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Can Alexa make phone calls?

You can leave your smartphone in your pocket if you've got an Alexa device or two.
By
November 30, 2022
A 5th gen Echo Dot with Clock
Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Phone and video calling may not be the most hyped features on devices with Amazon Alexa, but they are available, and actually very convenient if they’re in your region and you know how to use them. Read on for details.

QUICK ANSWER

Yes, Alexa devices can place phone and/or video calls, depending on the exact hardware you and your recipients have. Phone calls are free within the US, UK, Canada, and Mexico, and you can optionally link a supported cellular carrier. Video calls operate over Amazon, Zoom, or Skype's own networks. You can't call emergency, premium, or dial-by-letter numbers, or countries outside the ones above.


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Making phone calls with Alexa

Amazon Echo Dot Alexa speaker with light ring turned on stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

The main advantage of calling with Alexa is convenience. You don’t need to hold you phone to your ear, put it on speakerphone, or even pick it up. You can place or answer calls regardless of whether your hands are free.

Calls can be made either Alexa-to-Alexa or Alexa-to-phone, including both mobile and landline numbers within the limits below. You can dial phones manually, but it’s easier if you assign them to named contacts in the Alexa app for Android or iOS. Open the Communicate tab, tap the Contacts icon in the upper right, then choose Add New to create a fresh contact and/or group if you aren’t prompted to import your device’s native contact list. To change import settings, tap the triple-dot icon in the Contacts menu followed by Import Contacts.

Requirements and restrictions

There aren’t many requirements, but they matter a great deal. Alexa-to-Alexa and Alexa-to-phone calls are free, but the latter can only be made to numbers in the US, UK, Canada, or Mexico. Anything else is considered “international” and unavailable.

On top of international numbers, the following are also blocked:

  • Emergency service numbers like 911 or 999
  • “Premium” numbers (anything with a toll, like 1-900 lines)
  • Three-digit numbers (411, etc.)
  • Dial-by-letter numbers (instead of “1-800-FLOWERS,” for example, you have to dial “1-800-356-9377”)

Amazon limits you to 10 Alexa-to-phone contacts, and children with Amazon Kids profiles must have theirs approved and edited by parents.

Most Alexa devices default to Alexa-to-Alexa calling, since that’s largely unrestricted, but of course recipients need to at least have the Alexa app for that to work. If that’s not an option, Alexa-to-phone is selected.

Some devices actually default to cellular-based calling, namely ones that pair with your phone — these include the Echo Auto, Echo Buds, Echo Frames, and Echo Loop. There’s no need for Alexa past starting a call, you’re able to make a regular phone-to-phone connection.

Speaking of which, you can optionally link a cellular account to Alexa to answer that number on speakers and displays. In the US, this option is limited to AT&T and Verizon. To make a cellular link, open the Alexa app and go to More > Settings > Communication.

How to make a phone call using an Alexa speaker or display

There are a few ways of calling named contacts. If needed, substitute “Alexa” for whichever wake word you’ve set:

  • “Alexa, call [name]” follows the default calling order, preferring Alexa-to-Alexa, but otherwise switching to Alexa-to-phone.
  • “Alexa, call [name]’s mobile” forces Alexa to call someone’s cell number.
  • “Alexa, call [name] at [home/work/office/etc.]” lets you use alternate phone numbers if a person has more than one.
  • “Alexa, call [group name] group” lets you call multiple people at once if you created a group using the Add New button in Contacts.
  • “Call [name]’s [device group/name]” will call specific Alexa devices.

If you want to call someone who isn’t saved in your Alexa contacts, you’ll have to add them first or use the exact phone number, even if you’re actually calling a business or other institution. As an example, you might say “Alexa, call 1-800-555-3845.”

Alexa Drop-Ins

Drop-Ins are similar to regular calls, but require explicit enabling and consent — in fact, they’re normally just meant for intercom functions within your own home. Learn more in our guide.

Making video calls with Echo Show devices

A Zoom meeting on an Echo Show 8
Zoom

For video calls on an Echo Show, you can use Amazon’s platform, Skype, or Zoom.

To place Amazon-based video calls, there are two methods:

  • Say “Alexa, video call [name],” where the blank is someone in your Alexa contacts. They’ll need the Alexa app or their own camera-equipped Alexa device to answer.
  • Swipe down from the top edge of the Show, tap on Communicate, then on Show Contacts. Pick a compatible contact followed by the Call button.

To start using Skype on an Echo Show:

  • Open the Alexa app and tap on the Settings tab.
    Select Communication, then Skype.
  • Sign in with your Microsoft account, and follow prompts to link with Alexa. If you haven’t used Skype before, make sure you’ve signed up elsewhere.
  • Say “Alexa, Skype [name]” to make a call, where the blank is the name of a Skype contact (not an Alexa contact).
  • Say “Alexa, answer” when a call is incoming.

There are two ways to join a Zoom call:

  • Say “Alexa, open the Zoom app.” Follow Zoom for Home setup instructions if you’re not logged in, then tap Join for an upcoming or ongoing meeting.
  • Say “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting.” If you have an Alexa-linked calendar with Zoom event details, your Show will attempt to enter the meeting ID and passcode automatically. If you don’t have an associated calendar event, you’ll be asked to give a meeting ID and passcode yourself — alphanumeric IDs aren’t supported, however.

Read more: How to use Amazon Alexa

FAQs

No. You can read about possible alternatives in our explainer.

No, unless you’re using paid carrier or Skype plans. Even Skype is normally free.

There’s no universal answer to this, but here are Amazon’s recommended troubleshooting steps:

  • Make sure your Alexa device is connected to the internet.
  • If you’re using the Alexa app, update it to the latest version, and verify that it’s hearing you properly by trying other commands.
  • Doublecheck your contact info. Even if you’ve imported phone contacts, it may be that your phone data was out-of-date, or that the Alexa app hasn’t performed its latest sync.

On speakers you’ll see a green light, and on displays you’ll see an incoming call screen. Either way you’ll hear a very obvious alert. On phones, you’ll get a notification.