Amazon’s Echo with built-in Alexa was on our list of top holiday gifts for good reason. Tens of millions of Alexa devices have been sold worldwide and the Echo Dot was the most popular product during the 2017 holiday season.
If you were one of the lucky people to have an Echo wrapped for you under the tree, here are some of the most fun and useful ways to make Alexa work for you.
1. Listen to almost any song, on demand
Alexa works with almost all the most popular music streaming services. If you choose to go with Amazon’s Prime Music offering, Alexa even responds to specific requests for music genre, mood, era and can even search by lyrics.
Hosting an 80’s-themed party? Ask Alexa to play 80’s pop. Need to relax after work? Ask Alexa to play some chill music. You can even use your Echo as a sound machine to help you fall asleep.
Try this: “Alexa, play classic rock, please.”
2. Get the daily news and weather
Arguably Alexa’s most-used feature, any Echo device will give you daily updates or weather reports on command. It’s as simple as asking “Alexa, what’s the weather in Nashville today?”
Customized Flash Briefings will also help you start your morning right. Select from popular news outlets or see which of your favorite publications has added their own feed, then ask Alexa for your flash briefing when you wake up.
Try this: Open your phone’s Alexa app and navigate to Settings > Flash Briefing, then select Get more Flash Briefing content. From there, search or select your favorite feeds. Then say, “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?”
3. Listen to your favorite books
The first major online bookseller (Amazon) has more than a few best-sellers in its library. If you’re an Audible member or have purchased audio books on Amazon, Alexa can play anything in your library with a simple voice command. It will even keep track of where you leave off so you can listen later on your drive to work.
Alexa can also use text-to-speech technology to read many of the Kindle books sold on Amazon. The only downside is that instead of a human narrator, your book will be read back in Alexa’s robotic voice.
Try this: “Alexa, play the Kindle book [title], please.”
4. Set your smart thermostat
The days of using your hands to set your thermostat are behind you now. If you happen to have another one of the items featured in our gift guide — the Ecobee — you can ask Alexa to change your home’s temperature at any time.
Try this: “Alexa, set the temperature to 72, please.”
5. Control other smart home gadgets, including your lights
Since the days of the clapper, we’ve all dreamed of controlling the lights in our house on command. With Alexa and some smart lightbulbs, today it’s possible.
After installing smart LED bulbs that can connect to WiFi, or a smart hub that’s compatible with Alexa, you can use your voice to turn on the kitchen lights, dim the living room lights, or even turn your office green.
Try this: “Alexa, dim the living room lights to 50 percent, please.”
6. Manage security systems and cameras
If you’ve ever woke up in the middle of the night wondering if you locked the back door, Alexa can help you avoid leaving your warm covers.
Alexa pairs with many alarm systems, allowing you to arm and disarm your system with a voice command. Even better, some companies pair with smart locks to check the status of a door sensor, or even lock your doors (garage door included). That’s peace of mind.
Try this: “Alexa, ask [alarm company] if the alarm is armed, please.”
7. Control your Amazon Fire TV with voice commands
Through pairing your Echo to a Fire TV, you can search for and play television shows or movies on any supported app. You can even control playback, pausing, rewinding and resuming all using your voice. And when you’re ready to switch it off, just ask Alexa to turn off your Fire TV.
Try this: “Alexa, find home improvement shows on Hulu, please.”
8. Call friends
Alexa’s new calling and messaging feature allows you to call almost any number in the U.S. from your Echo device. And if your friends have an Echo, you can call them there, as well. Just sync your contacts list using your phone’s Alexa app and all of them become instantly Echo-reachable. With Alexa, you can talk hands-free anytime you want.
Try this: “Alexa, call dad’s office, please.” Or if you need to call to schedule a service, you can just say “Alexa, call Lee Company, please.”
9. Set up routines
Want lights dimmed to a certain level, the weather forecast and a traffic report when you wake up? Alexa now lets you bundle commands into a single request. We were going to make a joke about asking Alexa to make your coffee, but then we found out connected coffee makers exist. Now you can get your caffeine fix ready before you even walk into the kitchen!
Try this: Open your phone’s Alexa app and navigate to Settings > Routines. Choose your phrase and select which actions you want Alexa to take. Then say, “Alexa, start my day.”
10. Find new features
Alexa is always adding new skills. A simple voice command will help you keep up.
Try this: “Alexa, what new features do you have?”