Alexa, built into the Amazon Echo, can be used to make a phone call or even lock the door. (Photo: Amazon)
We’re firmly in the age of smart speakers. Maybe you rely on Siri or the assistant built into your phone, but you likely have a full-fledged AI assistant in your home, too.
Alexa, built into the Amazon Echo, is everywhere. If you have an Echo, there’s a good chance Alexa has driven you up the wall a time or two with the follow-up questions. Tap or click here for 5 quick fixes to Amazon Echo annoyances.
While you’re poking around the settings, don’t ignore security. Tap or click for essential privacy settings you have to check now, including who can turn on your Echo’s camera and see what you’re doing.
With that squared away, here’s some inspiration for fun, helpful, and smart new ways to use your smart speaker:
1. Use Alexa to make phone calls
Stop holding your phone when making a call and use your Echo as a speakerphone. Put Alexa to work. You’ll be able to get through to most mobile and landline numbers here in the U.S.
• Open the Alexa app and tap Communicate, then the Contacts icon, followed by the Manage Contacts icon.
• Tap Add Contact and enter a name and number. Repeat for any other contacts you want to add.
• You can also choose Import Contacts to make this easier.
• Have a number but no contact information? Just speak the number and Alexa will make the call.
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2. Tell Alexa to watch out for burglars
Alexa Guard is like a pair of ears you can leave at home. Your Echo device will listen for sounds and alert you as needed.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon in the bottom right, then Settings.
• Tap Guard > Set up Sound Detection.
• Toggle the smart alerts you want to activate, and tap Confirm.
When you’re leaving the house, say, “Alexa, I’m leaving.” When you return home, say, “Alexa, I’m home.”
3. Use Alexa as an intercom in your house
Remember those old intercom systems in larger homes? Think of this command as the modern version.
Just say, “Alexa, drop in on all devices.” Wait for the tone, then speak. You can also target just one device by saying, “Alexa, drop in on (device name).”
Amazon’s Echo speakers have a broadcast feature that will help you send a message to family members that might be scattered around the house.
4. Watch your favorite show or movie
With an Echo Show or Spot and an Amazon Prime Video account, you can watch and stream right to your smart speaker. If you don’t have a Prime Video account, try it free for 30 days with this link. You can also stream Netflix, Hulu, NBC, and other services.
Try commands like, “Show me my video library,” “Show me (title),” or “Show me movies with (actor).”
5. Have Alexa share a photo of you
If you have an Echo device with a screen, like the Show, you can snap a photo and send it to another Echo user.
• Open the Alexa app and tap Communicate, then the Share camera icon.
• Tap Camera and take your selfie.
• Select a contact or device and tap Share.
6. Tell Alexa to lock the doors, including the garage door
Secure your doors with just a few words. You’ll need a smart lock to do this. Tap or click here for our list of best smart locks. If you’re looking for a smart garage door opener, the Chamberlain MYQ is an affordable, reliable option.
Directions for setting up your lock and garage door will vary but you’ll likely say, “Alexa, lock the (front door).” You’ll have to do a bit more work to set up voice commands for the garage. See the steps here.
7. Have Alexa fire up your audiobook
You may be used to listening to audiobooks on your phone with a pair of headphones, but Alexa can play your book, too.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the Play button.
• Next to Audible Library, tap See All. Choose your book, then select which speaker you want it to play on.
• Or, say “Alexa, read (title of book) from Audible.”
Not an Audible member?You can try out Audible Plus for 30 days free.
8. Tell Alexa you need white noise to sleep
Husband up snoring? Or maybe you can’t stop hearing every creak and groan of your home.
Search “white noise” or “sleep sounds” in the Alexa app and enable the ones you like, or say, “Alexa, play sleep sounds” to get some options.
Try going more specific, like “Alexa, play sleep sounds rain.” Soothing!
9. Have Alexa give you news from sources you trust
You can ask Alexa to play the news, but what if you want a specific source? You can set that up.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Settings.
• Scroll down to select News, then tap Edit next to My News Channel.
• Add the channels you want.
When you want to hear the news, say, “Alexa, play the news from (news source).”
10. Lost your phone? Ask Alexa to find it
When you can’t find your phone, you usually ask someone else in your home to call you, right? What if you’re alone and don’t have access to another phone? Alexa can help.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Skills & Games.
• Search for Find my Phone and choose from the list of skills.
• Tap Launch to set up the skill.
11. Change Alexa’s voice or accent
Mix it up if the default voice has gotten old.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Settings.
• Tap Device Settings and select your Echo device.
• Tap Language and select from the list of languages and options, then tap OK.
12. Play over 5,000 games with Alexa
Think of a game you grew up playing. There’s a good chance that’s an Alexa skill. Simply say, “Alexa, open (name of the game).”
There’s tic-tac-toe, bingo, rock paper scissors, blackjack, 20 questions, memory match, escape the room, true or false, Jeopardy!, Heads Up!, Deal or No Deal, categories, dice and so many more.
Be sure to double-check whether the skill costs money before you enable it.
13. Start your day with a custom Alexa routine
Routines save you time by putting a bunch of actions together. You can create custom routines with Alexa to start your day or unwind after work.
• Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon.
• Tap Routines > Create Routine and add a name and commands with actions
• You can also go to Routines > Featured to get some ideas and inspirations.
Need help? We walk you through the process step-by-step here.
14. Have Alexa make you smile with a joke
Alexa’s repertoire ranges from corny to cringe-worthy. Use your imagination or get started with some of these:
• Alexa, can you tell me a “yo mama” joke?
• Alexa, what happens if you step on a Lego?
• Alexa, why did the chicken cross the road?
• Alexa, tell me a joke.
15. Have Alexa remember important events
If you don’t want to pull out your phone, Alexa can remember specific dates and events for you.
Say “Alexa, remember …” followed by whatever you’d like her to keep track of. For example, “Alexa, remember I have a doctor’s appointment at 9 a.m. on Wednesday” or “Alexa, remember I put the check in my bedside table.”
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
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