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Amazon launches group video and audio calling for Echo devices, and a Zoom preview

Amazon launches group video and audio calling for Echo devices, and a Zoom preview


Group calling is coming soon to the Alexa app

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Group calling on an Echo Show.
Group calling on an Echo Show.
Photo: Amazon

Amazon is launching a new group video or audio calling feature for Echo devices today, just in time for the holidays. Originally announced back in September, group calling will allow up to seven participants to join an audio or video call on supported Echo devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. Amazon is launching its group calling feature today in Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the US, and the UK.

Echo owners will be able to create and name groups using the Alexa app, and Amazon is also planning to support group calling through its Alexa app soon. You’ll be able to add adult contacts into groups, and friends and family will have to opt in to be part of group calling. This new feature also supports Alexa commands like “Alexa, call my family” to connect to a group you’ve created.

Echo group calling could be a good alternative to Zoom and other video calling services. There are no limits on call times, allowing Echo owners to make or receive voice and video calls freely. Without the Alexa app supporting group calling, it’s limited to requiring hardware for now, though. Zoom has started lifting its 40-minute meeting limit for several upcoming holidays, and rivals like Microsoft Teams have also made all-day video calling free without limits via the web. Google also offering unlimited Meet calls until March 2021.

Alongside the group calling feature, Amazon is also introducing some US-specific Alexa features. Echo Show 8 devices in the US now support joining video calls on Zoom and Amazon Chime using Alexa, and you can simply say “Alexa, join my Zoom meeting” to jump on calls. Call captioning is also available today on Echo Show devices, with near real-time captioning for US English video, audio, and drop in calls.

Update, December 18th 11AM ET: Article updated with more US Alexa features available today.