U.S. operator AT&T and Amazon have reached an agreement to enable the operator’s customers to make and receive phone calls via their Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays, according to a news report. Customers simply have to link their existing AT&T phone numbers to their Alexa account to receive hands-free calls directly on their Echo devices just as they would use their regular AT&T phones.
This is the first time Alexa-based direct calling has been offered in the U.S., although Amazon already introduced the feature for Vodafone OneNumber customers in the U.K. and Germany as well as for EE mobile customers in the U.K.
All incoming calls on the Echo device come with caller ID and can be snoozed by activating Amazon’s existing Away Mode or switched off at night with Alexa Routines.
This initiative seems promising in that it offers a level of convenience, co-branding between two very large and instantly recognizable companies and first-mover advantage in the U.S. market.
While most people have their smartphone handy most of the time, being able to simply ask Alexa to initiate a call by talking to a smart speaker is likely to be attractive to many users because it allows for an experience that is not only hands-free but also screen-free. Considering how much time users spend in front of screens, it may in fact be an attractive relief to be able to use voice only. The enhanced sound quality of an Echo speaker compared to a phone may also be perceived as a boon by customers.
The partnership between AT&T and Amazon may bear fruit over time in ways that go beyond simply Echo-enabled voice calling. Amazon may find new ways to enhance sales of products through its connection with AT&T subscribers, and AT&T may be able to extend its own marketing reach through its relationship with Amazon.
One thing that both companies should be aware of is the possibility of customers feeling some trepidation with regard to security. They may wonder whether Alexa is fully protected against eavesdropping or other invasions of privacy, if calls are going to be made from it. AT&T and Amazon will do well to address the point and reassure potential users.