What I’m about to share is likely already known to people who keep up with Amazon’s Alexa products.
First, users of Alexa products can use their devices, or even the Alexa app, to make and receive “phone” calls. In order for this feature to work, you need to enable the feature in your Alexa app or, presumably, Alexa’s Web interface by going to http://alexa.amazon.com.
Once this has been done, you can upload your contacts to Alexa. If any of your contacts are also Alexa users and have also uploaded their contacts, you can call them by just saying “Alexa, call John Smith.” Alexa confirms the request and plays a repeating series of tones, to let you know that it is attempting to call John Smith’s Alexa device or app. Once John answers, you can talk with him by using the microphones from your Alexa device or your smartphone or tablet’s mic. When you’re ready to disconnect, you can say “Alexa, disconnect.”
You can also send voice messages by saying “Alexa, send a message to John Smith.” Alexa will prompt you to record the message and you can do so, although I believe there is a limit to the recording’s duration. You can also ask Alexa to play messages you might have and she will do so.
When a new message has been received, a series of two quick chimes is heard to alert you. If you miss those chimes, the unit will flash a series of lights, similar to how a phone or older answering machine provided similar alerts. For someone who is visually impaired, you can always just ask “Alexa, do I have any messages?” The audio quality, both for messages and for live calls, is quite good.
There is a valid concern about not being able to block specific people from contacting you, which I’m sure Amazon will address sooner rather than later.
Since this feature was released, the newly updated Alexa app for iOS seems much more stable and is far easier to use.
Also, Amazon has announced their new Echo unit with a touchscreen called the Echo Show. In addition to the Echo’s capabilities, it will also be able to play video and will be able to allow for video as well as audio communication, similar to Apple’s Facetime. The unit will cost $229.00 and will ship by the end of June. We’ve heard nothing as to whether the Voice View screen reader will be included for accessibility.