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Review: Amazon Echo Connect

Using your Amazon Echo smart speaker for landline phone calls seems a good idea, but is the new Echo Connect, which lets you do just this, any good? Colin Hughes has been trying it out.

Amazon Echo Connect

I have just added another accessory to my growing Amazon Echo device family, which is cheap and extremely useful for people like me.

With Amazon’s recent release of Echo Connect in the UK, and a landline, you can now use your Echo smart speaker to call any number supported by your home phone service. It turns your Echo device into a voice-controlled speakerphone for making and receiving phone calls.

Until now, you could only call someone who had an Echo device and Alexa app on their smartphone. Not many of my family and friends do. Now with the release of Echo Connect you can phone practically any phone number including emergency services from any Echo smart speaker device you have in your home using just your voice.

For someone like me, with a physical disability that includes extremely weakened arms, which means I struggle to reach phones and devices to summon help, it is great just to call a normal phone number with a simple voice command to an Echo smart speaker of which I have several scattered around my home,

At £34.00 Echo Connect is good value, easy to set up, and could offer some disabled and elderly people and their families security and peace of mind.

Design

The Echo Connect is a small black box that connects to your landline phone socket (or to a VoIP system). It includes a cable for connection to the phone socket via an RJ11 to BT socket splitter . It needs to be connected to a power socket, and a 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi network. Four lights will appear on the top of the box to tell you it’s set up and working correctly. It works with Echo-branded Amazon speakers, such as the Echo Dot, and Echo Show, and can be placed anywhere it can receive a Wi-Fi signal in your home.

Setup

Set up is fairly straightforward. You need to be immersed in the Amazon ecosystem as the Echo Connect requires setup with the Alexa App or on alexa.amazon.co.uk.

In the UK you can’t set up your Echo Connect to show the outgoing caller ID from your mobile phone, only the landline you are connected to, which happens automatically. You can then call by name, saying, for instance, “Call John Jones, mobile.”

If you have the Alexa app set up on your smartphone it syncs all your contacts from your phone’s address book. If you don’t have a smartphone you can use alexa.amazon.co.uk to add the contacts you need. Apart from dialling numbers in your contacts you can also dial nunbrers manually by speaking out the number “Alexa, call 0207 834…”.

When you receive a call, your Echo device will ring, announce “Incoming Call,” and glow green. You can control which devices ring. By default, all Echo devices will announce incoming calls. To disable ringing on a specific device, go to the Alexa App, select the device, select “Sounds”, and “Turn off Incoming Call Ringer”.

When you receive a call from someone in your contact list, Alexa will announce who is calling, and when you make a call the Echo Connect will show your caller ID, if it’s a feature on your landline, so friends and family will recognise the call.

It’s worth noting there’s no call log, no option to put calls on hold, or transfer a call to a mobile or another speaker.

Performance

Call quality has been acceptable in the week I have had the Echo Connect. Call audio through my Echo Show is loud and clear. On the other side, some people I have been calling have said my voice sounded a bit distant, like I am on a speakerphone, but I guess that is to be expected given that is what it is.

Conclusion

Inevitably, given its price the Echo Connect does feel a bit basic, and it would not be my go to device for a long phone conversation. Amazon can fix Echo Connect’s shortcomings and add new features with future software upgrades. Let’s hope it does as the technology has a lot of potential.

For some physically disabled and elderly people, who tend to use landlines the most, and want to be able to voice-dial friends or family from across the room in an emergency, the Echo Connect with its low price point is a worthwhile purchase. For this particular use it is worth recommending.

It could make a good stocking filler this Christmas, together with an Echo Dot, if you have an elderly or disabled family member or friend with mobility problems.

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