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Amazon Alexa Just Launched Free Messaging and Calling

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how it works

Mark C. Webster
May 9, 2017 · 4 min read

Everyone is excited about the announcement of the Amazon Echo Show, an Alexa-powered device that features a screen, but there is an equally disruptive part of today’s news.

Amazon just released free audio messaging, text messaging, and calling between all Alexa devices, as well as the Amazon Alexa mobile app.

A New Life for the Alexa App

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Connecting to Alexa Calling and Messaging

You’ll then be prompted to confirm who you are (based on the user profiles connected to your Household), and give Amazon permission to send you notifications, calls, and messages. From there, you enter your phone number and allow Amazon to check your address book for other Alexa users you might be connected to. The phone number is primarily used as a unique ID, as the messages and calls all happen within the Alexa platform itself (which means you can’t have Alexa call a phone number. Yet.)

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As I registered early, I had only one other contact listed (shout out to early-adopter Jesse Middleton). You can then send audio messages, text messages, or make calls with your contacts through your Alexa devices, or the Alexa app.

So when someone leaves you a message, or is calling your device, how do you know?

Alexa Now Has A Green Ring

The green ring is used in two ways:

Messages — The green ring pulses every five seconds to indicate that a message is waiting for you.

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Calling — When making a call, the green ring pulses for the duration of the call. When someone is calling your device, the green ring pulses and Alexa announces who is calling.

It’s worth noting that as this ring is powered by RGB LED lights, any color could be created and new ones will surely find their way onto the devices.

Initial Thoughts on Impact

Senior care —with notifications and messaging, you could now set automated reminders for certain tasks, like taking medication or performing mobility exercises. You can also now connect to a human operator just by asking, if you needed a high level of care. On the provider side, you could check to see if messages are being opened and reviewed, and whether the senior was engaging with the platform.

Enterprise — much has been written about voice assistants being used in offices. When there are Alexa devices in every conference room in a distributed company, calls can happen, for free, with no need to dial-in numbers or codes. You can simply ask to call the other conference room. Add the ability to talk to Alexa during the call, and you have a virtual assistant who can take notes, send off action items to other coworkers, or check last week’s sales numbers, all as a participant on the call.

Social gaming — notifications will open up an entire new category of asynchronous gaming. Similar to Words with Friends, playing a game with a friend, and being notified each time they have taken their turn, will led to voice-only games and stories that will be played with others. Games are already the second largest category on Alexa, and will only continue to get bigger.

Messaging and Notifications Will Be Big

Experience the power of designing and prototyping for voice using Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Create an account at Sayspring.com to get started.

If you have any thoughts or questions, give me a shout on Twitter.

VUI Magazine

Voice UI / UX, Design, Prototyping, Development, Amazon…

Mark C. Webster

Written by

Voice UI/UX Design, Product, Developer. Founder of @Sayspring (now part of Adobe). Editor of VUI-magazine.com. Prev: Co-founded SideTour (Acq'd by @Groupon).

VUI Magazine

Voice UI / UX, Design, Prototyping, Development, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Voice Assistants, and more.

Mark C. Webster

Written by

Voice UI/UX Design, Product, Developer. Founder of @Sayspring (now part of Adobe). Editor of VUI-magazine.com. Prev: Co-founded SideTour (Acq'd by @Groupon).

VUI Magazine

Voice UI / UX, Design, Prototyping, Development, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Voice Assistants, and more.

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