Communication

Today, drivers across the globe place calls while on-the-go, making communication features an integral part of the Alexa experience in the vehicle.

Alexa allows you to place calls and send and read SMS messages via voice using the mobile phone paired to the head unit. Alexa can also drop-in, make announcements and send voice messages to other Alexa devices, including the Alexa App. To call or send an SMS to any contact by name, customers may grant Alexa permission to upload contacts and access SMS from their mobile phone. To enable Alexa to access the phone’s contact book, a customer will need to pair their phone to the vehicle’s head unit, then grant permissions to upload contacts saved on their mobile phone. Once the customer grants permissions, the following happens:

  1. Contacts (name, phone number, and phone type) are temporarily stored when the phone is connected.
  2. Contacts and SMS will not be available when the phone is disconnected from the vehicle (i.e. the phone is outside the vehicle).

Note: Contacts uploaded in the vehicle are separate from contacts uploaded through the Alexa mobile app, which are used for communication with Echo family devices and other Alexa-enabled devices with communication. The contacts and messages can only be accessed by someone who is in the vehicle with the connected device.

Note: Alexa provides a voice-only experience to read and send SMS messages. Alexa will not notify the user when new SMS messages are available. The platform implementation provides new message notifications.

Terminology

This section uses the following terms in relation to Bluetooth phones:

  • Pair / paired - The manual action taken by the customer to teach the vehicle and phone to connect to each other, usually done by navigating to the Bluetooth settings menus on each device while parked. Customers typically only do this once per phone, and the vehicle will remember that phone until the customer manually cancels the pairing (i.e. “forget device”). A paired phone may or may not be connected at a given time.
  • Connect / connected - The automatic action of a live link being established between the vehicle and a paired phone for the purpose of calling and messaging. Connection usually happens each time a customer gets in the vehicle with their phone in a pocket or purse.

Communication Permissions

Customers grant permission for Alexa to access and store their contacts and SMS messages from Alexa-enabled vehicles in the following ways:

  • While pairing a phone to an enabled vehicle after Alexa is set up.
  • While setting up Alexa on an enabled device.
  • By changing Communication Settings on an enabled vehicle.

Once granted, contacts and SMS messages are uploaded to the Alexa cloud and are used for calling and SMS messaging.

Bluetooth pairing a new phone after Alexa was previously set up

Bluetooth pairing flow.

(Required) When pairing a phone to an Alexa enabled vehicle, ask the customer to upload contacts and SMS messages to Alexa Cloud once pairing is complete.

Text shown here is applicable to US locale only. For other locales please review Design toolkit.

While setting up Alexa on your Alexa-enabled device

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When Alexa setup on the vehicle or device is complete, detect if a phone is currently paired to the head unit.
Text shown here is applicable to US locale only. For other locales please review Design toolkit

(Required) If during Alexa setup the vehicle or device detects a phone already connected to the head unit, ask the customer for permission to upload contacts and SMS messages.

(Required) For connected phones with granted permissions, upload the contacts and/or SMS messages to the Alexa cloud.

(Required) Remove phone contacts and / or SMS messages from the vehicle if the customer has not used them after 30 days.

Through the Alexa Settings on an Alexa-enabled device

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Customers who do not grant communication permissions through pairing or setup prompts can do so through the Alexa settings menu. Communication features can be enabled/disabled with an on/off toggle for each phone. The phone used for communications can be selected as well. Customers can also pair new phones in this setting.

(Required) Provide customers a way to enable / disable contact access and / or SMS messaging without disconnecting the connected phone.

(Required) In the "Communications" settings display which phones are paired and which are currently connected.

(Required) When "Contact Upload" and / or "Share Messages" are disabled, previously uploaded contacts and / or SMS messages must be deleted.

(Required) If customer selects “pair new”, launch the native Bluetooth pairing flow.

Once the pairing is completed, ask the customer to grant permission as indicated in Bluetooth Pairing.  

Calling

Automotive drivers all around the world are accustomed to making calls from their phone while on-the-go. With Alexa, you can now place calls simply by saying “Alexa, call [number, contact]”.

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A customer may place a call using Alexa that is initiated from their connected phone. If the customer says "Call [number/contact etc.]" - Alexa will first try to use the connected phone to make a Native Call. This is a Phone Call Control (PCC) call, which uses the same native dialer as your device. If no phone is connected, then Alexa will make a call using the data connection.

When no phone is connected

If a phone is not connected, and the customer asks Alexa to call a phone number or business, Alexa can still make an Alexa call using the car's data connection (given that they have an active data plan in the vehicle). For this to happen, the customer must have granted permissions to Alexa to make calls on the customer's behalf. This can be done in the mobile Alexa app, when safe to do so.

Which contacts are used for calling?

Once the customer grants permission for Alexa using the contacts from their connected mobile phone, Alexa will place calls using the designated contacts from the designated phone. Additionally, Alexa also has access to contacts uploaded by the customer through their Alexa app. Alexa will use those contacts as a secondary source, when a contact is not found or the customer hasn't granted permission for Alexa to upload the contacts from a phone. See Contacts for more information.

Note: The images in this section are intended to be used as an example. Alexa should be embedded within your native dialer.

Alexa calls

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Alexa enables customers to call other Alexa devices using your product. A customer may call any contact in their contact list who has an Alexa device set up, or a specific Alexa device in their account (e.g. the kitchen). Alexa Calling is made using the vehicle's data connection.

(Required) Ensure the following information is present on all Alexa call screens.

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  • Contact name/number (if a contact name is not found, use the phone number)
  • Call type (e.g. "[Phone call]")
  • Alexa attribution

Note: In the event contact information is not available, surface: “Alexa call” as the caller detail information and leave the call type field empty.

Call type (i.e. “[Alexa call]”)

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This helps educate customers on the various ways they can answer their calls.

Incoming Alexa calls

The Incoming call state begins when another customer has initiated a call to the device.

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(Required) Display a persistent visual for an incoming call.

Use your native dialer screens, the example image is meant to be a representation as to how this feature could look.

(Required) Play the incoming call sound immediately when the call comes in.

If media is playing or Alexa is responding (e.g. reading a Flash Briefing, or giving the 10-day weather forecast) when an incoming call arrives, play the incoming call sound.

(Required) Ensure the following information is present on all Alexa call screens.

  • Contact name/number (if a contact name is not found, use the phone number)
    • In the event contact information is not available, surface: “Alexa Call” as the caller detail information and leave the call type field empty
  • Call type (i.e. “[Alexa call]”)
  • Alexa attribution

Outgoing Alexa call

The outgoing call state begins when the customer initiates any type of call to another customer.

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(Required) Display a persistent visual that there is an outgoing call.

Use your native dialer screens, the example image is meant to be a representation as to how this feature could look. The outgoing call state begins when the customer initiates any type of call to another customer.

(Required) When the call is disconnected, you must play the call disconnected audio cue.

The caller will hear an outgoing call audio cue until the call is connected or dismissed.

(Required) When the call is connected, you must play the call connected audio cue.

Your product should display the visual call connected state and then transition into a persistent display of the active call state.

Active Alexa call

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(Required) Your product must display the active call visual state to indicate that the connection is open.

Use your native dialer screens, the example image is meant to be a representation as to how this feature could look.

This screen should appear when one of the following scenarios occurs:

  • Customer accepts an incoming call
  • Customer's outgoing call is accepted by another person.

(Required) During an active call, no audio cues should be played but your device should use a visual call connected state to indicate that the connection is open.

Call ended

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(Required) When a call is disconnected, you must play the call disconnected audio cue.

Playing the corresponding Alexa Audio cue is required for incoming and outgoing calls, as are the cues for connecting and disconnecting calls. The call disconnected cue should time out after a set time.

Alexa Voice Messaging

As part of the Alexa Communication experience in the vehicle, we support hands-free Alexa audio messaging (note: This is Alexa device messaging, not SMS).

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(Required) When a customer receives a new Alexa message, show a notification.

See Notifications for more information.

(Required) Play the Alexa message audio cue for incoming messages.

The audio cue must be played immediately and only once for each new message. Note: the audio cue should not be played on a loop.

(Required) Messages do not override Do Not Disturb (DND).

If a message arrives when the device is in Do Not Disturb mode, an incoming message audio cue should not be played.

Alexa-to-Alexa specific communication capabilities: Drop In and Announcements

Alexa provides two additional communication capabilities, Drop In and Announcements, so that customers can communicate directly to Alexa-enabled devices. With Drop in, customers can communicate directly, and immediately (no ringing) to a specific device in their home (e.g., Drop In to Julie’s room), to a device in a defined space (e.g. Drop In to the family room), or to contacts who have granted Drop In permission (e.g. Drop In on mom). Drop Ins create a near instant connection. Announcements offers a broadcast message capability to devices just within the home account (e.g. I’m on the way home).

Drop In

Drop In is an optional feature that lets you connect instantly to supported Alexa-enabled devices, like a two-way intercom. Customers can Drop In to other devices or permissioned contacts by simply saying, “Alexa, Drop In to the kitchen” or "Alexa, Drop In on John". Inbound Drop In is not available to customers on automotive end points.

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(Required) Once the customer confirms the contact or device they wish to drop-in on, switch to the Alexa calling screen and follow the requirements outlined in the Alexa call section.

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(Required) Ensure the following information is present on the Drop In screen.

  • Device name
    • In the event contact information/call type is not available, surface: “Alexa call” as the caller detail information
  • “Drop in”
  • Alexa attribution
  • Hang up button

(Required) When a Drop In is connected, you must play the Drop In sound. Your product should display the Active call state.

(Required) When a Drop In is disconnected, you must play the call disconnected audio cue. Your product should display a visual call disconnected state.

Playing the corresponding audio cue is required for outgoing calls, as are the cues for connecting Drop In. During a Drop In, no audio cues should be played but your device should use a visual call connected state to indicate that the connection is open.

Additional information outlining the behavior of Drop In’s:

  • Drop In is on by default for devices in the home group. Only Communication provisioned customers are able to Drop In to devices in the home group (same account).
  • Drop In from contacts outside the customer homegroup requires the customer to grant permissions within the Alexa app on a per contact basis. Drop In to contacts outside the home group require permissions to be granted by the receiving party within their Alexa app. (see directions below).
  • To manage Drop In permissions with contacts outside your home group, use the Alexa App and follow these instructions:
    • In the mobile Alexa app (iOS, Android), either select the menu and open Contacts, or open the Communications tab in the lower navigation tray (second icon from the left) and select the Contacts icon (top right)
    • Select a Contact
    • In the Permissions section, choose to “Allow Drop In”. This can be revoked at any time by repeating the above steps and toggling off Drop In permissions.
      Note: The default is set to Off.
  • Inbound Drop In to vehicles is not available at this time. Communication provisioned customers can make outbound Drop Ins when in the vehicle by asking Alexa, “Drop In”, or “Drop In to [device or space or contact] (if permissions granted).” Today, your vehicle will not show up as an inbound Drop In location for Alexa, and contacts or other devices will not be able to Drop In to your vehicle.
  • Drop In calls do not override Do Not Disturb (DND). If a Drop In arrives when the device is in Do Not Disturb mode, it will not connect.
  • If a customer (Customer A) wishes to Drop In to devices that are not registered to their account, the device owner (Customer B) would need to grant the Drop In permission by opening the contact in the mobile Alexa app and toggling the “Contact can Drop In to my Echo devices” permissions on/off.

Announcements

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Customers can quickly get their family on the same page by making announcements to Echo family of devices and other Alexa-enabled devices (i.e. non-Amazon devices). Announcements allow customers to broadcast a voice recording to all Alexa devices on the same account that are able to receive Announcements. Instead of pulling out a phone and typing in a text message while driving, a customer could ask Alexa to, “Announce I am on the way home.” The announcement is confirmed to the customer, and a broadcast that the customer is on their way is sent to each of the Echo devices on the same account. For customers who find value in the Announcements feature on a frequent basis, Alexa Routines allows customers to use variables like time and location to set an Announcement routine, (e.g. each time a customer leaves their office during a set time window, automatically announce they are on their way home). Outbound announcements will be handled with voice, Alexa does not support inbound announcements for automotive customers at this time.  

Interrupt handling

Integrating different calling channels poses similar source control complexities that Alexa solves for in media source switching today. Handoff can occur when switching between Drop In calling, Alexa calling and phone calling, this section outlines the expected behavior when the various calling events occur.

Active phone call, incoming phone call

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When on a phone call, customers have the ability to hold the call and answer the incoming phone call.

Active phone call, incoming Alexa call

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When on a phone call, customers have the ability to hold the call and answer the incoming Alexa call.

Active Alexa call, incoming Phone call

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When there's an incoming phone call, answering this call will hang up with current Alexa call.

Active Alexa call, incoming Alexa call

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When there's an incoming Alexa call, the incoming Alexa call will be ignored.

Active Drop In, incoming Alexa call

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When there's an incoming Alexa call, the Alexa call will be ignored.

Active Drop In, Incoming phone call

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If there's an incoming phone call, answering the phone call will end the Drop In session

Interrupt handling for Features and Calls

Alert goes off during an active call

  • Play the short version of the timer sound once.
  • When the call is complete, the full-length timer version should be played on a loop. See Alarms and Timers for more information

TTS goes off during an active call

  • If navigation or any other TTS goes off during the call, the output should be played.
  • Suppress the microphone input-to-call channel for the duration of the TTS

Incoming call during an alert or music

  • Play the incoming call sound on a loop until the call is connected or dismissed.
  • Once the call is complete, the alert sound or music should resume.

Incoming call during TTS

  • The TTS would still have the highest priority

Ask for weather during an active call

  • Alexa cannot perform any task (other than “Alexa, hang up” and “volume up/down”) while on a call.