Amazon has fixed a privacy flaw in its new Echo calling feature that prevented smart speaker owners from blocking unwanted callers.
The new calling feature – which enables Echo owners to make free VOIP calls to users on their contact list free of charge – was heavily criticised for not allowing users to block people. As a result, unwanted callers could continue to call and message – with Echo owners unable to stop them.
However this privacy flaw has been fixed in the latest update. When the privacy flaw was unearthed a few months ago – it quickly attracted widespread criticism. Amazon promised to implement a call block feature “in the coming weeks”.
“Starting today customers will begin to receive an updated Alexa app, which includes the functionality to block contacts,” a spokesperson for Amazon told CNet. Support for call blocking will be coming to Android and iOS customers in the coming days, the company confirmed.
To block someone you would like to stop being able to call or message you navigate to the Calling And Messaging menu in the Alexa app.
Then tap on Conversations > Contacts and scroll to select the Block Contacts option.
Locate and select the contact you would like to block, then press the Block button.
To use the call feature with an Amazon Echo, you’ll need to verify your mobile number via SMS – this feature can use phone data but doesn’t use text messages and minutes from your contract.
New calls or messages are delivered to all supported Echo devices registered to your account. You can temporarily block alerts for messages and calls on one or more of your supported Echo devices using the Do Not Disturb feature.
The news comes as Amazon pushed-out the ability to create named timers while cooking or doing household chores, as well as schedule reminders. According to US retail company Amazon, this was one of the most requested features from Echo customers.
Until this latest update, Alexa was only capable of scheduling simple, unnamed timers – e.g. “Alexa, set a timer for a minute and a half”.
This could lead to some confusion, especially when using the smart speaker for timings while cooking.
With the latest tweak to Alexa, Echo owners can set a pasta timer as well as a garlic bread timer, and when the timer goes off, voice assistant Alexa will state which timer is done.
Additionally, customers can cancel or check the amount of time left on specific timers.
For example, “Alexa, cancel the pasta timer” or “Alexa, how much time is left on my garlic bread timer?”.
Echo owners can view a list of active timers within the Alexa app.
For example, ask “Alexa, remind me to pick up the cat from the vets on Thursday at 5pm”, and Thursday at 5pm, the blue light ring will illuminate on your Echo devices while Alexa’s voice reminds you to pick-up Cat Benatar.
Amazon Echo owners can also view all of their existing reminders – or schedule new ones – within the Alerts & Alarms tab of the Alexa companion app on iOS, Android and online.
The new reminders are currently available to UK customers, with the updated timers coming in the next few weeks.
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