How To Use Alexa: The Ultimate Guide


How To Use Alexa

If you’re like most people, you probably have a few questions about Alexa. How does it work? What can I use it for? How do I make the most of its features? In this guide, we will answer all of those questions and more. We’ll walk you through how to set up and use Alexa, how to get the most out of its features, and some tips and tricks for making the most of your Amazon Echo device.

Contents

What is Alexa and what can it do for you?

Alexa is a voice-activated assistant that can do things like play music, answer questions, get news and weather updates, control your smart home devices, and much more. Amazon Echo is the hardware device that houses Alexa and allows you to interact with her using your voice.

To get started with Alexa, all you need is an Amazon Echo device and an Amazon account. Once you have those, you can set up your Echo and start using Alexa.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using Alexa. First, she is always listening for her wake word, which by default is “Alexa.” This means that if you say the wake word followed by a question or request, she will start processing that request. You can change the wake word to something else if you want, but we’ll get to that later.

Second, Alexa is not perfect. She may not understand you perfectly every time, so it’s important to be patient and clear when speaking to her. If she doesn’t understand your request, she will usually ask you to repeat it or rephrase it.

Finally, Alexa is constantly learning and evolving. Amazon is always adding new features and skills to Alexa, so be sure to keep your Echo up-to-date with the latest software updates.

Now that you know a little bit about Alexa, let’s get started with setting up your Echo.

Alexa is constantly adding new features and skills, but there are some core things it can always do. Here are a few of the most popular and useful Alexa features:

  1. Play music: You can ask Alexa to play any song, artist, album, genre, or playlist from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and more. Just say something like “Alexa, play some rock music” or “Alexa, play my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify.”
  2. Get the news: Want to catch up on the day’s headlines? Just ask Alexa for your flash briefing from any of your favorite news sources, like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and more.
  3. Check the weather: Before you head out for the day, ask Alexa what the weather forecast looks like. You can even set up a daily weather report to be delivered at a specific time each morning.
  4. Set timers and alarms: Alexa can help you stay on schedule with timers and alarms. Just say something like “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes” or “Alexa, wake me up at six tomorrow morning.”
  5. Check your calendar: Keep on top of your schedule by asking Alexa to check your calendar. You can even add new events and reminders to your calendar using just your voice.
  6. Get answers to questions: Alexa is always ready to answer your questions, whether you want to know the current time, convert measurements, or learn about a new topic.
  7. Control smart home devices: With Alexa, you can control all of your compatible smart home devices with just your voice. Turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, set up routines — there’s almost nothing you can’t do.

Most people use their Amazon Echo smart speaker to listen to radio stations, stream music, set timers and alarms, and control smart home devices like smart lights, connected thermostats, and appliances.

Alexa can also search the web and give you news, weather, sports scores, and more in a flash. It can be used in many different ways.

Alexa Calling and Drop In are both great ways to stay in touch with people in your home. You can use your Alexa device as an intercom from room to room and even house to house.

And new features are always being added to Alexa.

With their screens, the Amazon Echo Show line and the older Echo Spot can show security cameras and let you see who’s at the door.

You don’t have to pay to use Alexa, which is another really important thing to know.

There is no monthly fee for using the Amazon ecosystem, whether you want to set up an account and use the app, download skills, or connect to other devices.

The only thing you need to know about payments is that linked subscription services (like Spotify Premium) will still require you to pay for full support, and you can also use your Echo speaker to shop (more on that below).

Now that you know some of the basics, let’s talk about how to set up Alexa and start using it.

How to set up Alexa and connect it to your devices

How to set up Alexa and connect it to your devices

Setting up and getting ready to use your Amazon Alexa speaker is pretty easy. Just do these things.

This will work with the most popular Amazon speakers, the standard Echo and Echo Dot. Echo Show devices, like the new Echo Show 10, have to be plugged in and you have to follow the instructions on the screen. Still, you’ll need the Alexa app on your phone.

1. Put the Alexa app on your phone or tablet. You can get it for iOS and Android, and if you have an Amazon device, you can get it for Fire OS. You’ll need to sign in with your Amazon ID, which you probably already have or will need to make. This is now your Alexa account. Obviously, if you already have an Amazon account with Prime, use that one to set up the service.

2. Go to More > Add a Device > Amazon Echo in the app. Select the kind of Amazon Echo you want to add.

Now, just plug your Alexa device in and wait. It will go through its cycle, showing a blue light that spins, and then change back to orange light.

This means it’s in pairing mode, so use the Alexa app to give it your Wi-Fi settings. You can choose to save these so that future speakers can use them when they are set up.

4. To put your speaker back into pairing mode, just press the button on top.

5. You’re now ready to go. Just say “Alexa” and look below for some fun questions to ask.

Using the app for Alexa

The Alexa app on your phone is how you talk to Alexa, and it’s also where you can tweak the experience.

The app was updated a few years ago to try to make it more useful. Before, you only needed the Alexa app to make changes to things like smart home devices, routines, and logging into services.

Home

The new Home screen is much better because it has been completely redesigned. You can now talk to Alexa by pressing the button at the top. This is useful if you want to run a routine when you’re not near a smart speaker. Then there is a list of suggestions, such as frequently played music and radio stations, access to lists and shopping, and quick links to making things like Alexa routines.

Communicate

With this tab, you can quickly call Alexa devices in your home or the homes of friends and family. You can also make Announcements (useful if you’re not at home), view the cameras of devices that are compatible, and make phone calls.

Play

On the Play tab, Alexa will play music and videos from a variety of sources. This could include TuneIn radio stations, Spotify playlists, and Amazon Music songs, all in one place.

It’s not the most useful tab—you could just ask Alexa or go to your usual apps—but it’s nice to see everything you’ve listened to in one place.

Devices

In terms of the smart home, this tab is the heart and soul of the Alexa app. It’s where you can set up all of your Alexa speakers and any other smart home devices you’ve added to the ecosystem.

Here, you can jump to individual speakers to manage paired devices, Wi-Fi networks, and location data. You can also manage device groups and check out smart bulbs, plugs, and other devices that Alexa is controlling.

More

The app now has a new menu called “More,” which used to be part of the main menu. From here, you can:

  • Lists
  • Reminders/alarms
  • Routines
  • Alexa Skills
  • Settings

The basics of using Alexa – How to ask questions, control playback, and more

The basics of using Alexa

Now that you’ve got your Alexa speaker all set up, it’s time to start using it. Here are the basics of how to use Alexa.

Asking questions

One of the most common things people do with Alexa asks questions. Just say “Alexa” followed by what you want to know. For example:

“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”

“Alexa, how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?”

“Alexa, when is the next solar eclipse?”

If Alexa doesn’t know the answer to your question, she’ll say so. Otherwise, she’ll give you a response.

Controlling playback

If you’re playing music on your Alexa speaker, you can control playback with your voice. Just say “Alexa” followed by what you want to do. For example:

“Alexa, play some jazz.”

“Alexa, pause.”

“Alexa, turn it up.”

“Alexa, next song.”

“Alexa, go back.”

You can also ask Alexa to play music from specific apps, like Pandora or Spotify. Just say “Alexa, play [name of app].”

There’s a lot more you can do with Alexa, but these are some of the basics to get you started. For more ideas, check out Amazon’s list of things to ask Alexa.

More advanced features of Alexa – creating routines, controlling smart home devices, and more

More advanced features of Alexa

Now that you know the basics of using Alexa, it’s time to start exploring some of the more advanced features.

Creating routines

Routines are a great way to automate your home. For example, you can create a routine that turns on the lights and starts playing music when you say “Alexa, I’m home.”

To create a routine, open the Alexa app and go to the Routines tab. Then, tap the “+” button in the top-right corner.

From here, you’ll need to give your routine a name and trigger. The trigger can be something like “when I say ‘Alexa, good morning,'” or it can be based on a specific time or location.

Once you’ve set up the trigger, you can add actions. Actions are things like playing music, setting a timer, or changing the temperature. You can also add conditional actions, which will only happen if certain conditions are met (like if it’s after sunset).

When you’re finished, tap the “Save” button and your routine will be ready to go.

Controlling smart home devices

If you have any smart home devices, like a Nest thermostat or Philips Hue light bulbs, you can control them with Alexa.

To do this, open the Devices tab in the Alexa app. Then, tap the “+” button in the top-right corner and select the type of device you want to add.

Follow the instructions to connect your device to Alexa, and then you’ll be able to control it with your voice. For example, you can say “Alexa, turn on the lights” or “Alexa, set the temperature to 68 degrees.”

Settings

Finally, the Settings tab is where you can manage your account information, payment methods, and privacy settings.

This is also where you’ll find the Alexa Privacy Hub, which has helpful resources for keeping your data private and secure.

That’s it! These are just a few of the things you can do with Alexa. For more ideas, check out Amazon’s list of things to ask Alexa. And be sure to explore the other tabs in the app, like Skills and Lists.

You may also like: What Is The Amazon Echo Dot? Everything You Need To Know About Amazon’s Compact Smart Speaker

Essential Amazon Alexa skills

Alexa uses “skills” to add new features and connect to smart home devices. This is how your Echo can do more than what it does out of the box.

Imagine skills as being like the apps you can download on your phone. There are a lot of different ones to choose from. We wrote a whole article about skills for Alexa, but here are five to get you started.

Story Time on Amazon

Just say, “Alexa, ask Amazon Storytime to read me a story,” and you’ll get a story read to you from the Amazon Rapids app library or Audible. These stories are for kids ages 5 to 12.

The BBC News

Get the BBC World Service to add the latest news from around the world to your flash briefing. Just tell Alexa, “Give me my flash briefing.”

Big Sky

The best weather app, you can ask Alexa, “Alexa, tell Big Sky to give me a weather fact,” and it will.

Sounds in the background: Many

Say “Alexa, play ambient sounds” if you want something to help you fall asleep. You’ll get a list of all the ambient sounds. If you want to go straight to the water, just say “Alexa, play ocean sounds.”

Spotify

Spotify is the king of music skills for Amazon Alexa devices. It can be set as the default music app and play all of your favorite songs.

Music by Apple

Apple Music is now available as a live skill through Alexa. Like Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify, you can make it your default player.

How to use Amazon Alexa to make smart home groups

How to use Amazon Alexa to make smart home groups

Using Amazon Alexa as a smart home hub is really smart because it can take control of a lot of devices. By making groups in the Alexa app’s Smart Home section, you can add any device to a single group that can be controlled by voice.

Follow these steps to start a group:

  1. Open the app for Alexa
  2. Click on “Smart Home.”
  3. Click on “Groups.”
  4. Click on “Add group.”
  5. Select “Smart Home Group” and name it.
  6. Check the boxes next to the devices you want to add, and you’re done.

One good example is lighting. You can put all the bulbs downstairs into one group and tell Alexa, “Turn off the lights downstairs,” for example, before you go to bed.

You might not want to turn off or on every light, so you can also group them into “main lights,” “lounge lights,” etc.

Alexa: How to Set Up Routines

Routines are a nice feature of Alexa that let you do more than one smart home action with just one command. Saying “Alexa, it’s time for bed” could make all the lights downstairs turn off and the lights in your bedroom come on.

This is different from Groups because Routine lets you change the state of a device (like how bright a light is) and add music, radio, or podcasts.

Alexa, tell her to go shopping.

If you order a lot of things from Amazon, your Echo speaker can speed up the process.

If you’re running out of something, you don’t have to pull out your phone and open the app. Use the following commands to tell Alexa what you want.

Alexa, order dog food on Amazon Prime.” If you have 1-Click ordering turned on, the item will be sent to you automatically, and you’ll be charged.

Alexa, add toilet paper to my cart,” does not buy the toilet paper.

Alexa, cancel that order.” This will work for 30 minutes after you place the order.

Alexa, where did my things go?” – Alexa will go through all of the deliveries that are waiting.

Alexa, reorder toilet paper.” Alexa will look at what you’ve bought before to figure out what brands you like.

Tips and tricks for the Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is a smart speaker that can do a lot of different things. This is true no matter which version you have. There are lots of cool ways to get more out of Alexa, from the Amazon Echo Dot to the Echo Show line.

Voice commands are great because they have so many different options and features, but the Amazon Echo does so much that it’s hard to know what’s possible. In this tips and tricks guide, we’ll try to show you some of Alexa’s less obvious features.

Enable Alexa Whisper mode

When you use Alexa at night or when your partner is sleeping, you might not want her to answer at full volume. Whisper Mode fixes this problem.

Tell your Echo speaker, “Alexa, turn on Whisper Mode.” Alexa will now whisper back if you whisper to her. Just try it.

Make Alexa listen for voices in the house

Alexa has different profiles, so you can sign in and out of Amazon accounts. It can also tell who’s speaking, even if two people are using the same Amazon ID. This means that you will get news, music, and shopping that are tailored to you. For example, if you don’t want your partner’s sports news, you can get something else.

First, get your voice in shape. Say, “Alexa, learn my voice,” and then do what Alexa says. Now, have the second person download and sign in to the app. They should select “I’m someone else” on their app, and then Alexa will train their voice.

Skype video calls on Echo Show

Skype video calls on Echo Show

Yes, Drop In and Alexa Calling is the main features of the Echo, but you can also use Skype if you prefer.

First, open the Alexa app on your phone and go to Settings > Communication > Skype. Sign in with your account. Just say “Alexa, call Mom on Skype” or something similar when you want to make a call.

Switching between profiles and sharing accounts

Stop being selfish and start learning to share. Alexa might be your new best friend, but it also has friends. In this way, you can store more than one account on a single Echo and switch between them by saying “Alexa, switch profile.” You’ll need to go to Settings > Alexa Account > Amazon Household in the app to add more accounts. You could also use alexa.amazon.com.

Here, you can enter the details of the person’s Amazon account that you want to add to your profile. Can’t figure out whose account you’re using? Don’t worry, you can just ask Alexa, “Which profile am I using?” and she will tell you.

Change Alexa’s voice and wake word.

Even though its name has become linked to Echo devices, that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Maybe your name is Alex and things are getting a little confusing, or maybe your ex-dog partner is named Alexa. No matter why you want to change your wake word for Alexa, you’re in luck.

You can’t choose any replacement you want, but if Alexa doesn’t work for you, you can use “Amazon,” “Echo,” “Ziggy,” or “Computer” as your voice command instead. To switch, open the app and go to the tab called “Devices.” Choose the device, then tap the Wake Word button.

At the moment, you can only get the new voice in the US. Saying “Alexa, change your voice” will turn it on.

Make Spotify or Apple Music your main source of music.

If you’ve been looking for a Spotify skill for the Amazon Echo, you’ve probably already found out that there isn’t one. Even so, you can still use voice commands with Echo to enjoy your Spotify playlists.

Instead, you can make Spotify the default music service for your Echo. We hear you ask, “How?” with a hint of urgency. Well, in the app, go to Settings > Music and you’ll be able to choose your preferred streaming service.

There is a skill that lets Alexa play Apple Music. You can link your Apple Music account either by using the Spotify method above (which will take you to the Apple Music skill) or by looking for it in the skill store.

Set reminders

Who needs a pen and paper when you’ve got Alexa? You can now say something like, “Alexa, remind me to pick up Tarquin from his Taekwondo class at 8 pm.” When it’s time, Alexa will light up and tell you to go get your beloved child. He knows Taekwondo, so you’d better.

Clear your history on Alexa.

This is not a drill, so get to the panic stations. Alexa keeps a record of everything you ask her, which you can see on the Alexa app on your phone. Seriously. But don’t worry, if you’ve asked her some embarrassing or weird questions that you don’t want the whole world to know about, you can just delete them.

If you don’t mind doing it by hand, you can go into the Amazon Echo app and delete all of your embarrassing requests. You need to go to Settings > Alexa Account > History, Here, click the Delete voice recordings button at the bottom once you’ve chosen the question you want to get rid of. Phew, that was close. Until you ask something embarrassing again, at least.

It’s actually much easier than that. Just ask Alexa, “How do I check my privacy settings?” and Alexa will send you a link to your Alexa Privacy Settings in the Alexa app.

Amazon has also added a voice shortcut to make doing the same thing easier. Say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” and all the recordings from that day will be gone. Did someone say “new way to get ready for bed”?

Oh, and if you want to delete everything you’ve ever said to Alexa, go to Amazon’s website, click on Manage Your Content and Devices, and then click on Manage Voice Recordings.

Ask Alexa to say it again.

Even though Alexa speaks slowly and deliberately, it’s easy to miss what she’s saying if you’re not paying attention. But you don’t have to repeat your long question to get the answer again. You can ask Alexa to repeat itself instead.

If you tell your digital assistant, “Alexa, can you repeat that?” or “Alexa, can you say that again?” it will repeat the last thing it said. Even if you didn’t pay attention the first time, it won’t get mean.

Make Alexa an alarm clock with a radio

You can have Alexa wake you up with a song, album, playlist, or even a radio station. This is one of our favorite tips. Just tell Alexa, “Wake me up at [time] with [insert song or radio station].” Then your wake-up call will be more fun.

Listen to podcasts

If you prefer podcasts, Alexa can also help you with that. But these are actually two tips in one because you should also ignore Alexa’s own podcasting features and use the skill AnyPod instead.

That lets you listen back better, so episodes play in the best order and pick up where you left off. Just say “Alexa, enable AnyPod skill.” If you like Pocket Casts, you can now also use it with Alexa, but AnyPod is still our favorite.

Change the voice of Alexa

Did you know you can change the way Alexa speaks?

In the Alexa app, you can change the language on your device by going to Devices > Select your device > Scrolling down to Language and choose from the list. You can choose from English from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan, or even India.

Make Alexa your default, Android assistant,

If you use Alexa or Amazon Echo, you don’t have to use it only on your smart speaker. Through the Alexa app, people with iOS and Android phones and tablets can ask questions, look up skills, and control their smart homes. But people with Android phones have the added benefit of being able to set Alexa as their default phone assistant.

Put a Bluetooth speaker together

Even though your Amazon Echo can play music from most services, you can still use it as a Bluetooth speaker to play music from YouTube and other services.

Say “Alexa, pair” to start a search, and then finish pairing it with your phone in the Bluetooth menu on your phone. For better sound, you can also connect your Echo directly to a Bluetooth speaker.

Use Alexa to make calls.

Alexa has also learned to make calls, which is a cool new skill. As long as the person you want to talk to has an Echo or the Alexa app on their phone, you can call them up.

Alexa uses your phone’s address book to find out who else has an Echo or is using the app. To find them, just tap the chat bubble at the bottom of the app.

You can just say “Alexa, call Dad” or tap on their name in the app to call them. Say “Alexa, answer” to answer a call that comes in on your Echo.

Check out: Is Alexa Calling Free?

Start over your Amazon Echo.

Start over your Amazon Echo.

As all technology isn’t perfect, the Echo isn’t either. Things are bound to get a little messy from time to time. Resetting the Echo is easy, and it should fix your problems if you do it right, but the process depends on which model you have.

Alexa can be used as a night light.

The blue neon ring that looks like Alexa’s mini-mind is a great way to tell when the device without a screen is working, but it can also be used for other things. Different colors and patterns can tell you if you missed a message if the mic is off, or what volume you’re at. A third-party skill also lets the ring find to use a night light.

You’ll need to turn on the skill first, but once you have, you can just say, “Alexa, open Night Light for one hour,” or however long you want, and the light will stay blue. You can also tell Alexa to stop lighting your room in a light blue color if you get tired of it.

Set up multi-room audio

You can set up a multi-room setup if you have more than one Echo speaker. This is also true for some third-party Alexa speakers, but not all of them. To get started, go to Devices in the app, tap the plus sign in the top right corner, and choose Add Multi-Room Music Speakers.

You’ll need to give your group a name and then choose the speakers you want to be in it. Once everything is saved, you can just tell Alexa, “Alexa, play [music selection] on [group name].”

Make the system do an update

Even though your app will tell you when there are new things to download, you can just ask the Echo. Sometimes it’s faster to hear about something than to read about it.

Just ask Alexa, “Do you have any new features?” If it does, you can update it. If it doesn’t, you can still add skills.

Turn off the Echo

Alexa is always listening, as we’ve already said. But sometimes you just want to be left alone and your speaker to stop waiting for its wake word. So, it’s good that you can put something in its ears and turn off the Echo for a while. Just push the button that looks like a microphone with a line through it. There will be a red ring, and the Echo will stop. To turn it back on, push the button again.

Stop telling Amazon what you say.

Amazon can listen in on your conversations with Alexa to make the service better. You might not know this. Google and Apple do the same thing, but you can choose not to if you want to. Just go to Settings, then Account, then Privacy, and then Manage How Your Data Helps Alexa.

There are two switches here. One is called “Help Develop New Features,” and the other is called “Share Messages with Amazon.” Both of these switches do the same thing. Both of them can be turned off.

Use your voice to add skills

Speaking of which, did you know that you no longer need the smartphone app to give your Echo or Echo Dot new Alexa skills? If you know you want a certain skill, just ask for it. Just tell Alexa, “Alexa, turn on Uber” or “Alexa, turn on a 7-minute workout,” and the skills will be added automatically.

You do need to know the name of the Skill, which is getting harder thanks to Echo’s open API and growing number of users. Over the past couple of years, new Amazon Echo Skills have been coming out all the time.

Not just random Skills Store stuff, but software that can turn your smart speaker into a genius who can order pizza and book a cab. Feel free to add them.

Do quick maths

If you need to do math but can’t remember where the calculator is in your phone’s “random crap” folder, why not just ask Alexa?

You can get your Echo to do the work for you if you have a very long list of numbers that are easier to read off a screen than to type.

When you say things like “Alexa, multiply 67 by 13” or “Alexa, what’s 23% of 4,320?” you should get an answer almost immediately.

It can now add, subtract, multiply, divide, find square roots, find powers, and figure out how many of something there are.

Follow up on your Amazon packages

Who needs annoying emails when you can just ask Alexa how your Amazon package is doing?

If you ordered something from your Echo device, you can ask the speaker, “Alexa, where’s my stuff?” to find out where it is.

Now, the information isn’t too complicated. Alexa just tells you when the package(s) are expected to arrive, but we expect this to get better over time.

If your order is from Amazon Prime, you can also set up shopping alerts. When an update is ready, the Echo’s light will turn yellow.

To turn this on, open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Notifications > Amazon Shopping. Then, choose which notifications you want to turn on. Then, just ask Alexa, “What are my notifications?” to see what they are. You can even stop Alexa from saying the names of things if you don’t want to give away a gift.

Roll a dice

If like us, your partner tipped over the Monopoly board instead of paying that huge rental fee the last time you played, you’re probably missing a couple of dice. But don’t worry, Alexa will make sure that your board games are never interrupted again.

Ask “Alexa, roll a die” or “Alexa, roll two dice,” and your digital die will read out the results. Let’s go!

Use smart home tech that isn’t backed up

Your connected Nest, Hue, Sonos, or SmartThings devices may already work well with the system, but there is a workaround for connected tech that wants to go its own way.

You can find recipes or ways to connect your smart devices by downloading apps like Yonomi or IFTTT. For example, Echo works with Philips Hue and Lifx, but the apps may also be able to control other smart light bulbs.

Echo lets you control your Fire TV

You can already talk to Alexa through the Fire TV Remote or a downloadable app on your phone, but what if it’s on the other side of the room? Well, you can use your Echo to control the action as long as it is near you and connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Fire TV.

By saying something like, “Alexa, watch Tiger King,” you can connect your Echo to your Fire TV. That is if you only have one Fire TV device in use. If you have more than one, you’ll have to give control to each one manually through the Music, Video, and Books section of the Alexa app.

But if you have more than one Echo device in the same room, you can tell more than one of them to control the Fire TV.

Echo Show: Show Photos

If you have an Echo Show, you can use it to display digital photos. You can use Amazon Photos to get your own photos on the screen, but we think you’ll probably want to use Facebook. Go to Settings > Photos in the Alexa app and link your Facebook account.

Go to Settings > Home & Clock > Clock > Personal Photos > Background > Facebook on the Echo itself. Choose the albums you want, and you’re all set.

Go to our Echo Show photos guide for step-by-step instructions on how to use Amazon Photos.

Alexa Calling and Dropping In

With Alexa Calling, you can make calls between Alexa devices or through the Alexa app, which works on iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire phones, tablets, and other devices.

You can just say “Alexa call [contact name]” or go to the Conversations tab in the Alexa app and pick a contact from there.

Drop-In is a little different in how it works. Drop-In with Alexa lets you call another Alexa speaker and talk to it without anyone picking up the phone.

This is basically a way for rooms in your house to talk to each other. Just say “Alexa, drop in on the [say the name of the Echo device]” to connect to other parts of your home and get two-way audio right away. Drop-In doesn’t need your permission to work on registered Echo devices on your network.

Drop-In also works in another way. You can Drop Into anyone on your contact list who has an Amazon Echo speaker, but they have to sign up for the service first.

Latest Alexa features

Alexa Suspects

Alexa Hunch is a feature that learns from your habits and makes suggestions.

So, if you tell Alexa you’re about to go to bed, it will tell you if your front door is unlocked or if the light in your basement is still on.

Before the end of 2019, an update to this feature will also suggest routines you might want to set up based on how you use this feature every day.

Using emails together

Amazon says you can link your Gmail, Outlook.com, Hotmail, or Live.com account to Alexa and then say “Alexa, check my email” to get a summary of your messages from the last 24 hours.

You can read, reply, delete, or archive messages, and you can look for messages from specific people.

FreeTime

Amazon’s Alexa-for-kids service now has routines for FreeTime-enabled Echo speakers, so you can turn out the lights and play sleep sounds.

Alexa can automatically switch to a kid’s profile on the new 2020 Echo devices when it hears a younger voice. This means that the parental controls that come with the Kids + feature set can be used on any Echo device in the house.

Once turned on, Alexa will respond in a way that kids can understand on any device, not just the new Echo Dot models designed for kids.

Reading Sidekick

Reading Sidekick is another new feature that’s good for kids. It’s meant to help Alexa improve her reading skills and get kids interested in reading.

Say “Alexa, let’s read,” and the AI will take turns reading with your child, praising them when they do well and helping them when they get stuck.

Routines improvement

You can now spread out your Alexa routines. For example, if your alarm goes off at 7, you can have the headlines read at 7:45.

People talked about sounds like a baby crying, someone coughing, or someone snoring. The idea is that you’ll be able to set up Alexa Routines based on these noises.

For example, Alexa could turn on the lights in your bedroom when it hears a baby crying or turn on white noise when it hears your partner snoring in the middle of the night.

Business listings

Alexa is getting better at finding stores and restaurants close by. Ask Alexa, “Alexa, where is the nearest Trader Joe’s?” “Alexa, what is the number for Domino’s?”

Local Voice Control

If your network is down, Local Voice Control will use the Zigbee feature of the Echo Plus or Echo Show to give you some control over your smart home.

Multi-step requests

If you want the smart assistant to play music from Spotify and do so at a certain volume, it will also be able to do that.

Alexa FAQs

How do I get Alexa to play podcasts?

Thanks to some good new skills, Alexa is now much better at playing podcasts. For a full explanation, check out our guide.

How do you use Alexa to turn lights on and off?

Basically, all you have to do is set up your smart bulbs according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then go to the Alexa app, tap Smart Home, and scan your network. Check out our full guide to learn how to use Alexa with smart hubs and how to cut down on the number of hubs in your home.

Can you use your Echo speaker to control your Amazon Fire TV?

You can use your Echo speaker to control your Fire TV and, by extension, parts of your TV set. If you have a Fire TV Cube, you don’t need any other devices. That means turning on your TV, watching shows, and starting up services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. Check out our full guide for all the questions you should ask.

Can Alexa be used to control Sonos?

Yes, with the Sonos skill, any Amazon Echo can work well with any Sonos speaker. It’s a nice and inexpensive way to control things with your voice, and even the Amazon Echo Dot will work. To start, just download the skill and link your accounts.

How good is the sound on the best Amazon Echo?

Echo devices aren’t known for having amazing sound quality, but the Amazon Echo Studio was made to sound better.

Can you sync Alexa with your calendar?

Yes! Alexa works with Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Microsoft Exchange calendars, so you can add events and get reminders about your day.

How do I reset my Amazon Echo?

Find the reset button on the bottom of your Echo and push a paperclip in until the light ring turns orange, then blue. Then, you’ll need to go to the Alexa app and start setting it up from scratch.

Can someone break into an Amazon Echo?

Any device in your home that is connected to the internet can be hacked, and anyone with bad intentions can do it. Alexa does store voice recordings in the cloud, which could again be accessed in theory during an attack.

In August 2017, a “proof of concept” attack showed that malware could be put on an Echo to make it listen in on a user. Again, this is a very complicated process that would be nearly impossible to pull off. But yes, that risk is part of technologies that work together.

Levi Alston

I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right smart speaker.

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