2/2/18 Alexa Fast Tips Friday: New Alexa Text Messaging Feature

Welcome to LME’s 2/2/18 Alexa Fast Tips Friday. There’s a brand new feature a lot of Alexa device owners are sure to find convenient: Alexa text messaging.

 

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Note for readers outside the US: as of this writing (on 2/2/18), this feature is only available to US-based Alexa users, and only allows for sending text messages to Android devices. It’s likely the feature will be rolled out to other regions, but the ability to send messages to Apple devices is dependent on Apple opening up their software to allow for it.

You can now use your Alexa devices to send text messages to anyone in your smart phone contacts list who uses an Android phone (or other Android device that can receive text messages), regardless of whether or not the other person has an Alexa device or has even installed the Alexa app on their own phone.

Information about this feature as provided in this post is accurate as of this writing, on 2/2/18, but subject to change at any time in the future if Amazon changes the Alexa software or devices.

 

Does Granting Text Messaging Permissions Automatically Grant Alexa Calling Permissions Too?

I knew this would be many readers’ first question, and the answer is no. While granting text messaging permissions does import all of your cell phone contacts into the contacts list in the Alexa app, it does not automatically grant Alexa calling rights for any of your contacts who own Alexa devices.

I tested this with a friend who I know has a Dot, but who has never been in my Alexa contacts list for Alexa-to-Alexa calls and messaging. I went through the setup process to allow Alexa to send text messages (the step-by-step, with screenshots, is provided later in this post). After verifying I was able to send the friend a text message using Alexa voice commands from my Echo Show, I asked Alexa to call the friend, to see if it was going to call her on the Dot or on her phone. It called the cell phone number I have for her in my contacts list, not her Dot.

 

How Can I Tell Which Of My Contacts DO Allow Alexa Calling?

In order to allow for Alexa calling and messaging (from one Alexa device to another), both you and the other person have to enable Alexa calling permissions in the Alexa app.

When you look at a contact’s details in the Alexa app, if that person has enabled Alexa calling there will be a “Permissions” section on the screen, with a toggle for “Allow Drop-In”. The fact that the Permissions section is there at all means you’ve both enabled Alexa calling, but the other person can’t “drop in” on your devices unless you toggle this item to “on”.

Long story short: if you see a Permissions section in a contact record, it means you can call or message that person on their Alexa devices, and vice-versa.

 

How Do I Keep The Different Kinds of Contacts, Calls and Messages Straight?

There will be a separate contact name and record for contacting the person’s Alexa device(s), and you must specify the correct contact name to make the type of call or send the type of message you intend.

For example, my parents each have a cell phone and they’ve also enabled Alexa calling. I have three contact records for them in my phone, and now in the Alexa app: one for Mom’s cell (contact name = “Mom’s Cell”), one for Dad’s cell (contact name = “Dad’s Cell”) and one for their Alexa devices (contact name = [my mother’s actual first and last name]).

If I want to use my Alexa device to call either of their cell phones, I’ll use the command, “call [Mom’s Cell -or- Dad’s Cell].” This will call their phone just the same as any other call, but on my end I’ll be using my Alexa device instead of my phone.

If I want to use my Alexa device to call their Alexa device, I’ll use the command, “call [my mother’s first and last name].”

If I want to use my Alexa device to send a message to their Alexa device or app, I’ll use the command, “send a message to [my mother’s actual first and last name].” This type of text message will only appear in the Alexa app on their phones, and they will also receive a yellow-ring notification on their device that they’ve received a message. They can use the “get my messages” command to have Alexa read the message instead of viewing it in the Alexa app.

And now, with this new feature, if I want to use my Alexa device to send a regular text message to either one of them, I’ll use the command, “send a message to [Mom’s Cell -or- Dad’s Cell].” This text message will show up in their phone’s text messaging app, just the same as any other text message.

The key takeaway here regarding contacts who have enabled Alexa calling and messaging is to know which contact ‘name’ is assigned to the contact’s cell phone vs. the same contact’s Alexa device.

 

How To Set Up Alexa Text Messaging

The screenshots below illustrate the process you’ll complete in the Alexa app to set up Alexa text messaging. Gray and black boxes are there to censor private information, red box outlines are there to highlight a specific screen element.

The whole thing starts when you tap the Messaging icon in the Alexa app (looks like a little talk bubble, at the bottom of the screen, to the right to the Home icon). If you’ve not yet set up text messaging, you’ll be asked if you’d like to do so via this screen:

Alexa SMS 1

 

If you tap the GO TO MY PROFILE link at the bottom, you’ll get this screen:

Alexa SMS 2

 

Toggle the Send SMS setting to ON. It will turn blue, and you’ll get this information screen:

Alexa SMS 3

 

Tap the OK button, and you’ll get this permissions prompt:

Alexa SMS 4

 

Tap ALLOW and you’re all set.

To send a text message from your Alexa device, say the wake word and use the command, “send a text message to [cell contact name].”

You can just use the word “message”, you don’t have to specify “text message”, but I find it’s a helpful way for me to keep mental track of whether I’m using Alexa to send a text message to the other person’s phone or an Alexa message to their Alexa device.

The contact will receive the text message in their phone’s text messaging app, just the same as if you’d texted them the normal way. However, the text message will also include a link to a web page where the recipient can play the audio Alexa heard when you sent the message. This could be useful in cases where the recipient’s phone’s auto-correct has garbled something, or where the recipient would simply enjoy hearing your voice.

Be sure to warn any contacts ahead of time if the presence of a link in your text message might alarm them for any reason, since it’s a new and unusual thing that could raise privacy or malware concerns if the recipient doesn’t know why the link is there.

Alexa SMS 5

 

Here’s what the contact will see if they elect to tap on the link in the text message you sent. They can tap the ‘play’ arrow to hear the audio file. Note that, as the screen warns, this recording will be deleted 24 hours from the time it’s sent. However, the text message will still be there in the recipient’s text message history, just like any other text message.

Alexa SMS 6

 

 

Click here to view the Alexa Communications FAQ on Amazon’s US site – this is the page that’s linked from the Alexa app, as shown at the bottom of the third and fourth screenshots above.

 

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The Echo Dot (UK site visitors, click here) is a great pick for those who want to get started with all the calling and messaging features you get from the Alexa service, but don’t want to invest a lot of money up front. Dot is still the top-selling Alexa device, and many an Alexa device owner’s favorite. So compact, yet it offers the same Alexa features as the full-sized Echo. Pair via Bluetooth to your own speaker for high quality audio. Priced at $49.99 and rated 4.5/5 stars across over 91,600 reviews, available in black or white.

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