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Amazon Echo owners can now enjoy similar functionality to Google Home
Amazon Echo has updated its smart speaker with the ability to control playback on other Amazon devices using your voice.
The new functionality, which was first spotted by Android Police, allows Echo owners to control Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices with voice commands.
Google Home launched with similar functionality, enabling users to request video files – and control playback – on ChromeCast devices with the smart speaker.
Following the latest software update to Fire TV, owners can link the set-top box with another device powered by Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant, Alexa, inside the companion smartphone app.
Once set-up, Echo owners will be able to use voice commands via Alexa to control playback controls, search for videos, and launch installed apps.
Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners can already enjoy a similar level of functionality using the dedicated Alexa Voice remote control, or the Fire TV smartphone app.
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With the new update, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot owners will be able to control playback, search for videos, and launch apps without pressing a button on the remote.
Hands-free access to this functionality promises to be incredibly useful.
The update is compatible with all of Amazon’s Fire TV devices, except for the first-generation Fire TV Stick.
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The news comes as Amazon confirmed it had introduced the ability to block unwanted callers on its new Echo voice call system.
Echo owners can control video playback on Fire TV devices with their voice
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.
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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.
Calling between Echo devices is currently only available in the United States, however the feature is expected to roll-out to UK Echo owners soon.
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.