New message or new call? Just glance at your Amazon Echo

Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home are mostly verbal affairs. You talk to them and they respond by voice. Visual feedback is mostly an afterthought, an add-on, or a different device altogether. That makes it sometimes difficult to check the type of notifications you get without having these assistants blurt out potentially incriminating information. Fortunately, at least one of them does have an alternative means of calling your attention. Amazon has just given the Echo a few more light signals, distinguishing between an incoming call and an incoming message.

To be fair, the Echo has always had multi-colored notifications, but those mostly revolved around the state of the device rather than of any message or call. The one exception was the pulsating green light that indicated you had a message waiting. But things got confusing when Amazon added the ability for one Echo to call another Echo.

Before this update, the Echo would pulse green whether you have an incoming call or an incoming message, making it harder to determine what command to give Alexa. Now Amazon has split up the two. Yellow means you have an incoming message. The previous green will remain for incoming calls.

This change is just the latest in adjustments that Amazon has made after, not before, it launched the new calling feature. The first one was actually a bit more controversial. The new calling feature initially allowed anyone with an Echo to call another, no holds barred. Now users can selectively block contacts they don't want calling them over the Echo.

Don't worry if your Echo doesn't have the yellow light yet. The new color is available only in the US since it's also the only market where Echo to Echo calling is available anyway. Everyone else will have to settle for the same green.