Amazon Echo essential tips and tricks

How to get the most out of Amazon's digital assistant

Amazon Alexa: Tips and tricks

The Amazon Echo is a hugely diverse smart speaker ‚Äď no matter which of the many versions you have. From the Amazon Echo Dot to the second-gen Echo Show, there are loads of nifty ways to get more from Alexa.

The beauty of voice commands is how varied the options and features are, but the Amazon Echo does so much that it's often difficult to know what's possible. That's where this tips and tricks guide comes in, where we aim to uncover some of Alexa's less obvious features.

Sharing accounts and switching profiles

It's time to stop being selfish and learn to share. Yes, Alexa might be your new best friend, but it's a friend to others, too. To that extent, you can store multiple accounts to use on a single Echo and jump between them simply by saying "Alexa, switch profile". To add additional accounts, you'll need to go into the app and head to Settings > Alexa Account > Amazon Household. You can also go through alexa.amazon.com.

Here, you'll be able to enter the Amazon account details of the person you want to add to your profile. Can't remember who's account you're logged in with? No worries, you can figure it out just by asking "Alexa, which profile am I using?"

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Change the Alexa wake word

Its name may have become synonymous with the Echo devices, but that doesn't mean you have to like it. Maybe your name's Alex and things are getting a bit confusing, or maybe your ex-partner's dog is called Alexa. Whatever your reasoning for wanting to change, you're in luck. You can act as the deed poll office and give Alexa a new name, or a new 'wake' word.

Sadly, you don't have free reign on the choice of replacement, but if Alexa just isn't ticking your boxes, you can use "Amazon", "Echo" or "Computer" as your vocal cue instead. To make the switch, open the app and go to the Devices tab. Select the device and then tap Wake Word.

Set Spotify or Apple Music as your primary music source

If you've been looking out for an Amazon Echo Spotify skill, you've probably noticed that, well, there isn't one. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy your Spotify playlists with Echo-enabled voice commands though.

Instead, you can set Spotify as your Echo's default audio provider. 'How?' we hear you cry with thinly-veiled urgency. Well, in the app, head in the direction of Settings > Music and you'll be able to select your go-to streaming service of choice.

Read this: Alexa and Spotify guide

For Apple Music on Alexa, there is actually a skill. You can link your Apple Music account either using the Spotify method above (which will re-route you to the Apple Music skill) or by hunting it down in the skill store.

Set reminders

Who needs a pen and paper when you have Alexa by your side. You can now say something to the effect of "Alexa, remind me to pick up Tarquin from his Taekwondo class at 8pm". When the time comes, Alexa will light up and give you a reminder to pick up your beloved child. You'd better - he knows Taekwondo.

Clear your Alexa history

Man the panic stations, this is not a drill. Alexa records everything you ask her and keeps a record of your questions that's visible on the smartphone app. Seriously. Don't worry though, if you've been asking her some slightly embarrassing or dubious questions you don't want getting out into the wider world, you can simply delete them.

You erase all trace of your shameful requests, you'll need to open the Amazon Echo app and go Settings > Alexa Account > History, Here, once you've selected the question you want to do away with, click the Delete voice recordings button at the bottom. Phew, crisis averted. Until the next time you ask something embarrassing, anyway.

Oh, and to delete your entire history of Alexa interactions, go to Manage Your Content and Devices on Amazon’s website and click Manage Voice Recordings.

Amazon Echo essential tips and tricks

Get Alexa to repeat itself

Although it's got a slow, methodical delivery, if you're only half paying attention it can be easy to miss what Alexa's telling you. There's no need to repeat your lengthy query in order to get the answer again though. Instead, you can just ask Alexa to repeat itself. Asking "Alexa, can you repeat that," or "Alexa, can you say that again" will get your digital assistant repeatings its latest response. It won't even get sassy for you having not paid proper attention the first time.

Turn Alexa into a radio alarm clock

One of our favourite tips, you can have Alexa wake you up to a specific song, album, playlist of even radio station. Just say "Alexa, wake me up to [insert song or radio station] at [time]." You'll then get a more enjoyable wake-up call.

Listen to podcasts

If you're more of a podcast type then Alexa can help you here as well. But this is two tips in one because it's also essential that you ignore Alexa's own podcasting capabilities and opt for the skill AnyPod. That enables better listening back, so episodes will play in the best order and resume where you left off. Just say ‚ÄúAlexa, enable AnyPod skill.‚ÄĚ If you're a Pocket Casts fan, that's also now available to use with Alexa, but personally AnyPod is still our go-to.

Change Alexa's voice

Did you know that you can change Alexa's accent? In the Settings menu for your device within the Alexa app just head to Devices > Select your device > scroll down to Language and choose from the list. You can pick from US, UK, Germany, Australian, Canadian, Japanese and even Indian English. Check out all the voices in our round-up.

Make Alexa your default Android assistant

As an Alexa and Amazon Echo user, you're not confined to using it on your smart speaker. iOS and Android smartphone and tablet users can ask questions, access skills and control their smart home via the Alexa app. However, Android phone owners have the added benefit of being able to make Alexa their default phone assistant. Here's how.

Connect a Bluetooth speaker

While your Amazon Echo can play music from most services, you can still pair it as a Bluetooth speaker to take advantage of services like YouTube. To pair it with your phone, say "Alexa, pair" to start a search, and then complete the pairing process on your smartphone's Bluetooth menu. You can also pair your Echo directly with a Bluetooth speaker for better sound - here's how.

Amazon Echo essential tips and tricks

Make calls using Alexa

Another nifty new trick Alexa has learned over time is to make calls. So long as the recipient has an Echo or the Alexa smartphone app, you can dial them up for a natter. Alexa uses your phone's address book to see who else has a Echo or is using the app, and to find them you just need to hit the chat bubble at the bottom of the app. You can simply say "Alexa, call Dad" or call them by tapping the on their name in the app. To answer an incoming call on your Echo, just say "Alexa, answer".

Reset your Amazon Echo

As with all technology, the Echo isn't infallible. From time-to-time, things are bound to get a little squiffy. Thankfully resetting the Echo is easy and should hopefully fix your issues, although the process varies depending on which model you have. Head to our full guide which walks through the different procedures.

Use Alexa as a night light

The neon blue ring portraying Alexa's mini-mind is a great way to know exactly when the screen-less device is at work, but it's not the only thing the light can be used for. While different colours and patterns can indicate whether you've missed a message, if the mic is turned off, or what volume you're sitting at, a third-party skill also lets the ring find use a night light.

You'll have to enable the skill first, but once done all you need to say is, "Alexa, open Night Light for one hour," or however long you wish, and the light will show blue continuously. If you get sick of lighting up your room in the light blue hue, you can also say "Alexa, stop."

Set up multi-room audio

If you own multiple Echo speakers, you can create a multi-room setup. This includes some third-party Alexa speakers too, though not all. To get going, head to Devices in the app, tap the plus sign in the top-right corner and select Add Multi-Room Music Speakers. You'll need to give your group a name and then choose the speakers you want to include. Once it's all saved, just say "Alexa, play [music selection] on [group name]." More commands here.

Force a system update

Though your app will let you know about new goodies that need to be downloaded, you can simply ask the Echo yourself. Sometimes it's quicker and you get a rundown by voice instead of reading about it. All you have to say is "Alexa, do you have any new features?" If it does, update away, if not, well at least there's plenty of skills to add.

Amazon Echo essential tips and tricks

Mute the Echo

As we've mentioned, Alexa is always listening. Sometimes, however, you just want a bit of privacy and for your speaker to stop holding out for its wake word. It's a good thing then that you can plug its ears and mute the Echo for a while. Simply push the button with a slashed through microphone. A red ring will appear and the Echo will be muted. Push the button again to turn it back on.

Stop sharing conversations with Amazon

You might not be aware of this, but Amazon can listen in to your Alexa conversations as its way of improving the service. Google and Apple do it too, but if you want to opt out, you can. Just head to Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy > Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.

There are two toggles here, one that's labeled Help Develop New Features and one for sharing messages with Amazon for the same purpose. You can turn them both off.

Listen to free music

This one requires some workarounds, but if you want to get music on your Echo without paying more, there are some (limited) ways to do so. Here's how.

Add skills with your voice

Speaking of which, did you know you no longer need the smartphone app to add new Alexa skills to your Echo or Echo Dot. If you know there's a specific skill you're after, just ask for it. Simply saying "Alexa, enable Uber," or "Alexa, enable a 7-minute workout," and the skills will automatically be added.

You do have to know the Skill by name, and thanks to Echo's open API and growing support, that's getting increasingly tricky. Amazon Echo Skills have been rolling in thick and fast over the past couple of years. Not just random Skills Store fodder, either, but software that's ready to transform your smart speaker into a pizza-ordering, taxi-booking genius. Enjoy adding them.

Do quick maths

If you need to do sums but can't remember which 'random crap' folder your phone's calculator is hidden in, why not just ask Alexa for some help? If you're dealing with a particularly large set of numbers that's easier to read off a screen than type out, you can rope your Echo in to do the work. Asking questions such as "Alexa, multiply 67 by 13" or "Alexa, what's 23% of 4,320" should see near instantaneous answer offered. It can do pretty long equations now, along with adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, square roots, power and factorials.

Stream music using Alexa Cast

If you're an Amazon Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited subscriber, it's now possible to stream your music seamlessly from your phone to your Echo devices. So, if you get in from work and want to pitch the music playing in your headphones to the speakers, all you need to do is to click the Alexa Cast icon in the lower-right corner and pick which Echo speaker you want to stream to.

This works with both single Echo devices and those set up for multi-room functionality, and once everything is synced up you should be free to control the music from both the Echo and your phone.

Track your Amazon packages

Who needs continuous, annoying email updates when you can just ask Alexa the status of your Amazon package? If you've ordered something from your Echo device, you can get an update from the speaker itself by asking, "Alexa, where's my stuff?". Now, the information isn't overly complex - with Alexa simply telling you the day the package(s) are expected to arrive - but we do expect this to flesh out as time goes on.

If your order is of the Amazon Prime variety, you can also set up shopping notifications and see the Echo's light shine yellow when an update is ready. To enable this, open the Alexa app and head to Settings > Notifications > Amazon Shopping and then choose which notifications you want on. Then, to check them, just ask, "Alexa, what are my notifications?". You can even stop Alexa announcing the names of items, if one if a gift you don't want to spoil.

Amazon Echo essential tips and tricks

Roll a die

If, like us, the last time you played Monopoly your other half tipped over the board rather than paying that massive rental fee, chances are you're probably down a couple of dice. Fret not though, your board game sessions need never be interrupted again thanks to Alexa.

Ask "Alexa, roll a die," or "Alexa, roll two dice," and it'll read out the results your digital die cast. Game On!

Use non-supported smart home tech

Your Nest, Honeywell or SmartThings connected devices might already play nice with the system, but there's a workaround for connected tech trying to go it alone. By downloading apps like Yonomi or IFTTT, you can find recipes or ways to sync up your smart devices. For example, while Echo supports Philips Hue and Lifx, there may be other smart lightbulbs the apps can control as well.

Control your Fire TV using Echo

You can already chat to Alexa through the Fire TV Remote (or the downloadable app on your phone), but what if it's on the other side of the room - what then? Well, providing your Echo is in the reach of your voice and connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Fire TV, you can use it to control the action.

Simply using a compatible command, like, "Alexa, watch Making a Murderer," will pair the Echo and your Fire TV. That's if you only have one Fire TV device in operation, of course - otherwise, you'll have to assign control manually through the Alexa app under the Music, Video and Books section. Thankfully, though, for those who have multiple Echo devices in one room, you can assign more than one to control the Fire TV.

Create music playlists using Alexa

You're going to need an Amazon Music subscription for this one, but you can both create and add music to playlists simply by using your voice. Simply saying, "Alexa, create a new playlist," will prompt the assistant to ask you for a name, and you're done.

You can add music to this playlist manually through the Alexa app, or you can do it directly from the Echo by saying, "Alexa, add this song to my playlist," whenever you're feeling a tune that's playing. Unfortunately, this can only be done when listening through Amazon's music services, and not the radio or through Spotify, and deleting these additions will also have to be done manually.


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