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An amazing new way to use Amazon Alexa

The battle for home voice assistant supremacy is heating up, as Amazon’s popular Alexa products push to innovate as Google Home makes waves and rumors swirl around a possible Apple-made rival product.

In a big move, Amazon rolled out Alexa Calling & Messaging, a new way for people with Alexa devices and apps to communicate with each other through both voice and messages.

Here’s how to get started with using Alexa Calling & Messaging:

1) Update the app

If you haven’t already, make sure you have the latest update of the Alexa App. It will prompt you to sign into your Amazon account. You may be required to reset your password, so just follow the instructions to do so.

2) Get going

The Alexa app will take you to a screen with a “Get Started” button. These next steps are straightforward and include telling the app who you are, verifying your phone number, and entering a confirmation code.

3) Use your voice

Start communicating by using one of these voice commands with your Alexa device: “Alexa, send a message.” “Alexa, make a call.” You can see your Alexa-enabled contacts by choosing the stylized person-shaped icon at the top of the Conversations section of your app. Alexa will ask who you want to call, so say “Dad” or “Amy” or whatever the name of the contact is. This name will need to match what you have in your contact list.

4) Check your messages

If your Alexa gadget is glowing green, then a message is waiting. Say, “Alexa, play my messages” to hear any messages you have. You can test this option right away and it will play back a preset welcome message after you’ve set up the service. You can also read a transcription in the app.

5) Answer a call

When someone else calls you, your Alexa devices (including phones and tablets with the app installed) will alert you to the incoming call. You will hear an alert noise and the ring on an Echo device will glow green. You can then choose to either answer or ignore the call.

6) Set up do-not-disturb

If you’re looking to get some quiet time, then turn on the Do Not Disturb option by telling your Echo “Alexa, don’t disturb me.” Turn it off by saying, “Alexa, turn off do not disturb.” You can also set up a daily do-not-disturb schedule for individual devices through the settings section of the app. Choose the device’s name and select the “Scheduled” option in the Do Not Disturb section to pick your on and off times.

A note about “Drop In”

Amazon Echo Show owners also have the option to use an enhanced feature called Drop In, which lets someone open up a video call connection with you (or vice versa). Amazon notes, “Drop In is for special cases with your closest family and friends.” You can specify which Echo Show devices will work (like the one in your kitchen, but not the one in your bedroom) and which contacts can use the feature.

Drop In isn’t for everyone since it could be seen as an invasion of your privacy, but it could be useful for parents checking up on babies, much like a video intercom system.

Things to keep in mind:

Alexa Calling & Messaging only works with other friends and family members who either have Alexa devices or have the app and have also signed up to use the feature.

While the calling feature can work with just the Alexa app, the true value of it lies in using Alexa-enabled devices for hands-free communication. The $50 Echo Dot is probably the easiest entry point to get involved with Alexa calling and messaging features.

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