Amazon's Alexa is a brilliant communicator, and is loaded with features for talking to your friends and family. Drop In and Alexa Announcements make a great home intercom system, and you can use Alexa Calling to make phone calls, too.
Alexa enables you to speak to anyone in the home â to see what time dinnerâs ready, whether the kids are in from school, or even to demand the delivery of a cup of tea upstairs. You can Drop In from work or the pub using your smartphone or through rooms via Amazon Echo devices and even Fire tablets in Show mode.
Essential reading: Best Alexa compatible devices
And, whatâs more, itâs not even confined to your own home. You can Drop In on friends and relatives with Alexa, or if theyâre not ready to have you appear in their living rooms unchecked, use Alexa Calling instead.
Alexa Announcements, meanwhile, is a feature that lets you broadcast messages to your Alexa-enabled speakers without the right to reply - so, let's explore how to set it all up.
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Alexa Drop In
How to use Alexa Drop In
Drop In enables you call up one of the Alexa devices from within your household. It can be used to check in with home, rather than calling specific people, or as an intercom between Alexa devices in other rooms, which can be handy, especially in larger homes. If your contact has an Echo Show or Echo Spot, you can drop in via video as well.
Read next: The best Amazon Alexa devices
While Drop In has become somewhat of a catch-all term when it comes to calling Alexa devices, it generally only really applies to your Echo speakers registered to your Alexa app. However, friends and family can allow you to Drop In on them, too. That means you will connect to their device to chat via two-way audio/video at will, without them answering/accepting the call.
How do you sign up?
Weâre going to assume that youâve got the Alexa app downloaded and got your Amazon Echo all hooked up. So the next thing to do is sign up for Alexa Calling and Messaging, which you do in the Alexa app. At the bottom, tap the Conversations tab, denoted by that little speech bubble, and sign up.
Which Alexa devices support Drop In and Calling?
- Amazon Echo (1st and 2nd generation)
- Amazon Echo Dot (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation)
- Amazon Echo Show (1st and 2nd generation)
- Amazon Echo Spot
- Amazon Echo Plus (1st and 2nd generation)
- Fire HD 8 tablet (2018)
- Fire HD 8 tablet (2017)
- Fire HD 10 tablet
How to start a Drop In call
You donât have to do all this from a smartphone, and, naturally, you can ask Alexa to Drop In on a device. To do this just say, âAlexa, Drop In on [insert the name of your speaker],â to start a call. This only works for devices within your home - to Drop In on wider contacts, things are done slightly differently.
How to Drop In on friends and family
Providing your contacts have approved you for Drop In, you can say, âAlexa, Drop In on [contact name]â. Just make sure you name them as they appear in your address book. If you're using a device with a screen, like a phone (below) or Echo Show, the video is distorted for a few seconds then good to go - if you want to turn it off say, "Alexa, video off," or touch the screen and select it that way.
Also worth noting: if you don't want people Dropping In on you right now - secret business - then enable Do Not Disturb on your Echo - just saying, "Alexa, don't disturb me," will do the trick.
How to start a Drop In from the Alexa app
To Drop In to a contact from your smartphone, just head to the Alexa app and go to the Conversations tab. Youâll see a big Drop In tab, which you tap to see a quick list of all Alexa devices youâre cleared to access. If, for whatever reason, you canât see the one youâre looking for, you can hit the contact icon at the top right, choose the person from your address book and Drop In from there.
How to Drop In using Fire tablets
Go to Settings in the drop-down menu on your tablet and then tap Alexa and toggle on both Alexa and Hands-Free Mode.
Tap Communications > toggle on Calling and Messaging and thenSet Drop In to âOnâ. You'll need to choose whether you just want Drop In to be enabled for your household (advisable) or you can choose "preferred contacts" which you can assign on a case-by-case basis. Remember that they'll just be able to drop into your home uninvited, though.
Finally, select Announcements and toggle to Enabled.
How to use Alexa Announcements
Similar to Drop In, Alexa Announcements gives your Alexa devices the ability to broadcast to your Amazon Echo devices around the home. Like Drop In, Announcement mode enabled you to connect to other Echo speakers without someone answering, but it's not two-way audio. The idea is that you can send out a PSA to your home â "dinner's ready", "leaving in five minutes", "turn that music down now" â that kind of thing.
Essential guide: What is Amazon Echo Connect?
The feature started rolling out earlier this year, and now includes third-party devices, not just Echo ones. Amazon says that Announcements is now available for "certified Alexa built-in products to implement and new ones that pass the provided self-tests and certification.â
To make an Alexa Announcement, just say to your speaker, "Alexa, announce that [message]," Your voice will ring out of your other devices.
Obviously, just freely connecting to Alexa devices is fine in your own home, but you might not want your mum having the power to Drop In uninvited. Luckily, thatâs an opt-in arrangement.
However, you can still give your family and friends a ring on their Alexa device, using Alexa Calling. This enables you to make a call or send a message to the Alexa device of anyone in your contacts list (so long as theyâve set themselves up for Alexa Calling as well).
The Alexa Messaging service also delivers the message to your contactâs Alexa app, as well as their Echo device. Using the same voice detection technology as Alexa, your message will be transcribed into text and sent as a message within the Conversations tab.
Interestingly, in the UK, carrier Vodafone has recently become the first to offer customers the chance to make calls through Alexa by simply linking their phone number to their account. This allows users to call any of their contacts through their existing plan, and it even works if your connected phone has run out of battery.
Of course, we're expecting more carriers to offer a similar feature over the course of 2019, both in Europe and the US - something that could spell the end for traditional landlines.
How to make a call with Alexa
To call up the Amazon Echo of a contact:
1. Head to the Alexa app and tap on Communication.
2. Choose the contacts button (little person icon in the top right) and youâll see a list of all your contacts.
3. Tap on a friend and then press the telephone icon. Youâll call their Echo, not their phone, as itâs slightly confusingly labelled.