Good news for Vodafone U.K. customers with Alexa-enabled devices on hand: They’ll soon be able to tap their mobile plans to make and receive calls from smart speakers, smart displays, and more via Amazon’s voice assistant. Amazon today announced that beginning this week, eligible subscribers can link their accounts to dial numbers hands-free. Alongside this integration — which the Seattle company’s calling a “global first” — Amazon launched Alexa Outbound Calling, a feature that allows U.K.-based Alexa users both with and without Vodafone plans to call mobile and landline numbers in the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Mexico at no charge.
“Every day Alexa helps customers connect with the people who matter most to them,” wrote Amazon in a blog post. “Whether they’re busy with housework or cooking a meal they can stay connected without having to pick up the phone – just ask Alexa. When someone calls your mobile number, Alexa will let you know who is calling by saying ‘Mary would like to talk.’ Then simply say ‘Alexa, answer’ to start your conversation.”
Vodafone customers who link their numbers are afforded full control over calling and answering, and can decide whether their Alexa-enabled smart speakers and displays (like those in Amazon’s Echo lineup, for instance) will ring when a call comes in. They’re able to dial emergency services directly, additionally, and to place mobile and Skype calls by connecting their Vodafone account and Skype with Alexa.
If you’re looking to get started, note that you’ll need the Alexa smartphone companion app for iOS or Android. Try following these steps:
- Open the Alexa companion app on your smartphone and select Menu.
- Tap Settings.
- Select Communication, then hit Vodafone.
- Choose your free subscription.
- Confirm your emergency address.
To set up Alexa Outbound Calling, follow these instructions:
- Download or update to the latest version of the Alexa App (iOS 9.0 or higher, Android 5.0 or higher)
- Click on the Communicate icon at the bottom left of the home screen.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to enter and verify your mobile phone information and import your contacts.
Where Alexa Outbound Calling is concerned, the mobile number used to register is displayed as a caller ID for outbound calls made using Alexa Calling (caller ID can be disabled in the Alexa app at any time), and Alexa dials U.S. numbers with a “1” and an area code to ensure calls connect. Emergency numbers such as 999 and 112 aren’t currently supported, nor are premium-rate numbers and international numbers outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
In the U.S., free phone calls with Alexa to landlines and cell phones in the United States, Canada, and Mexico became available in fall 2017, and more recently, Alexa-enabled devices in the U.S. gained the ability to send SMS messages to contacts in Android users’ smartphones. Not to be outdone, Google added free calling support for Canada and the U.S. to products in its Google Home smart speaker family two years ago.