Krzysztof is a lifelong future tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.
The Newest Features of Amazon Echo (aka Alexa)
What can the Amazon Echo do for you?
The Echo is getting smarter and more powerful every week, with incredible features that you won't believe. Amazon has put everything into this surprise hit and have recently expanded its ecosystem with the Echo Dot , Amazon Tap, Echo Spot, and Echo Show. However it's Alexa, the brains behind the machine, that powers your music, smart home, alarms/timers, and so much more.
So strap in and discover its 20 best new features.
20. New Alexa Devices
Alexa is everywhere and recently Amazon held an event that unleashed 11 new Echo devices available to purchase and pre-order.
Below are some of the latest products announced.
11 New Alexa Devices
- Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - $50
- Echo Input - $35
- Amazon Echo Sub - $130
- Amazon Smart Plug - $25
- Echo Amp & Link - $300 for Amp - $200 for Link
- AmazonBasics Microwave - $60
- Echo Plus (2nd Gen) - $150
- Echo Wall Clock - $30
- Echo Auto - $50
- Fire TV Recast - $230
- Echo Show (2nd Gen) - $230
The 2nd and 3rd Gen Echo Dot, Show, and Plus received mainly aesthetic updates with new mesh and fabric designs. Other updates included a new microphone array for 70% louder audio (Dot), a temperature sensor (Plus), and a larger 10" display (Show).
Can connect to any dumb speaker to make them smart.
A sub woofer used to improve audio as well as the ability to handle stereo pairing.
Amazon Smart Plug
An easy to use smart plug that can automatically be set up without the need for an app.
Echo Amp & Link
The amp has a built-in amplifier and the link allows your to control your AV receiver.
It's integrated with Dash replenishment and is Alexa enabled (non built-in speaker).
Echo Wall Clock
It pairs with Alexa speakers via Bluetooth and can show off timers (accessory device). Contains 60 LED's for counting down in 60 second increments.
An Alexa device with an 8 microphone array specifically designed for your car. It pairs through Bluetooth instead of your phone's WiFi hot spot.
Fire TV Recast
Separates recording and viewing; you can choose where to put your antenna.
19. Echo Software Updates
Amazon unveiled some special software updates that you might find very interesting.
Alexa Software Updates
- Alexa Hunches
- Whisper Mode
- Stereo Pairing
- Amazon WiFi Simple Setup
- Location-based Routines
- Alexa Guard
- Updated Alexa Routines for Echo Buttons (sold separately)
Smart home suggestions that are offered when making requests or statements to Alexa. For example, if you tell Alexa good morning, then you she may ask to activate your coffee maker.
Alexa will speak softly, which is excellent for parents of younger children.
Two smart speakers can be connected to create a stereo pair.
Amazon WiFi Simple Setup
Your WiFi information is shared across your smart home devices allowing for automatic setup without the need for an app/s.
Smart home devices may activate depending on where you are. For example, your lights may turn on when you're almost home.
You may also set up reminders by enabling push notifications that will come up on your phone. This works if your devices are out of reach.
Lastly, you can use your location to find and call nearby business with Alexa.
Your current smart speakers can be used as part of your security system due to Amazon's partnerships with Ring and ADT.
Updated Alexa Routines for Echo Buttons
A new software update for the Echo Buttons (2-pack for $20), which only worked with Alexa based games, can now trigger routines when pressed. These routines include basic smart home controls like lighting, music playback, custom Alexa responses, and much more.
The buttons are listed under the routine section and can be selected as your trigger.
18. Kid Friendly FreeTime for Alexa
Alexa is about to become a lot more kid friendly with FreeTime integration.
FreeTime is another name for Amazon's parental controls, and it's about to make Alexa a lot safer for children. With FreeTime, parents can set time limits on Alexa use, disable the ability to voice shop and listen to news, and completely change the voice assistant's personality.
Once enabled in your app's settings, your kids can safely interact with Alexa while she gives child friendly responses to their questions. In fact she'll be so friendly that she may even give your kids a lesson in politeness and manners.
FreeTime promises not to collect personal data from their users or share audio recordings with developers.
How to set up?
You can set up FreeTime in the Alexa app on specific Echo devices. Once you set it up, Alexa will assume anyone speaking to her is a child (age 5-12). From there all responses will be handled in a clean, child appropriate format where she'll be able to maneuver even the trickiest of questions like "where babies come from?".
What parental controls will be available?
FreeTime won't allow the use of third-party skills, asking for news updates, and voice shopping. Explicit music lyrics will also be censored.
For $3 a month you can get FreeTime Unlimited, which curates Alexa skills, songs, playlists, games, and gives children access to 300 audio books designed for them. You'll even have the option to enable kid friendly custom alarms from characters like SpongeBob.
Currently FreeTime will only be available for the Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot but expect other devices to get it soon.
Echo Dot Kids Edition
The Echo Dot Kids Edition ($79.99) is a Dot that includes one of three different colored cases, a two-year return guarantee, and a year's worth of FreeTime Unlimited.
It's the perfect bundle for your increasingly tech literate children.
17. Voice Calling & Messaging
You can finally place hands-free calls or craft voice texts on most Amazon Echo products or in the Alexa app. You can place free calls to any landline or mobile number in the US, Mexico, and Canada.
When placing or receiving calls the light ring around the Echo will turn green, and it'll turn yellow when you have a voice or text message waiting to be answered. These new colors will also work for shopping and skills notifications once enabled.
Setup for voice calling & messaging is easy; all you need is to grant Alexa access to your contact list via the app.
If you have the touchscreen Echo Show or Spot, then you can even place video calls similar to Facetime with the ability to block numbers whom you don't want to talk to.
There's even a drop-in feature that allows you to access an Echo device either within your home or outside the house using the Alexa app. The Echo Show can pair with your security cameras to view a live feed inside your home/room.
Update: Skype is now available for audio/video Alexa devices. You can sign-in with your existing account by going into the app's menu - settings - communication and selecting "add a Skype account".
Presently the feature will only be available in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada but expect it to expand in the coming months. Additionally, Microsoft is giving users who link their account 100 free minutes a month for two months.
How to Turn Alexa Into an Intercom
Another cool add-on is the one-way intercom feature where you can tell Alexa to broadcast a personal message to all Echo devices in your home. For example if you say "Alexa, tell everyone dinner is ready", she'll send that voice memo to all connected Echos inside the house. Use the words tell or broadcast for the message to get across.
Expect to see even more with this revolutionary new feature in the coming months.
Update: The new Echo Connect uses your landline phone to be able to make and take calls from any number including 911 and international calls (charges may apply) using your home phone number.
You can sync all contacts through the Alexa app, plug the Connect into your home phone jack, and use all compatible Echo devices to make/place calls.
You can now send text messages (SMS) to any mobile phone with your Echo device even if the recipient doesn't own one.
However you can't send group messages of any messages containing images/emojis (MMS). You also won't be notified via Alexa if you get a reply back.
You must enable this feature in your Alexa app in your contact/drop-in settings and give your phone permission to allow this feature. Every text message you send with Alexa will include a link to the voice message version of the SMS.
16. Multi-Room Audio
One of the most requested Echo features has arrived in the form of multi-room support where you can group several Echo speakers to play music in your home.
You can even tell Alexa which device you want to use to play a song whether it be your living room's Echo Dot or your bedroom's Amazon Echo.
To group speakers together you must go to the smart home settings in your Alexa app, select Multi-Room Music, and choose which speakers you'd like to group together.
When activating your group, any streaming audio or active Bluetooth connections will cease (shown in settings).
The grouping feature can also make commands a lot more simpler. For example, you can add an Echo product into a light group (designated by room) and say, "Alexa, turn on/off the lights", without having to say which Echo you're referring to.
So with multi-room support, the Echo has finally captured a key feature that the Google Home controlled for months and it's sure to bring customers back to try it out for themselves.
15. Spotify Premium & Apple Music
If you're a Spotify premium member, then you can finally play your favorite songs and playlists on the Echo.
The device's integration with Spotify is a major plus for this global music streaming platform. It also bodes well for Amazon's expansion of Alexa beyond the United States, and it has already helped broaden the language capabilities of the Echo beyond US English.
Paying for premium may seem steep for some but now there's one more reason to make that investment. New Spotify premium users get a free 30 day trial, and if you already have your Amazon Echo, then why not give it a whirl?
There are other premium options available if you have an account or a paid subscription for SiriusXM and Deezer. Just enable each skill and link up your account to it.
How to Adjust Your Equalizer (EQ) Settings
Don't like how the audio sounds? Well now you can adjust your Echo's EQ settings just by saying,
"Alexa, turn up the bass."
You can tell her to alter the bass, mid-range, and treble on a -6 dB to 6 dB scale. Any adjustments you make will apply to your music, audio books, or podcasts. If you're not happy with the changes, then just ask Alexa to reset the equalizer. You can also adjust/reset settings by going into the Alexa app or the Echo Show/Spot's screen.
The new controls will be rolling out across all Alexa devices in the coming weeks. Additionally, developers can access these settings to control third-party products like the Sonos Beam.
Ultimately the hope is that EQ controls will set the stage for more premium Echo speakers in the future.
In a huge turn of events, Amazon is set to launch a skill that will allow Apple Music users to listen to their curated tracks/playlists on Echo speakers beginning December 17.
Whether or not this feature will seamlessly integrate into the Alexa platform like Spotify has remains to be seen.
14. Echo Skills in Alexa App
Although there are 30,000+ skills in the Amazon Alexa app (see 25 Best Amazon Echo Skills in the Alexa App), many aren't particularly jaw-dropping or worthwhile. But there are some additions that really stand out, including Domino's Pizza, Fitbit, and Uber.
They even have a skill called AnyPod that can play your favorite podcasts.
But don't fret if those skills don't apply because there are plenty of other great apps, like word games, trivia, math puzzles, noise apps (including fart sounds), and many more with dozens of new additions every week.
Furthermore you can purchase the $20 Echo Buttons and pair them with several game skills like Trivial Pursuit or try out the first Alexa powered board game titled "When In Rome".
Enable Skills via Voice
Most Alexa skills, including smart home apps, can be enabled via voice command: "Alexa, enable Uber."
This makes adding new skills much easier than having to access the Amazon Alexa app and manually search and add. For best results, try asking Alexa for the newest and most popular skills available, and then enable the ones that appeal to you.
Also be on the lookout for deeper skill integration as more and more skills will be automatically recommended to help answer your queries.
Echo users now have the ability to easily customize and create their own skills with Alexa Blueprints.
To get started, you'll need to go to the blueprints website (highlighted above), pick a template you'd like to use (custom Q&A, quiz, fairy tale, etc.), and then fill in the blanks. You can add unique sound effects, invocation phrases, and other perks to spruce up your skill/s.
Any skill you create will only be tied to your amazon account and can't be publicly seen, so feel free to create your own set of in-jokes and personal reminders. If you'd like you can share your new creations with friends and family by sending them a link to your skill. All they have to do then is enable it, and the skill will work on their devices.
With Blueprints, you don't have to be a coder or developer to create new skills. All you need to do is follow a simple guide and everything else will be done for you.
13. Pandora and Prime Music (Alexa Cast)
The Echo was built as a Bluetooth speaker first, so it's not surprising that's where it really shines. Luckily there are numerous options, both premium and free, for every song lover.
If you don't want to opt into paying for Spotify premium each month, then there are free music stations available.
Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn radio all provide free music.
Amazon Prime members get a massive musical collection included with their account (annual $119 fee) along with free two-day shipping, photo storage, and Prime video.
You also have the option to subscribe to Amazon Music to access millions of new songs and playlists for only $3.99 a month on a single Dot, Echo, or Tap device. To enable this subscription, you have to ask Alexa to try Amazon Music Unlimited.
New users will get a free 30-day trial to try the platform.
Alexa Cast & Advanced Amazon Music Voice Controls
Amazon is rolling out a new feature on the Amazon Music app that will allow you to instantly cast songs to any Alexa enabled speaker from the "now playing" screen.
It's basically their version of Google Cast, and it may eventually lead to multiple casting opportunities (podcasts, audio books, etc).
Before this update you could only listen to your Amazon Music collection by either telling Alexa to play a song or pairing the phone via Bluetooth, but as of today everything should be a lot more streamlined.
Furthermore, your Amazon Music selection is about to become a lot more detailed. Through a conversational like interface, you can tell her exactly which playlists to play, what songs you're looking for, whether you like or dislike certain songs, and what playlists/songs you liked in the past so that she can play those.
This should make choosing songs a lot more complex than simply telling her to play a subset of songs.
Alexa users now have the option to enable Pandora's Premium tier through their Echo devices.
With Premium, users can ask Alexa to play their favorite ad-free songs, albums, playlists, and more with full playback controls and curated playlists. To use, tell Alexa to play "Pandora" followed by a song or set Pandora as your default music service within the app's music settings.
12. Audio Books from Audible
Audible is excellent when you want to lie down, relax, and fall asleep listening to your favorite audio book. The Echo allows you to do just that with additional options including volume (playback) control and chapter selection.
But that's not all... Kindle books are also integrated into its system, so now you can have Alexa read aloud your favorite Kindle books. It's not quite as smooth/expressive as an Audible narrator, but it gets the job done.
Be on the lookout for free audio books that Amazon offers via Alexa from time to time. They are usually trialed per a limited basis, so be sure to take advantage of them whenever you can.
11. Multiple Timers and Alarms
Alexa is the perfect digital assistant for the kitchen, bedroom, or both. Indeed people have purchased multiple Echos for this functionality.
One of the first features this device was enabled with were timers and alarms, which have expanded with multiple alarms/timers, customized alarm sets (including celebrity voices), and repeating alarms. Now you can set alarms that repeat either daily, on certain weekdays, or even one for weekends and another for weekdays.
You can also assign names to your timers ("Alexa, set chicken timer for 10 minutes"), which comes in handy when preparing meals.
Update: Users can now add or subtract time on their timers as well as set up music timers. This means you won't have to create additional timers or cancel ones already in progress.
Personalized Music Alarms
Finally you can personalize alarms with music from Spotify, Amazon Music, and more. You can even stream radio channels from iHeartRadio and TuneIn. The options can range from a specific song to a relaxing theme; the choice is yours.
Isn't it great how a few simple features can replace other gadgets that only do one thing? Simplicity is beautiful that way.
10. Control Your Smart Home
The Amazon Echo was created to unite all smart home devices! Integrated into Echo are smart home products including:
- Nest, Ecobee, and Sensi (thermostats)
- Lutron (Caséta wireless lights)
- Philips Hue and Wemo
- SmartThings and Insteon
- TP-LINK Kasa
- Haiku Home (fans and lights)
- Fire TV
All added smart home products are now under the device tab (bottom right in app) for easier management. If that's not enough, then check out other smart home brands via Alexa's skill store.
Echo could turn on/off your lights (or dim them), control switches for things like personal heaters, fans, coffee makers, smart thermostat's settings/temperature or even your Amazon Fire TV.
How to Create Daily Routines
You can now create daily routines via the app where saying a command like, "Alexa, good morning", will trigger your smart home gadgets and have things like the news, weather & traffic be given to you. You can also touch and drag commands to place them in whichever order you want.
You'll be able to create more routines in the coming weeks as well as have more Alexa integration into other platforms including your car.
Update: New routines have been added. You can finally add a music track or podcast from a premium source like Spotify as well as set the volume level for your audio pick. Additionally you can have Alexa say a personal phrase like "good night" or "good morning" when the routine is initiated.
Calendars and announcements have also been added. Alexa can announce a custom message to all Echo devices, you can receive announcement notifications, and you can hear your calendar events for the day (or tomorrow).
Update #2: Amazon has rolled out a "wait" feature that allows you to delay your routine. You can set this up by going into the app menu, routines, and selecting "wait" in the add action prompt. You can choose how long to delay the routine.
Routine delays are great when you need some extra time to set things up or when you want to prepare schedules ahead of time so you won't forget them.
Furthermore, there's now a "do not disturb" feature available within your routines that pairs well with the wait actions.
Control Your TV Entertainment System
TV voice control is becoming more and more accessible with platforms that now include Fire TV, Fios, Optic, and Dish.
Start by enabling the desired skill and pair your account/s to each. For Fios, you can actually control your set-top boxes when you pair it with an Alexa device.
For more detailed information on how to set-up and enable each skill, please go to the Alexa app, pull up the main menu, and tap the "Music, Video, & Books" option.
You can manage all of your TV/Video, Music, and Book listings as well as additional speaker add-ins like Sonos from there. Be aware that you'll need compatible devices and may need to update your platforms software before linking with Alexa.
Once your platform is connected, you can change channels/volume, rewind & fast-forward, pause, choose which show you'd like to watch, and ask for general movies or TV shows based on actors or actresses involved.
If you're new to this, I'd recommend purchasing a Amazon Fire Stick because it's the easiest and most affordable option (under $50). With a Fire Stick you'll have access to numerous apps and simple video playback controls.
To start just ask Alexa to find your device or link it up manually to start watching your favorites today.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
This brand new Alexa device is a mix between an Echo Dot, a universal remote, and Amazon's 4K Fire TV.
It'll control AV devices like your soundbar and cable box as well as your regular TV. This cube shaped device has 8 front facing speakers with IR blasting capabilities.
It's an excellent substitute for a Fire TV/stick and an Echo Dot, and since Alexa is built into the device, it can do almost anything your regular Echo can except calling, texting, multi-room audio, and Bluetooth syncing.
With the Fire TV Cube you now have a voice powered remote for almost everything including your internet based platforms (Netflix, Amazon Video). However keep in mind that it won't work with every device (DVR, other universal remotes), so don't throw away your remotes just yet.
Amazon's Fire TV Cube is a great device for those who have never owned an Echo or Fire TV, and you can order one now for $119.99.
9. Local News/Traffic Updates
Alexa delivers important daily news updates everyday, which is excellent when you need your morning info fix without extra hassle.
You can voice enable a variety of news outlets, including NPR, BBC, Discovery, The Washington Post, and CNN. If that's not enough, then there are several news skills you can access, including NBC and AOL. There are even sports news from ESPN Radio and Fox Sports who missed out on their favorite games and headlines sports stories.
If you're interested in local news, then there are over a dozen metropolitan stations you can enable in your flash briefing settings such as NBC 4 New York, NBC4 Southern California, NBC 5 Chicago, and more.
Unfortunately traffic information is limited to a set destination with the options to include stops in between, but I don't recommend using it outside your daily work route.
There are a few traffic skills available, but they're either region specific or don't provide enough detail for your route/s.
8. Sports Updates
If you don't want to wait for a news update about your favorite team, then you have the option to aggregate your favorite teams in a customized sports update.
This is great if you want to know quick win/lose outcomes as well as who they played against, when they'll play next, who there next opponent will be, and what time the game will begin. Sports information is second nature to the Echo, and it'll always have the most up-to-the-minute knowledge.
You could even get live scores if you're unable to watch as well as personal stats on any player, so there's never anything to miss.
7. Weather Forecast
I bet this was one of the first features produced for Echo after music, and it's easy to see why. The weather is often the first thing we want to know when waking up in the morning, and this feature provides the current weather and a 7-day forecast.
All it takes is setting up your location through the Alexa app and you're good to go. It's a handy little tool that doesn't require a phone, a tablet, or TV. I mean sure if you want to know every detail then maybe a cellphone will help, but most people only care about the basics and Alexa is here to help.
Additionally if you have an Echo Show, Echo Spot or Fire TV Cube you can view the weather report right on the screen.
6. Order and Track Amazon Purchases
There are many benefits to being an Amazon Prime member but with Echo those perks get even better. As stated, Prime members get a minimum free two-day shipping, free music, cloud storage, and free videos/movies, but with Echo they can also order, re-order, and track Amazon packages.
- Alexa can tell you when an order was placed and when it's expected to arrive.
- It can order any Prime eligible product.
- Alexa can tell you more about your purchase, send you shopping notifications, and even send a picture of the product to your app for future purchases
For purchases, you even have the ability to add a pin number that Alexa will ask prior to re-ordering, which creates a much-needed layer of security. Add-on items or non-prime items can't be ordered but Alexa can add them and any other item to your Amazon shopping cart or via the app.
If you enable shopping notifications under the settings tab, then you can receive delivery and re-order notifications (for previously purchased items) and even the specific product names that were ordered.
Notifications will be set off by a beep and a yellow ring on your Alexa devices.
5. To-Do and Shopping Lists
It's really nice to be able to add something you need to purchase or do via voice. The Echo can even read your lists if you want to know what was added. You can also use the IFTTT for Amazon app to enable a trigger that'll send/print your shopping list.
There are also various list apps you can connect to including Any.do, AnyList, Cozi Lists, Picniic, and Todoist.
Finally you can delete items or an entire shopping/to-do list via a voice command, however; the items you clear won't be completely gone when you go into your Alexa app.
To fully eliminate all items, you'll have to manually go into the app and clear all recently deleted items.
4. Movie/Movie Theater Info
This nifty feature allows you to plan a Friday night at the movies through a straightforward command. Alexa can tell you what movies are playing nearby, movie information, and times for theaters close to you. As long as your location is set, then the Echo should have no issues giving you accurate movie news.
Once you know which movie you want, feel free to ask Alexa more about it (movie reviews, ratings, actors).
You can even get movie times for an impending date helping you plan ahead. People love going to the movies and now it's even easier.
3. Google Calendar & Email
Once you link your Google calendar, then you'll truly have a welcome apprentice. You can have Alexa add and/or say your events, schedule, forthcoming plans, and more. It's an essential business tool that expands the usefulness of the Echo.
You can even change events around if need be, and Alexa will tell you if two or more events conflict with one another.
If Google isn't your go-to calendar, then you can also link your Microsoft Outlook.com, Office 365 or Apple iCloud calendars.
Your calendars and lists are tied to your specific voice, so if there are multiple profiles, Alexa will only pull up the information connected to you. This also works with things like calling & messaging.
You can set up email controls for your Gmail, Hotmail, Live.com or Outlook accounts. They'll be listed under settings - email & calendar. You'll have to connect your accounts to use.
With email setup, you can have Alexa read, archive, delete or respond to emails from your account, and if you're concerned about someone else reading your emails, then you can enable a 4-digit voice code for added security.
2. 360* Bluetooth Speaker
I'm sorry Siri and Cortana, but Amazon Echo's Alexa completely outshines your voice recognition capabilities.
I've always had problems communicating with the digital assistants above but rarely with Alexa. I give credit to the design of the Echo speaker for its brilliant hardware/software that's able to pick things up from any direction through its "seven internal microphones."
In my Amazon Echo review, I described how powerful the speaker and voice tool was, and it's far-field voice range is a solid 10-15 ft that doesn't disappoint.
But if you want a more powerful speaker that doesn't have Bluetooth, then you can connect your existing Echo to them via an aux port (2nd & 3rd generation Echo products only) for a better audio experience.
You can also train Alexa to be voice-specific if there are multiple users in your household. That means if you tell her to call someone or order something, she'll recognize the person who made those commands and carry them out accordingly.
Unfortunately I'm not going to give her a perfect score because Alexa doesn't always pick up what you say, but considering the market, this technology destroys the competition.
1. Bing Search Engine
In the end, the Amazon Echo has been categorized as a speaker with Siri like capabilities. To me, that's an unfair analysis because there's much more this device can do that Siri cannot.
The Echo provides Wikipedia entries, quick math calculations, conversions, measurements, spelling corrections, and other intelligent answers similar to Apple's assistant, but it's still criticized for not being as brilliant as other voice assistants.
However she's always learning, and if she doesn't have an answer right away, then she'll get back to you as long as you enable her answer notifications (go to settings, click notifications, hit "Answer Updates", and tap to enable).
Alexa is not powered by the Google search engine and hasn't been around as long as Siri or the Google Assistant, but I have a feeling it'll catch up quickly. If Amazon continues to up the ante, integrate more skills, continuously provide updates, and go all in, then it'll be the other assistants that'll fall well behind.
How to Enable Follow-Up Mode
Alexa devices now have a Follow-Up Mode that's disabled by default. With this mode, Alexa will be activated for five seconds after you issue a command. This allows you to place additional requests without having to say the wake word over and over again.
To enable go to your settings tab and click on an Alexa device. Then scroll down to see Follow-Up Mode and tap to enable it.
Currently this mode is only available for the US and it's device specific. It also won't work if audio is playing, if you're on a call, or if the speech detected was background noise.
This mode should make issuing multiple commands more intuitive especially if it involves smart devices, and it makes Alexa more competitive with the Google Assistant.
Amazon will crowd source the Echo's ability to answer questions to invited customers on the Alexa Answers website.
This could potentially allow your voice assistants to give answers to obscure and unusual questions that they wouldn't normally understand.
Think of it as Yahoo Answers for Amazon. The program has reportedly been in the works for over a month but is now being rolled out more broadly.
Based on customer feedback, the answers provided may be included or yanked from Alexa's database. All answer are screened for language and consistency, and they can be up or down voted by Alexa customers. Additionally, your Echo will tell you whenever a user generated answer is given.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I set a routine via Alexa to arm or disarm an ADT alarm system?
Answer: So far, Alexa can create routines around your calendar, music, news, weather, and traffic. She can also trigger specific smart devices, groups, and scenes so if your system is linked to a smart device, then it may be possible to a set a routine to control your ADT alarm system.
Question: What kid friendly features and settings are there for the Amazon Echo?
Answer: You can enable or subscribe to FreeTime (paid subscription), which includes various audiobooks, kid-friendly Alexa responses, and Alexa games for kids. There are music filters available if you'd like to block explicit music lyrics.
If you buy the kids edition Echo Dot you'll get a free yearly subscription of FreeTime, a protective bumper case, and a 2 year warranty on the Echo Dot.
Question: Can I make two Amazon Echo devices in different rooms talk each other?
Answer: The only thing they can do simultaneously is play music through multi-room audio. You can use the drop-in/intercom function to talk to a different speaker in a different room, but the devices themselves will remain separate.
Question: Can you ask an Amazon Echo to play pop music?
Answer: Yes, you can just tell her to play pop music or a pop music playlist.
Question: Can my Alexa link to my mobile phone and use this to send receive texts, emails, make calls and act as an answer machine?
Answer: You can setup Alexa as a default voice assistant on phones now that can interact with your contacts.
Alexa has notifications that will tell you about who called and so forth but she can't serve as an answering machine.
Question: What are the 'action' & 'microphone' buttons for on the top of the Echo Dot?
Answer: The action button is mainly to setup Alexa. If you hold the Action button for a few seconds, you'll enter setup mode (orange ring) which will attempt to connect your Dot to your WiFi network or mobile hot spot.
Once connected, you can also hit the Acton button to wake Alexa up manually.
The microphone button simply shuts on/off her microphone meaning she won't be able to respond to your commands or answer when called.
Question: Will Amazon Alexa work with an android?
Answer: I presume you meant Android phone, and the answer is absolutely. The Alexa app to setup your Echo devices is available across all App stores. You can even talk to Alexa directly through the app similar to the Google Assistant.
Question: Is the echo compatible with my iTunes music?
Answer: The best way to play your iTunes music on an Echo is by connecting your device via Bluetooth. You can turn on your Bluetooth settings and ask Alexa to pair your device. You'll get standard playback controls through Alexa.
If you're more interested in a fully integrated Apple Music/iTunes experience, then I would consider taking a look at the Apple HomePod.
The device is very pricey ($349), but it's specifically geared toward iPhone and Apple users.
Question: Why won't our firestick work with our Spectrum service? Will that change?
Answer: More and more services are continually being added, so it could very well change. I've read about ways people have manually programmed the device to work with Spectrum, but that's always risky.
Question: Can you change Alexa’s name? Can you change her voice?
Answer: Yes, you can change her wake word name to either Echo, Amazon, or Computer in the Alexa app settings.
In the app click on your current device in settings and head over to the wake word section and change it from there.
As far as her voice goes, you can't currently change her default voice.
Question: Do you get paid by Amazon to promote the Echo? Because your description of its voice recognition abilities is a little too positive. I have 3 Echos and while they are good, you must structure your requests in a particular way vs the more conversational forms you can use with Cortana, Google Home, and even Siri. Also, Alexa’s computer generated voice sounds very dated.
Answer: I wish I got paid by Amazon, but I'm just a voice assistant consumer that has probably purchased far too many of their devices (Google and Amazon). You are correct in your assessment; I do feel that the Google Home has done a better job with conversations and requests. Their vast search engine capabilities and superior speech recognition cannot compare to Amazon.
However Alexa has been improving gradually, and they recently held an event with newer software and hardware add-ons that are going to help them get up to speed with Google.
I don't mind the computer-generated sounds, but I understand that it's not for everyone.
Question: How can I change which echo receives my Amazon Unlimited Music?
Answer: Make sure the devices you have are registered under the account that's associated with your unlimited music.
To change which Echo can play your music, you have to say the device name that you want to play your music.
Question: Are you still able to control a specific Alexa’s volume?
Answer: Yes, you should be able to. All Echos tend to operate independently of one another unless you group them together. The spatial awareness also allows you to control the Alexa device closest to you, which should help when telling her to change the volume.
Question: Can I watch Amazon Prime video through Echo Dot?
Answer: You can only see video on the Echo Show ($230) and Echo Spot ($130).
If you have a Fire TV or Fire stick, you can use your Echo Dot to control what shows you want to watch and have basic playback controls.
Question: Will the Tap gain the ability to be part of a music group?
Answer: I don't see why it wouldn't, eventually all Echo devices should be able to support most of the features listed unless they're visual cues for the Echo Show and Echo Spot.
Question: Can I play my own music on Echo?
Answer: I've never tried that. You can connect your device to the Echo via Bluetooth and play your music that way. If you can upload your music to Spotify, Amazon Music, or any of the other music services, then you should be able to play it that way as well.
Question: How can I connect my Echo Dot to my stereo?
Answer: You can either connect it via aux input/output cable or through Bluetooth (if your sound system supports it). You can pair your Bluetooth compatible devices in the settings menu of the Alexa app.
Question: Can we change the name Alexa on the Echo?
Answer: As of now (April 2018) you can change the wake word "Alexa" to "Echo," "Amazon" or "Computer."
To do this go into your Alexa app settings, click on an Echo device, and scroll down to the wake word setting. From there you can make your selection and save your new wake word.
You can only change one device's wake word at a time in the settings menu. There is no current information regarding if more names or customized names will be added.
Stella Jones from USA on July 03, 2019:
Almost gave guides for Alexa and Amazon echo. Very useful information you have provided. I really like it.
Tom Joned on April 05, 2019:
Horrible search engine. Worst Alexa skill." Humm, I don't know that". Very sad.
Sachin shibe on September 05, 2018:
I can get every knowledge with alexa
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on April 23, 2018:
Thank you, I believe I mentioned announcements but I'll have to look again. I also addressed brief mode in a question, but I'll be sure to add that in. I'm always aware of all the updates when they happen, but sometimes I'm unable to update the article right away.
Thank you for your help.
NikkiRoxi on April 16, 2018:
Hey Krzysztof you are missing some Key Updates that came out recently too. Brief Mode and Announcements. Brief Mode replaces the Echo device from saying OKAY after it acknowledges and executes a command you gave it. Instead it just beeps as the acknowledgement. Announcements is Amazon’s version of Broadcasting. You can make a statement to one device in your house and that statement/message can then be Broadcasted/Announced to all the other Echo devices in your house.
harry jay altman on April 14, 2018:
can you go to a particular track in an album of music and continue the album from that point?
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on February 06, 2018:
It's a shame, had Apple put their best foot forward they would've been way ahead in the game.
That being said they're still wildly popular with a massive ecosystem. If they really wanted to, they could easily catch-up, but can't wait around forever.
They Echo and Google Home competitor, the Apple HomePod, is yet to be released. The smart home and the Alexa ecosystem is a huge player and will continue to rapidly advance. Apple is running out of time to catch-up.
Shermanus on February 05, 2018:
Apple has fallen asleep at the wheel. They were first with Siri. Now Alexa and the others have taken over and put Siri to shame.
Ask her. She might tell you “I have found this on the web” when Alexa gives you the answer.
Another first was Apple TV. Now Amazon and Roku have taken over.
Integrated in most smart TV’s.
There is more.
Mac fans are upset....
Being the company with most cash on hand is no guarantee a future
NikkiRoxi on January 05, 2018:
Why are we surprised by this? It makes perfect sense that you would have to first log into your UBER account via the Alexa App then link it to your Amazon account. Amazon would not have access to your login info for any account that they didn't expressly create for you such as UBER. Think about do you want them to have such access? I seriously doubt it.
Larry you can now wake up to whatever song or playlist you want in Alexa. Amazon has added the ability to have Music Alarms. They also updated the Reminders so now you can have recurring Reminders as well. I wake up every morning to both an regular Alarm and a radio station alarm.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on January 03, 2018:
Well they recently gave you the ability to use custom music from Amazon or Spotify for alarms, so I'm sure we'll see that option soon.
Scottie on December 25, 2017:
Any word on when you can add a device to multiple music groups?
I'd like to have an upstairs group, downstairs group and everywhere group but you can only assign a device to one group at a time.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 04, 2017:
If I had to make a bet, then I think this feature will arrive by early next year.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 04, 2017:
I believe that's one of the most requested features right now.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 04, 2017:
Any account based skill like Uber requires that I'm afraid. There's too much detail required before the skill can get linked to Alexa.
Jody on December 02, 2017:
So just asked my Echo "Alexa, enable Uber" and was told (nicely) that I needed to go to my Alexa App to enable this skill. YAWN.
Larry on December 01, 2017:
I do not think it would be very difficult for a programmer to have Alexa's alarm cause Alexa to go to the cloud and play a random song for the alarm for prime members. If the Internet is down then it would recognize that and set off one of it's built in alarms.
Larry on December 01, 2017:
I would like the alarm to play music. When Alexa can do this without another device I will probably buy one.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on October 17, 2017:
Siri is the most well-known assistant but since she was introduced as a novelty add-on, she has pretty much stayed that way. I don't see too many iPhone users use Siri for anything.
At this point Alexa has leaped past Siri and is only challenged by the Google Assistant. Apple has fallen asleep at the wheel and their clout is no longer enough to save them in that market.
Even Bixby has more potential for Samsung phones because of how closely it's integrated into the device. The jury is out on that platform however.
As far as the HomePod, I think the audio will be fantastic but once again Siri won't be the star like Alexa is, and there's a reason why Apple isn't showcasing Siri as the main focal point of that speaker.
NikkiRoxi on October 12, 2017:
TuneIn works fine for me. I still don't understand the comparison between Siri and Alexa. Alexa can do so many more things that Siri cannot. I truly feel those making that comment have never used Alexa or seen one in action. Now will that change when Apple releases their Home Pod? Maybe, but for now Siri is very limited in comparison. Siri cannot access any of my Smart Home devices and control them. Siri cannot stream music throughout my house. When you ask Siri a question she sometimes gives you search results as if you were searching Google on a browser. Siri doesn't always answer the question. I just want an answer not a list of possible sites for me to get the answer. I have never tried to play a game using Siri not sure if she is capable, but I can on my Echo.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on September 11, 2017:
Thank you for your comment. I agree that there's a lot more to be desired but Alexa has come a long way since it was first introduced less than 3 years ago.
Jean on September 10, 2017:
Alexa is good but it's not perfect. I still have to depend on pen & paper to "prioritize my do list".
In real life, we always prioritize our day to day tasks functions....& I am not able to do that.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on May 06, 2017:
As of now it mostly understands English although it can interpret UK and German dialects due to its release in those countries. We have yet to see Alexa be able to fully understand other languages though.
Michael Webb on May 04, 2017:
I have yet to get one I want one but I need more info? Does it recognize other languages I speak English and my partner specks French. Will it under the different languages and respond to them.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on March 22, 2017:
No problem I'm happy to hear you're having a great experience with the product and the best part is there's always something new being added daily whether it be skills or other features. I'll be updating this soon because several more features have been added over the past few months.
Jean S on March 21, 2017:
Just got Alexa and am having fun learning what she can do. Thanks for your help and I find myself thanking her constantly.
Birger Hillaert on February 17, 2017:
My echo dot does not play TuneIn stations although it recognizes them well.
Spotify plays without a problem
Satyajit on February 16, 2017:
I have developed a Alexa custom skill, and its superrrrrrr
Tom knight on January 26, 2017:
Love her, the most amusing way that I use Alexa is I created a iffff program to show me the weather on a lifx bulb. Every morning at 7:00 AM the a lifx bulb kicks on and shows me the color of the weather. Dark blue for rain, purple for cloudy, sunset orange for sunny and Carolina blue for snow.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on January 15, 2017:
There are numerous alarm apps, which one specifically? The most effective apps are brand based like Scout and make sure you have the hardware that's required, a stable internet connection, and anything else the skill warrants. People also setup up IFTTT recipes to trigger specific commands if the skill doesn't allow it.
Billy on January 15, 2017:
The alarms app is not supported in the Alexa app, do I need to do anything to trigger the software?
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on December 10, 2016:
It helps when you use the product daily. I wanted to learn about its every aspect until I was 100 percent confident in writing about it so it took a few weeks. Thank you for the response.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on November 04, 2016:
She's quite polite indeed though it would be funny if she ever retaliated in a non rude yet clever way. I wonder how many ppl have hurled insults at Alexa.
Kenneth Avery on November 04, 2016:
Chris . . .Great work. How long did it take you to write, research this project?
I am highly-impressed. Keep up the great work.
Lisa on November 03, 2016:
I just love, love, love Alexa! I get such a kick out of her, I told her the other day to tell my husband he's stupid, lol, and she said no I won't do that, it's just rude! LMAO! she's a good girl!
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on February 24, 2016:
No problem. Although the ad was nice I thought they could've done a lot more to show the public what it does. Thank you.
Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on February 20, 2016:
I saw the commercial you posted advertised on TV. Though it was an entertaining commercial, I had no idea what the product did. Thanks for explaining it.