Lets you use an Amazon Echo speaker as a land-line speakerphone.
Buggy. No hold function. Lacks call logs. No way to enter DTMF tones.
- Bottom Line
Using your Amazon Echo speaker as landline phone is a great idea, but the company's Echo Connect, which lets you do just this, works poorly.
Amazon Echo smart speakers can make outgoing calls through the internet, but they can't receive incoming calls from regular phones. The $34.99 Echo Connect is designed to fix that, letting your landline ring on your Echo speakers. It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't work in several different ways, and as a result we cannot recommend it.
Design and Compatibility
The Echo Connect is a little black box, about the size of a paperback book, that connects to your landline (or to a VoIP system with an analog RJ11 output, like the Ooma Telo). It comes with an RJ11 cable and a Y-connector so you can split the feed to the box and a landline handset, which you'll still need. It also needs to be connected to a wall outlet, and a 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi network. Four lights on the top of the box tell you if it's working properly.
The Echo Connect can be placed anywhere it can receive a Wi-Fi signal—it doesn't need to be near your Echo device. It works with Echo-branded Amazon speakers, but not the Amazon Tap or third-party Alexa speakers. And it only work in the US and Canada—it isn't a traveling phone solution.
Setup and Performance
You run into the Echo Connect's first failure of execution during setup: It requires a smartphone with the Alexa app. It's safe to say the Echo Connect is for households that are landline-dominant, and those homes tend to use smartphones less than others. According to the CDC and Pew Research Center, landline use rises and smartphone use drops with age, with the highest rates of landline use correlating with the lowest rates of smartphone ownership and the oldest households. And since the Connect doesn't actually connect to the smartphone line—it doesn't receive calls using your smartphone number or anything like that—the requirement is perplexing and frustrating.
You can set up your Connect to show the outgoing caller ID from your landline, or from your mobile phone. You can then call by name, saying, for instance, "Call Sascha Segan, mobile." However, if you do that, make sure your smartphone address book has the full 10-digit phone number, because the Echo Connect automtically adds a 1 before every phone number. You can also dial by calling out numbers, and it won't prepend a 1. Because it's connected to a landline, it supports 911.
When you receive a call, every Echo in your house will ring, announce "Incoming Call," and glow green (you can tweak this by putting some of your Echo devices in Do Not Disturb mode, which will also prevent Amazon's Drop In calling on those speakers). Once you've accepted the call on one Alexa device, you can't send it to another one—you have to complete the call where you start it. It isn't a real multi-room system.
The Echo Connect will show caller ID if it's a feature on your landline. There's no call log, even in the Alexa smartphone app. There's no option to put calls on hold. There's also no way to enter DTMF tones during a call, so if you're trying to press zero for an operator, for instance, you're out of luck.
We tried the Echo Connect with three different Echo speakers: a 2017 Echo, an Echo Dot, and an Echo Spot. The 2017 Echo exhibited a showstopping bug with the Connect: When it received an incoming call, it would keep ringing after the call was picked up, keep ringing after it was hung up, and keep ringing until we unplugged and restarted the Echo. This occurred on incoming calls from two different numbers. We didn't see this bug on the other two speakers.
Another weird bug: If we made a call to the Echo Connect from outside and hung up using the Echo, the phone on the other end would hear fifteen seconds of dead air before the call actually disconnected. That could cause someone to think they're talking to the Echo owner and going unheard for fifteen seconds. This applied to all three Echo speakers.
Otherwise, call quality was fine. Call audio listened to through the Echo was loud. On the other side, my voice as processed by the Echo's mic sounded a bit distant, like I was using an office speakerphone, but that was expected.
Cloud-based, voice-assisted computing may very well be the next generation of computing, after PCs and smartphones. And we're sure to see some people leapfrog over smartphones and go straight from landlines to voice assistants. Something like the Echo Connect makes sense in that context. But right now the actual device does not work well enough to recommend.
Remember, you can make outgoing calls for free from all Echo devices; the point of the Echo Connect is to let you receive incoming calls. Because the Echo Connect's problems are service-based, Amazon can solve them over time with back-end software upgrades. Until then, it isn't a worthwhile purchase.
About the Author
PCMag.com's lead mobile analyst, Sascha Segan, has reviewed hundreds of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in more than 13 years with PCMag. He's the head of our Fastest Mobile Networks project, hosts our One Cool Thing daily Web show, and writes opinions on tech and society. Segan is also a multiple award-winning travel writer. Other than … See Full Bio
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