Brief Dive:

According to a Recode article, Amazon is incorporating phone call functionality into next Alexa-powered gadgets. The Wall Street Journal was the source of the initial rumours about Alexa phone capabilities, but Recode has confirmed the veracity of the reports and the company’s progress on the plans.

The new hardware will also function as connected intercoms, enabling individuals to have chats across their Alexa devices. It was being beta-tested at Amazon as of last month.

According to insiders who spoke with Recode, the new devices are anticipated to go on sale later this year after an announcement from Amazon scheduled for the near future.

Dive Insight:

According to The Journal, Amazon has been studying the idea of an Alexa-like phone at least since 2015. However, the most recent information from Recode suggests that a real product may be available sooner than anticipated.

Amazon tried to introduce a standalone smartphone a few years ago, but it was widely seen as a flop due to a high price point and other, technologically related hiccups. Amazon is now gradually branching out into areas that go way beyond its core e-commerce business.

Amazon has been a pioneer in linked home devices with its Echo services, and while the smartphone market is notoriously difficult to enter, this suggests that Alexa phone capabilities could gain significant popularity.

Calling features may make it simpler for customers to call businesses with customer support inquiries, which is advantageous for brands.

However, from a technological standpoint, incorporating a phone component raises a number of challenges, including privacy concerns (Alexa devices are designed to listen in on conversations constantly) and working out Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Midway through January, Amazon finished their FCC files asking for authorization to test experimental wireless technologies in remote areas of Washington and Seattle. Other than supporting initiatives centred around “innovative communications capabilities and functionalities,” the test’s clear goal was not stated. These tests may have included the latest Alexa hardware.