Amazon adding free Alexa calling and messaging to Echo devices

Up to this point, Amazon's Echo devices have been all about voice controls, but the newest addition to the family, the Amazon Echo Show ($229.99 on Amazon), adds visuals and video calling.

The original Echo was backordered for months after its initial launch, and Amazon has already started taking pre-orders on the Show.

The new Echo will have a 7-inch touch screen display and have the usual Echo features. You can watch Youtube videos, or it can be your regular photo frame by downloading your photos from Amazon Prime. The other person can call you (or you can call them) from the Amazon Alexa app on their phone. These messages will be available in the Alexa app or on your Echo device (a light will glow green to alert you to new messages). The device allows people to use their voice, and Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, to get answers to questions, turn on lights, order goods from Amazon.com, and request an Uber vehicle for pickup. Video calls are made possible by the 5-megapixel camera that is embedded on the front of the device. This essentially enables customers to work on a number of things like attending video and voice calls, that too with other Echo devices. Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Tunein are all supported, and the Echo Show can display lyrics for the current song on its screen while listening. But, you can see many useful things on Echo's native screen. So if you ask it for a weather forecast you'll get a graphic representation as well as a spoken reply.

We'll have a lot to say about the newest Amazon Echo in the coming weeks, including publishing a review.

I still don't see why most of these features couldn't be accomplished with a regular Echo and a Fire Tablet though.

  • Arturo Norris