Every major tech company has its own voice assistant. Mac, iPhone, and iPad owners talk to Siri on their devices. Android users make requests of Google Assistant or Google Now. And anyone with an Amazon Echo can talk to Alexa at home. In fact, you can talk to Alexa not only on the Amazon Echo, but a whole array of devices in the Amazon Echo & Alexa family, including the Fire TV and Amazon Tap. Granted, to take full advantage of some of these gadgets, you’re probably going to need to sign up for an Amazon Prime membership — provided you don’t already have one.
New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham states that it took a team of 1,000 engineers at Amazon to write the code behind Alexa. The end result is an assistant with impeccably advanced skills. Short for Alexandria (named after the Library of Alexandria in Egypt), Alexa can play you your favorite song, read you a book, or find you a recipe. And, of course, she can place Amazon orders for you. But what might be even better is Alexa’s ability to learn new skills from third-party developers who integrate Alexa into their services and products. So when you use your Amazon Echo, you can easily call an Uber, check your bank balance, turn on your TV, or order a pizza.
As Wortham notes, the Alexa-equipped family of Echo devices “has already evolved from an experimental device to an irresistible household fixture.” She explains that “something about the future-feel of this device, its ease and convenience, has captivated a mass audience, even the most privacy-conscious among us. Alexa is always listening, ready to be of service.”
If you already have an Amazon Echo in your home — or you’re thinking about purchasing one — you probably already know at least a few of the things that the device can do. We bet, though, that you don’t know all of them. Read on to check out some of the awesome things you can do with Amazon Echo with the right apps and devices.
1. Stream music
Tired of scrolling through streaming apps or flipping through your records each time you want to listen to some music at home? Your Amazon Echo can help. Just tell Alexa the genre you want to listen to, or request a specific song or album, and the assistant will oblige. Amazon Echo can stream music from your Amazon Prime Music library, or from third-party apps like Spotify or Pandora. As an added bonus, CNET reports that you can use any song on Spotify for your morning alarm. Want even more options? Connect your phone or tablet to the Amazon Echo with Bluetooth to stream whatever you’re listening to on those devices.
2. Tune in to your favorite radio station
If you aren’t into streaming music and would prefer to listen to the radio, there’s no reason to keep an extra gadget around. Just have Alexa play your favorite station. The assistant will use TuneIn to find whatever you’re looking for, whether that’s a local channel or a program that’s nationally syndicated. Alternately, Alexa can use iHeartRadio to stream your favorite podcasts.
3. Stay up to date on the news
Want to stay up to date on the latest news? You can ask Alexa for a Flash Briefing on the Amazon Echo, which is an overview of the day’s biggest headlines, customized to the categories and the sources that you specify. Alternatively, you can simply ask Alexa: “What’s in the news?” With the Amazon Echo, you can also get the latest weather and traffic reports for your commute.
4. Read a book
If you prefer reading books to listening to music, Amazon Echo can help you with that, too. You can ask Alexa to play an audiobook from Audible (where, for the record, you can find many books read by the authors themselves). The Amazon Echo can also access any of the books that you’ve downloaded to your Kindle device.
5. Control all of your smart home devices
One of the best ways to get the most out of your Amazon Echo is to use it with a smart home hub. The right hub will connect your smart home devices to the cloud, enabling you to use Alexa to control a much wider variety of devices than the assistant is compatible with on its own.
Nick Hastings from Digital Trends reports that some Alexa-compatible smart home hubs to consider include the Samsung SmartThings Hub, the Insteon Hub Central Controller, the Wink Hub, the Vivint Sky, the Scout Hub, the Logitech Harmony Hub, the Iris Smart Hub, the Nexia Bridge, and the Securifi Almond+. If you already have smart home devices — or are planning to install some very soon — the right hub will enable your Amazon Echo to control things like your lighting, locks, smart outlets, thermostats, air conditioners, ceiling fans, and the security system in your home.
6. Trigger IFTTT actions
If you’re into the concept of the smart home, even if you don’t have any smart home gadgets yet, then you’ll probably be pretty excited to learn that you can use your Amazon Echo to trigger IFTTT actions. Need a refresher on the acronym? IFTTT, which stands for “if this, then that,” is a platform that enables you to create simple, automated recipes that link together your favorite services, apps, and gadgets. CNET has a pretty comprehensive list of IFTTT-friendly devices if you need help picking one out for your Amazon Echo. Want an IFTTT alternative? Try Yonomi, which is compatible with a wide variety of devices.
7. Play trivia
If you and your housemates, or family members, want to test your knowledge of trivia, you don’t have to sit through an episode of Jeopardy! to do so. Just instruct your Amazon Echo to “enable Jeopardy!” and Alexa will get to work right away, quizzing you on trivia questions. She’ll even require you to phrase your answers in the form of a question — perfect for if you’re practicing for your 15 minutes of fame.
8. Resolve disputes about specific facts
Alexa responds to a ton of useful commands on the Amazon Echo. But a few of those commands make it pretty easy to resolve the kind of arguments that arise when you and a roommate (or partner!) are arguing about specific facts. For instance, you can ask Alexa who plays a specific character in a movie or a TV show. Or you can ask her who sings a specific song, the album it’s from, or the year it was released. If you ask us, that’s some pretty useful stuff for resolving those debates!
9. Set a timer (or two)
Setting a timer may not be Amazon Echo’s most sexy feature. Still, anybody who has attempted anything remotely complicated in the kitchen can attest to the fact that being able to set a timer without using your hands is a pretty useful capability to have at your fingertips (so to speak). With the ability to handle multiple timers, your Amazon Echo is probably a lot more helpful in the kitchen than the one on your oven or microwave.
10. Cook dinner
Setting timers isn’t the only way that the Amazon Echo can help you out in the kitchen. It turns out that Alexa has a variety of cooking-related skills, which can definitely help you out if your experience in the kitchen is lacking. The Verge’s James Vincent reports that Alexa can talk you through 60,000 recipes from Allrecipes.
And according to CNET’s Taylor Martin, she can help you with other cooking-related tasks, too. Need help maintaining a grocery list or converting units for that mouthwatering recipe? Or maybe you’d like to start up your coffee machine without touching a button, or even find recipes by only the ingredients you have available at home? Amazon Echo can help you with all that! It can also give you tips on which wine to pair with your meal or provide you with cocktail ideas.
11. Or order food instead
Maybe the recipe you chose didn’t turn out as anticipated. Or perhaps you got so overwhelmed at the thought of those 60,000 recipes that you decided you didn’t really want to cook tonight, after all. No worries! Amazon Echo has got you covered. You can order pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut, for example. Not in the mood for pizza? The Amazon Echo offers plenty of other options that are sure to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.
Whitney Filloon reports for Eater that Prime members can now use the Amazon Restaurants feature to “order food from scores of restaurants simply by uttering a few words to digital assistant Alexa.” Plus, the Amazon Echo can help you figure out where to go if you want to go out for dinner. Just ask Alexa for some recommendations, and she’ll respond with some Yelp-based information.
12. Call an Uber or a Lyft
So you’ve finally settled on a restaurant, but now you have to decide how you’ll actually get there. Just turn to your Amazon Echo and ask Alexa to get you an Uber, and before you can even blink, she’ll already have a car on the way to pick you up. Plus, if it’s a particularly busy time or place, Alexa will warn you if surge pricing is in effect. That way, you won’t see any unpleasant surprises when you check your email after the ride’s over. Or if Lyft is more your style than Uber, then Alex can set you up with that, too. You’ll be on your way to dinner in no time.
13. Check movie showtimes
Kris Wouk reports for Digital Trends that you can ask your Amazon Echo to find out what movies are playing where and when. Simply turn to your Amazon Echo and ask the following: “Alexa, what movies are playing tonight?” You can ask for movies in a specific genre, or you can ask for current showtimes in your local area for a movie that you’ve already chosen.
14. Make a phone call
According to Rick Broida from CNET, you can use your Amazon Echo for a pretty surprising purpose: making phone calls. Using the Ooma phone system, you can place outgoing calls even if you don’t own Ooma hardware by setting up a free account to get minutes for free calls. Here’s how it works: When you ask Alexa to call a number or a person for you, Ooma will place the call. But the call won’t go directly through to the person, instead your phone will ring first. Once you answer it, the call will go through to your chosen contact. Want to check your voicemail, too? Amazon Echo can do that for you without the need of keeping your phone within reach.
15. Check your spelling
Perhaps not the most exciting feature — but definitely one of the most useful in a pinch — is the assistant’s ability to help you fact-check a word you just aren’t sure how to spell. Simply ask Alexa how to spell the word in question and she’ll dictate it to you, like when you’re in the middle of a text or an email that you just don’t want to get wrong. Or if you aren’t sure if you’re using the right word in the first place, you can ask Alexa for a definition instead.
16. Make Amazon purchases
You can use your Amazon Echo to easily make purchases on Amazon just by asking Alexa to re-order your essentials for you. Or you can add an item to your Amazon cart if you prefer to make the purchase at a later time. Amazon Echo also comes in handy if you want to hear about the latest Amazon deals. Just be careful of not getting shopper’s remorse, given how easy it is to make that purchase!