Amazon Turns Alexa into an AT&T Telephone Operator for Incoming Calls
Amazon’s Alexa can now link to AT&T phone numbers, so owners of Echo smart speakers and other devices with the voice assistant can receive and make phone calls by asking Alexa. The new feature expands AT&T’s support of text messages through Alexa into voice and expands Alexa’s existing ability to call phones by essentially making the device an extension of someone’s phone.
Call and Answer
Echo and Echo Show devices have been able to make phone calls since 2017 but operated independently from the owner’s smartphone. You couldn’t pull up a friend’s Echo on a list of mobile and landline phones. Now, if you use AT&T, your Echo is like a handset for your phone, and if you get a phone call, Alexa will tell you who the incoming call is from and you can simply ask Alexa to answer it. The conversation then takes place via the equipment in the smart speaker or smart display. Alexa can make calls by number or by a name in your contact list. Turning on Away Mode in the Alexa app manually or with a Routine will stop calls coming to the devices while you’re gone. The halt can also be tied to certain times with a Routine.
“This is a big step forward in how Alexa can help U.S. customers stay connected with friends and family,” director of Alexa communication Brian Oliver told Voicebot in an email. “We’re excited to team up with AT&T to bring this feature to our shared customers and look forward to introducing more convenient and delightful ways Alexa can help bring people closer together.”
The AT&T partnership serves to advance Amazon’s goals for Alexa as a hub for smart homes, including when it comes to communication. People treating the voice assistant as a phone operator to the outside world just brings a new dimension to how it functions within the home. Though it’s new to the U.S., German Vodafone OneNumber customers and British users of either Vodafone or EE can already tie their mobile phone numbers to Alexa. In June, Amazon updated the Drop In feature to allow people to network every Echo smart speakers and smart displays into a shared audio conference, instead of just a two-way conversation. Someone by an Echo in one room can start a chat with every connected Alexa device, and those near those other devices can be heard in-turn. One-way announcements to every Echo device are also an option if it doesn’t require a response.