How to disable Alexa calling and messaging

This past week, there was an alarming incident reported where a family from Portland’s private conversation was sent to a contact through Alexa. Amazon acknowledged the gaffe and claimed that it was due to an unusual sequence of events where Alexa thought it was summoned to send a recorded message to a contact stored within the family’s Alexa account.

Amazon provided this statement:

“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

I am not surprised this happened. In my family, we have had numerous incidents where our Echo or Echo Dot was awakened by something we said even though we don’t recall saying the wake up word.

As an avid Alexa user, I’ve signed up for Alexa Calling & Messaging and only tried it out a few times. It was not a very useful feature as I had mistakenly called a known and even unknown person! My kids tried to reach me by calling, “daddy” through our Echo but it called my friend Debbie. Another time I tried to reach “home” by calling through my Alexa app hoping to reach my kids on my Echo but it called someone random. Till this day, I don’t know who that person was as I don’t have anyone in my contacts list with just “home” on it.

I then searched all over my Alexa app to see how I could disable Alexa Calling & Messaging. I looked through settings, I could only find drop in settings which I already had disabled. Then I realized that I couldn’t completely disable this feature nor could I remove contacts already uploaded to the Amazon server!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When searching Amazon help, this is what they offer:

Add and Edit Your Contacts to the Alexa App

Sync your contacts to the Alexa app to communicate with friends and family using Alexa Calling and Messaging.

To add or edit contacts for Alexa Calling and Messaging, update your phone’s local   address book and then open the Alexa app. Contacts from your address book who also use Alexa Calling and Messaging automatically appear in your “Contacts” list in the Alexa app, with the same names from your address book.

If you have multiple members within your household, your Alexa contacts are shared across all devices registered to that account. However, in the Alexa app you can only start conversations with your Alexa contacts.

That’s not good enough.

If you want to completely remove yourself from this service and have contacts removed, follow these instructions:

  1. Contact Amazon Help

 

 

 

You will be asked to sign into your Amazon account.

After signing in, navigate to

-> Devices

-> My device or app is not shown

-> Select your issue as ‘Echo & Alexa’

-> Select, ‘Account & Settings’

 

 

 

 

Note: If you access the contact us page via your computer, you will only have access to chat or receive a call. If you access the contact us page via your phone or tablet, you will have the option to email customer support.

In your message or chat, state the following:

“I want to delete my contacts from my Alexa account and disable Alexa Calling & Messaging feature.”

It should take them a day to respond to your email or immediately if you are using the chat / phone support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the confirmation, log onto your Alexa app and it will prompt you to re-register for Alexa Calling & Messaging service which confirms the service is no longer on your account.

Sizzling Deal, Echo Dot for $29.99!

This is the best deal for an Amazon Echo dot or Echo. Amazon sent out an email for black friday where you can get $10 gift card when you order from Alexa’s Best Deals. Order anything on the list over $20 through Alexa and get $10 gift card. The 2nd Gen Echo dot is currently on sale for $39.99. With the $10 Amazon credit if you order through Alexa, the price comes down to $29.99! Compare that with original price of $49.99, it is 40% off!

To see the full list of qualifying Alexa’s Best Deals, click here or the below link.

alexa-10-off

alexa-echo-dot

You can also purchase the Amazon Echo for a low $139.99. With the gift card, it will bring down the price to $129.99 which is almost 30% off. But you will need an Alexa enabled device to purchase it. You should be able to make the purchase through your Alexa enabled Fire TV controller. Give it a shot!

alexa-echo-deal

Difference between Fire TV Stick and Chromecast Ultra

chromecast-ultra-1Google announced their latest streaming device, the Chromecast Ultra. Chromecast Ultra is the next step to Chromecast where you can simply plug the device into the HDMI port and cast content from the Internet. While the Fire TV Stick is a good competitor to Chromecast, Chromecast has a slight edge in terms of featured content. A lot of apps support Chromecast and even some TV’s have Google’s Casting built in such as Vizio‘s Smartcast. With Chromecast, you can cast content from Youtube and from a Chrome browser. Neat!

What Chromecast distinguished itself apart from the Fire TV Stick is the capability to stream in 4K Ultra HD / HDR. For Amazon, only the Fire TV has this capability.

Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick’s advantage is its access to Prime videos and its library. Amazon also has more 4K content as well as exclusive content. Google Play is lacking in this area.

Both have mirroring capabilities from their respective phones but Google may have a slight edge over the ease of use.

At this event, Google also announced Google Home which has its AI, Google Assistant, which will seamlessly integrate information from various Google apps from calendar, maps, traffic, and location to give you information such as news and weather. Although Amazon’s Alexa is amazing, it doesn’t compare to the integrated offering that Google can offer. This is when the Fire phone’s failure is coming to bite Amazon.

Chromecast Ultra Amazon Fire TV Stick – Gen 2 Amazon Fire TV – 2nd Gen
Launched Nov. 2016 Sep-16 Dec. 2015
Price $69 $39.99 $99.99
HD Type All up to 4K, Ultra HD, HDR Up to 1080p – 60hz up to 2160p 4K – 30Hz
Chip CPU Marvell Armada 1500 Mni Plus Mediatek 8127D
Quad-core ARM 1.3Ghz
MediaTek 8173C
Quad-core ARM Cortex A72 (2x2Ghz, 2×1.6Ghz)
RAM 512mb 1GB 2GB
Storage 256mb 8GB 8GB
Connectivity HDMI, Wifi, Ethernet (adopter) Bluetooth 4.1, Micro USB, HDMI, WiFi Bluetooth 4.1, Micro USB, HDMI, WiFi, Ethernet, Dolby
Dimension 52x52x13.5mm 86x30x12.6mm 115x115x17.8mm
Weight 40g 32g 270g
Remote No Yes Yes

Trigger Alexa with Fire TV remote

fire tv remote alexaIn May, Amazon enable Alexa on its Fire TV remote. This allowed Fire TV owners to use Alexa as you had an Amazon Echo. If you already have an Echo, then this would not be foreign to you.

Movies / TV
With Alexa, you can trigger it to control a movie. You can ask Alexa to play a movie, TV show. It will also search from your active add-on subscriptions as well as third party apps. You can also use it to trigger a certain app.

Examples:
Play the movie [title]
Start playing the TV show [title]
Launch the app [title]
Open the [title] app

Music
You can also trigger music you have on your Prime Music library to simply listen to one of the Prime stations. You can rate a song by saying you like it or do not like the song. This will help Alexa rate the type of song it chooses for you. You can completely skip songs or rewind but cannot fast forward or rewind or change volume. Bummer. This is possible with Echo.

Audible and eBooks
Through Alexa, you can use your Fire TV to read eligible Kindle books in your library. You can even see the title and book cover on your TV. Neat!

News Flash Briefing
One great feature I love with Alexa is that you can ask her to read you the news flash. Go into the Alexa app and select your news source. You can select national, international, local news, sports, and weather source / location. All you say is “Alexa, What’s my news flash?” or “Alexa, Whats my flash briefing?” and it will read a 5-10 min briefing of the latest news from what you selected. I use it when I sit down and enjoy my breakfast. You can also set up your commute location and it’ll give you the congestion condition!

Shopping
No surprise to anyone, you can use Alexa to buy things on Amazon. It is a bit clumsy as you need to know the exact item you are interested in buying in order to buy through Alexa. If you ask Alexa to buy something, it will select the top result for that category and display the item. It is a bit easier to re-order something if it is something you have purchased in the past such as detergent, razor blades, diapers for example.

Weather / Traffic
Asking Alexa for the weather is also another one of my favorites. My kids use this almost every day to determine if they can wear shorts for the day! I don’t use the traffic much as I don’t commute to an office 🙂

Q&A / Jokes
This is kind of an easter egg hunt. You can ask “Alexa, how are you doing today?” or “Alexa, good morning” and she will read back a quote or a comment.

Wikipedia
Alexa also has access to a database of facts. You can ask how far you are to say New York city, ask for conversion such as cooking, time zone, and more. You can ask celebrities or athlete’s age!

Lists (To do / Shopping)
Alexa can aggregate shopping list and to do list. You can use it as a personal assistant to remind you to do something and check it on your Fire TV or on your app later. You can also have Alexa read out your shopping or to do list using your remote.

There are much much more features which you can do with sports scores, movie info, local search, and some features which are voice only where nothing will display on your Fire TV. For all features, check out:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201859020

 

Updated Amazon Fire TV will stream 4K and support Alexa

firetv 4kAmazon announced that its flagship streaming device will stream 4k Ultra HD video and support Alexa. The new Amazon Fire TV will be released October 5, 2015. You can now pre-order on Amazon.com at the same cost of $99! Apple also recently released their updated Apple TV. Let’s see how this holds up.

Amazon Fire TV – 4K Ultra HD

4K Ultra HD quality TV is no doubt the next big thing. However, you may wonder the same dilema we had with 1080p HD when it first came out. Content. There were very little content that was true 1080p HD. Amazon answered this. Amazon promised that they will be creating original and exclusive content in 4k. The Fire TV will also support Netflix’s 4k content as well. There will be no upcharge to stream in 4k vs. 1080p or lower quality like SD content. Also, even if you do not have 4k TV, you will benefit from Amazon’s support for HEVC (high efficiency video coding) which makes streaming high quality content more efficient.

Alexa support

One other feature that would be welcomed by Amazon fans is Alexa support. Many people got a taste of Alexa through Amazon Echo. Fire TV and Fire TV Stick remotes will have Alexa support through its voice enabled remote control or through the Fire TV app. Through Alexa support, you can use your Fire TV to replace the Echo.

Below is a full comparison between the old Amazon Fire TV and the newly updated 2015 Amazon Fire TV:

Previous Fire TV New 2015 Fire TV
Size 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″ (115 mm x 115 mm x 17.5 mm) Size 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″ (115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm)
Weight 9.9 oz (281 grams) Weight 9.5 oz. (270 g)
SOC Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 8064 Processor MediaTek Quad-core up to 2 Ghz
Processor Qualcomm Krait 300, quad-core to 1.7 Ghz Dual-core @ 2.0 GHz + Dual-core @ 1.6 GHz
GPU (Video) Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU Power VR GX6250
Storage 8 GB internal Storage 8 GB internal
Memory 2 GB LPDDR2 @ 533 MHZ Memory 2 GB
Wi-Fi Connectivity Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi Connectivity Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi. Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks.
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 with support for the following profiles: HID, SPP Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1 with support for the following profiles: HID, HFP, SPP
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Ports 5.5 mm DC Jack, HDMI, Optical Audio, 10/100 Ethernet, USB 2.0 Type A Ports DC Jack, HDMI output, 10/100 Ethernet, microSD slot, USB 2.0
Voice Support Yes, with Fire TV Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS) Voice Support Yes, with Fire TV Voice Remote (included) or free Fire TV Remote App (available for download on Fire, Android, and iOS) and Alexa
Audio Support for Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1 Audio Support Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo, and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1
Game Controller Support Yes, optimized for Amazon Fire TV Game Controller and most games are compatible with other Bluetooth controllers Game Controller Support Yes, optimized for Amazon Fire TV Game Controller and most games are compatible with other Bluetooth controllers
Content Formats Supported Video: H.263, H.264, MPEG4-SP, VC1; Photo: JPG, PNG Content Formats Supported Video: H.265, H.264, Audio: AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC), Photo: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Audio: AAC, AC-3, E-AC-3, HE-A, PCM, MP3
TV Compatibility Compatible with high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 60/50Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from these manufacturers: Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse TV Compatibility TV must support minimum HDCP requirements for protected content playback. Learn more. Compatible with (1) 4K ultra high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2, including popular models from LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and others or (2) high-definition TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz, including popular HDCP-compatible models from Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Vizio, Westinghouse, and others.
Output Resolution Supported 720p and 1080p up to 60fps Output Resolution Supported 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps
System Requirements High-definition television, HDMI cable System Requirements Compatible high-definition or ultra high-definition television with available HDMI input, Internet connection, a power outlet
Warranty and Service 1-year Limited Warranty and service included. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here. Warranty and Service 1-year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-year and 3-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here.
Regional Support Certain services may not be available outside the U.S. Regional Support Certain services may not be available outside the U.S.
Closed Captioning Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content. Closed Captioning Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content.
Included in the Box Amazon Fire TV Included in the Box Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote
2 AAA batteries Power adapter
Power Adapter 2 AAA batteries
Quick Start Guide Quick Start Guide