Along with everyone's favorite virtual assistant, Alexa, Amazon has become an unstoppable retail presence that undercuts competition with low prices and reliability.
Alexa entered our hearts through the Echo, the Bluetooth-enabled speaker that does just about anything from music to ordering pizza.
So what else can the Echo do? Here's a guide to some innovative ways to fit the Echo into your life and get the most out of its capabilities.
Amazon Echo Hidden Secret Features
Feature #1: The Name Game
Out of the box, your virtual assistant is called Alexa, but opening vowels can be problematic for some stutterers, and there's plenty of room for confusion if you have a child or pet with a similar name. . Opposed to other AI and smart home assistants, Amazon gives you options. Instead of calling your Echo like "Alexa," you can choose to say "Echo," "Amazon," or — for Star Trek fans — "Computer."
To change this setting, press features at the bottom of the Alexa app. From there, tap "Wake Word" and select the word you want to use to interact with Alexa. You'll need to do this for each Echo device in your home.
Feature #2: Configure multi-room music
If you have multiple Echo devices in your home, you can easily stream a playlist or radio station to many (or all) of them at once. But first, you need to put them into groups: you can do this through the Alexa app by clicking Settings | Multi-room music.
You can create as many groups as you want, but note that each device can only appear in one group. So if you have two Echos downstairs and two upstairs, you can create a "downstairs" group for the first two - but you can't then add them to a "whole house" group.
To set up your first group, just tap the “+” sign on the Devices page. Tap "Set up multi-room music," give the group a name, and check the boxes next to the devices you want to include in the group.
Now, if you want to play music on your two Echo devices downstairs, you can say, "Alexa, play Kylie downstairs." If Kylie isn't to your liking, modify the instructions as appropriate.
Feature #3: Create Multiple Profiles
Alexa will listen to anyone, but that doesn't mean she has to treat everyone the same. Suppose you set up separate profiles for each person in your household. In this case, you can switch between them to ensure that all music played, calendars viewed, and accounts used for purchases will be appropriate for that particular user.
Creating a new profile must be done by the registered owner of the Echo device. Open Settings in the Alexa app, click Household Profile in the Settings section, then enter your account password. Now ask the other member to log in using the same device and link your accounts.
Notes: When you ask Alexa to order an item from Amazon, the system will use the default payment method in the "active" profile. So to avoid confusion, it is worth checking before placing the order. To do this, ask, "Alexa, what profile is this?" »
Feature #4: Protect Your Purchases
As for voice shopping, if you have kids at home, you'll want to set up an online shopping PIN to make sure they don't order a new LEGO kit every two weeks.
To do this: Open Settings in the app and tap "Account Settings". Next, scroll down to Voice Purchase in the Alexa app and add the code in the "Require Voice Code" field. This procedure will require voice commands when making a purchase, so make sure they can't hear you.
Feature #5: Connect External Devices
Everyone knows that Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Show can stream music from various online sources. What you might not realize is that these devices can also all be used as external Bluetooth speakers, meaning you can, for example, use them to play music straight from your phone. To establish the connection, search for the Echo device in your phone's Bluetooth menu or make your phone discoverable and say "Alexa, pair Bluetooth" or "Alexa, pair phone".
Once connected, you can control the music with all the usual voice commands, including 'play', 'pause', 'previous' and 'next' and volume. To close the connection, say "Alexa, disconnect Bluetooth" or "Alexa, disconnect phone".
Also, go to “Settings” once the devices are paired. Set a new skill to connect your favorite music source (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.). You can also ask Alexa to link your music service and she'll send it straight to your phone. You can also tell Alexa to "Resume Bluetooth", "Pause Music" or "Skip Song" for hands-free fun.
Feature #6: Use IFTTT
You're probably already familiar with the free automation service known as “If This Then That (IFTTT)” ― supermarkets now use the web service among other things. However, what's perhaps more practical for home use are the many Alexa integrations the service currently offers.
To get started, go to ifttt.com/amazon_alexa and click Connect. Enter your password on the Amazon page that appears and authorize the connection. Now you can use the pre-rolled applets to link Alexa to a huge range of services and devices, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to Facebook Messenger and Google Spreadsheets.
Feature #7: Create Your Custom Routine
If you frequently run the same chain of commands in a row, why not create a routine, so you can run the sequence with a single statement and save time?
To do this, tap Routines in the Alexa Account section of the Alexa app, followed by "+" to begin. Tap “When it happens,” then tap “When you say something,” and type in the trigger phrase. We use "Alexa, open the office" to set up a routine that will run when we arrive at our office in the morning.
Record the phrase, then tap "Add Action" and choose what should happen from the News, Smart Home, Traffic, and Weather options. In the example image above, we turn on two lights and ask Alexa to tell us what the weather is today.
Feature #8: Let Alexa find your phone
It's not uncommon to misplace your phone at home. Whether it fell between the sofa cushions or you left it on the patio right outside, Alexa is here to help. Assuming you've verified your phone number through the Alexa app, all you have to do is say "Alexa, find my phone." Alexa will call your device, revealing its location in your home.
When she calls, it shows as a private number. Unfortunately, it won't help much if your phone is set to silent, as you still won't hear it ringing.
Feature #9: Use Alexa as a hands-free phone
You may have seen Amazon's saturation ad for Alexa recently, some of which focus on its ability to act as an intercom or hands-free speakerphone. This feature may seem complicated, but it is easy to configure.
First, to enable Alexa's intercom capabilities, open the Alexa app and make sure all your devices have logical names (we suggest naming them after their room location) . If you need to edit a name, click Settings, select the one you want to adjust, then tap Edit on the "Device name" line.
Once you've done that, you can easily open a channel between two Echo devices using the "drop-in" command. For example, to call from the bedroom to an Echo speaker in the kitchen, say, "Alexa, come into the kitchen."
A word of warning: as soon as you enable this feature, your microphone will go online – so don't make sarcastic comments while you wait for someone in the kitchen to answer you.
Setting up phone call capabilities is only slightly more complex. First, open the Alexa app on your phone and tap on the speech bubble in the toolbar. When you initially set up the app, it asks for your phone number and permission to pull your contacts from your address book, and now you should see them there.
To call or text one of these contacts, tap the person icon at the top of the screen, then select their name. You will see options to send a text message or make a phone call. SMS/Text messages are read aloud by the recipient's Echo device, as well as on their phone, while a phone call will ring their device so you can talk hands-free.
What if you don't want to be disturbed? Tap a name and use the "Allow Recording" button to enable or disable their access. Scroll down to the bottom of their map, and there's a link to block them if you so desire.
Feature #10: Customize your Flash briefing
Flash Briefing is Amazon's name for a quick news dump that pulls content from multiple sources, such as news editors, weather forecasters, and exchange rate trackers. To customize one, open the Alexa app and select « Flash Briefing » in the Settings section. Click on 'Get more Flash Briefing content' and choose the items you want to add (BBC World Service, The Guardian, MTV, Joke of the Day, etc.)
Each Flash Briefing content item you add is automatically enabled, but you can remove any source from the briefing if you wish: go back to the Flash Briefing section and toggle the switch next to each one's name.
You can also enable sports content in Flash Briefing, but Alexa already knows a lot about football and other sports. Click Sports Update on the Settings screen, then use the search box to find the teams you want.
Feature #11: Unsubscribe Alexa
If you're upgrading from a Dot to a Plus or a regular Alexa to a Show, you may decide to pass your old device on to a friend or sell it online. Before doing so, be sure to unsubscribe so that the new owner cannot place online orders using your account. Open the Alexa app, click Settings, then click the device name you give. You will find the unsubscribe option in the About section.
Don't worry about the record Alexa keeps of things you've told her: it won't follow the device to its new home. However, if you want to purge this information from your account, delete individual records from the home page of the Alexa app or switch to your Amazon account to delete the entire batch.
To delete recordings, open your Alexa app and select 'Devices.' Click on the device you are saying goodbye to and click 'Unsubscribe.' Follow the on-screen instructions and you're set.
Feature #12: Follow Mode
The only problem with AI personal assistants is having to repeatedly wake them up. Saying "Alexa, set a reminder to call the doctor tomorrow" and then saying "Alexa, also set a reminder to get some milk" can be a little annoying.
With Follow Mode, you won't have to use the wake word as much. To enable this feature, simply tap "Devices" at the bottom of the app, then tap your device. Scroll down and enable "Following Mode". Now you can just continue your conversation with Alexa.
Frequently Asked Questions
There's always something new to learn about Alexa. In this section, we'll go over some useful information to help you stay up to date with the latest Alexa features.
Where can I find more Alexa features?
In the list above, we've included some of the best features that set Alexa apart from other home assistants. But, you might be looking for something a little different. If so, Amazon is highlighting the newest and most popular Alexa skills in the Alexa app.
When you first open the Alexa app, you'll see a "Popular Skills"...