Amazon brings Alexa calling to the UK, Germany and Austria

Amazon's smart speakers are now a little smarter.

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The whole point of Amazon's Alexa is to talk, rather than type, to a virtual assistant. When you've grown tired of ordering Domino's pizzas and asking what the weather is like, however, the company hopes you'll want to talk to another human being. Following the US, it's now possible to call and message Alexa users from the UK, Germany and Austria. It works on the company's fast-growing range of Echo and Echo Dot speakers, as well as the Alexa app for iOS and Android. The screen-equipped Echo Show will also support basic video calling when it arrives in Britain next month.

There are, of course, countless messaging apps that support voice and video calling. Amazon is banking on Alexa's popularity, and the convenience of having an Echo in the home, to jump-start its late market entrance. The pitch is that it might be easier to call your parents or grandparents through their Echo — a simple, voice-based interface anyone can understand — rather than Skype or Hangouts, which can often feel convoluted to set up. Apple has used the same strategy to great effect with FaceTime. Amazon will, however, have an uphill battle persuading people to ditch their messaging app of choice and use Alexa regularly, if not full-time.

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