to tap a key several times before Echo would recognize the tone, but eventually it would.

          • Big John says:

            I just tried amplifying the tones through a bluetooth speaker and performance improved 100%. The Echo recognized and responded to every tone accurately. To use Revelated’s word, it’s kind of Ghetto, but it’s a workaround.

          • Powarun says:

            As a guy who works on phones, DTMF is a PITA when not working right. As I see it Amazon is testing the waters to see if it becomes mainstream or not.

  3. AR says:

    i wonder if someone will find a work around for incoming calls
    i really do not see the need for the additional hardware of the connect device except if you want to use your existing phone number which is nice
    but i do not see a reason why they would not provide an incoming number option

  4. Peter S says:

    This is a very nice feature. It will bring it up to almost-parity with Google’s home’s calling feature

  5. alex says:

    I’d love to try this, but I don’t see anything about this in my Alexa app, which appears to be up to date.

    • Jeff says:

      Same here. I only seem to have the old Echo to Echo calling abilities.

      • John C says:

        Try signing out of the Alexa app on your mobile phone, and then sign back in again. That worked in the case of my Android phone and its Alexa app, which didn’t originally show any kind of calling/register my phone number setup screen when I first opened the app and went to the Conversations tab.

  6. shwru980r says:

    Are VOIP numbers considered land lines?

  7. drumst1x says:

    This is very interesting. There’s a google spot on the TV now for Google Home advertising it as “the only home speaker that can make calls….” Guess google’s now peddling some #fakenews :)

    (Google spot here)
    https://www.ispot.tv/ad/wShA/google-home-hands-free-calling

    Thanks for the update!

  8. John C says:

    When I go to the Conversations tab in the Alexa app on my Android 6.01 phone, I don’t see/can’t find any set-up process for making regular voice calls. And my Alexa app is up to date per the Google Play Store.

    I previously had registered my associated Echo Dot device for Echo to Echo calling when that feature became available. But now, when I say, “Alexa, Make a Call,” it tells me to first register in my Alexa app.

    On the Conversation tab screen in my Alexa app, it has text reading: “Now you can communicate with your friends and family. Try saying: … Alexa, Make a Call.” But that just leads back to the register prompt without any clear way to accomplish that.

    • John C says:

      Just an update on the above:

      On the Android 6.01 phone I mentioned above, the calling setup screen did not pop up until I signed out of already existing Alexa app on my phone, and then signed back in again. Once I did that, I got the calling setup screen.

      However, once it was set up, Alexa didn’t see any contacts on my phone and didn’t recognize any contact names, perhaps because I keep on my contacts in my Google accounts, and don’t keep any of them stored as local contacts on the phone itself. So does Alexa only recognize contacts stored locally on the device itself?

      After I couldn’t get it to find any of my contacts, I tried calling by saying “Alexa, make a call,” and then when asked for a contact, speaking out the 10 digit phone number with area code. Once I did that, Alexa repeated the number back to me asking if that was correct. I answered yes, and then Alexa said dialing. But then I didn’t hear any sound from Alexa like dial or ringtones or anything, and the two regular number I tried dialing in my house didn’t ring (one a Google Voice # and the other a MagicJack #).

  9. Steve Kline says:

    Can I opt out or opt in showing my mobile phone number on a call-by-call basis, or is it always showing or always not showing?
    If it can be done, how do I do it?

  10. Robert Simandl says:

    This is apparently rolling out gradually. My Alexa app is still saying I can connect to other Echo owners, nothing about calling other phones.

    Signing out and back in again (even rebooted my phone in between) didn’t help.

  11. Big John says:

    Can I be traveling overseas with my Echo Dot (in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, etc.) and still make calls back to Canada, Mexico and the US as long as my US cell phone number is associated with my Amazon account?

  12. Steve Kline says:

    As Alexa would say, I’m not too sure about that.

  13. John C. says:

    Anyone got any updates on this?

    For me, the general purpose calling (as opposed to Echo/Alexa to Echo/Alexa calling) still doesn’t seem to be enabled on the Alexa app on either of my recent OS Android smartphones, including one being an Amazon Prime Exclusive phone.

    No contacts appear within the Alexa app on its conversation screen, even though I saved some of my contacts to my phone’s device memory (in addition to being stored in my Google accounts). The app screen makes it seem as though it only is supporting Alexa/Echo to Alexa/Echo calling.

    But the general purpose calling does seem to work when I simply make a verbal request directly to my Echo Dot, as in, “Alexa, make a phone call…” or simply “Alexa, call XXX-XXX-XXXX.” That worked for calling two different regular mobile phone numbers. But when I tried to call one of my own active and working Google Voice numbers, Alexa responded with “That contact is not available.” I don’t know what that means… Are GV numbers excluded?

  14. Chris Corrice says:

    So Amazon Tap owners are shortchanged….?

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