Finally, full hands-free mobile and landline calling from your Echo

Last week was a good week for accessibility. Thursday 19 June saw the 10th anniversary of blind access to the iPhone and the day after finally saw Alexa calling to landline and mobile phones come to an Echo near you. For those with a motor or dexterity impairment (including those who are completely paralysed) this is huge.

Setting up Alexa calling

For a while now, we've been able to call other Alexa-enabled devices using just our voice - that's the whole range of Echo smartspeakers, Fire TVs and tablets and all smartphones that have the 'Amazon Alexa' app installed. 

"Alexa, call Bob," and all of Bob's Echo devices will ring (unless he's altered the settings on some - although you can still pick up from those devices) as well as all of Bob’s smartphones and tablets. 

"Alexa, pick up," says Bob and, when he realises it's you, he says, "Alexa, hang up." It's that simple!

Photos of an iPhone, landline telephone and Amazon Echo

Not set up for Echo calling yet? Go into the settings section in your Alexa app, turn on the calling feature from within 'Communications' and allow the app access to all your contacts when prompted. 

Now you can call everyone in your contacts on all their gadgets completely free of charge. Free? But surely it's somehow using my mobile minutes or piggy-backing on my landline package? No. Don't ask me how Amazon does it, but calls to all mobiles and non-premium landline numbers are completely free of charge.

You can say, "Alexa, call Mum's mobile," or "Alexa, call Richard's home phone," or "Alexa, call Bob." In the latter case Alexa will prompt you for which number or device to call Bob on - i.e. "Would you like me to call Bob's alexa devices, mobile or home phone?" 

Alexa knows which number to call by the labels you have assigned to your contacts' different numbers on your smartphone - e.g. 'iPhone', 'Mobile', 'Home' or 'Work' etc - so you may want to go through and check that the labels you've assigned to each number using that little pop-up menu is intuitive and consistent.

Voice calling in action

So setting up voice calling is simple. Everyone can use their voice to make calls to all their family, friends, colleagues, carers and doctors’ surgery etc. The only numbers not yet supported are 999 and premium lines.

If you want to hear it in action, we covered voice calling to UK phones in a recent episode of the Dot to Dot daily Echo demo show. Please do subscribe to the show in the podcatching app of your choice, or else you can listen to just that episode below.

Where else can I call?

As well as UK calls, also included are all US, Canada and Mexico mobile and residential numbers - oh, and of course all Alexa-enabled devices around the world. That’s an awful lot of hands-free empowerment for everyone – but most especially for those for whom letting your fingers do the talking isn’t an option. (At least a few of you out there will be old enough to get that one.)