How to get the most out of Amazon Alexa


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Amazon Alexa is famous for answering questions and always being ready to chat, but users who stick to those functions are only skimming the surface. Alexa can also manage your calendar, shop, read the news, make calls and much more. This guide can help you get the most out of Alexa and to live a more interconnected life.

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Changing Alexa’s name

It’s easy to address Alexa by name — less so if someone in your household is named Alex or any variation thereof. Thankfully, the Alexa app allows you to change its wake word if you need to.


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Using Alexa skills

Alexa skills are apps that let it go beyond pulling up information. They can be useful for everything from controlling other devices to ordering a pizza. Configuring an Alexa skill may sound intimidating to some users, but Amazon has gone to great lengths to make the process as intuitive as possible.

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Playing games

Asking Alexa to play a game may sound strange, but it can keep you entertained during even the longest weekend afternoon. Users can find a selection of over 4,600 games and trivia apps to download. A few of these games are less entertaining than others, but users can find the best apps by filtering them for user review scores.

Some of these games require Amazon Echo Buttons, which cost $19.99 per pair, but most can be played with just your voice. Meanwhile, finding and installing games is pretty straightforward.

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Using Alexa as a home intercom

The same Echo Dot hardware that enables Alexa can also be used to create a simple, home-wide intercom. Amazon’s Drop In service lets you make phone calls between multiple Echo devices. You can even use Drop In to make video calls if you have the Echo Show or new Echo Spot.

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Shopping with Alexa

Though some users have complained that their Echo Dot devices have ordered items seemingly of their own accord, using Alexa to shop is by and large a simple experience. You can order items with nothing more than an Echo Dot and your voice.

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Playing music

Though Alexa can be outfitted with an alarm, users can opt to wake up to music instead. Alexa can be configured to play a certain song, artist or playlist. Users who are feeling adventurous can also ask Alexa to play a random tune.

You can also use Alexa to turn up the bass and trim the treble right on your smart speaker, making it simpler to get more out of your music. Users can adjust midrange, treble and bass by up to 6 dB.

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Alexa can be used to text any mobile device, even if that phone lacks the Alexa app. Senders, though, must still have that app installed on their own device. That app is currently only available for Android phones, but Amazon is working on rolling it out to any Alexa-enabled device. The Sonos One speaker did not, unfortunately, make that cut.

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The Amazon Echo 2 vs. Echo Plus

The Echo Plus is now Amazon’s flagship smart speaker. This device boasts a silver finish, a larger surface, enhanced sound quality and direct compatibility with ZigBee gadgets. Users can also consider the Echo 2, which is smaller and features a fabric finish. Each device has its own pros and cons.

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Setting up a second Echo Dot

Buy six Echo Dots, get one free. Users who purchase multiple Echo Dots can guarantee that Alexa is always within earshot. This setup can also be used for the aforementioned Drop In home intercom.

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Powering your smart home with Alexa

If you have multiple Echo Dots, you can use them to unite your smart home onto one interface. This is where Alexa shifts from being a music-playing, all-knowing fact machine to a powerful smart home hub.

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Alexa Cast

Alexa Cast can bring Spotify-style streaming to your home. It lets users control their Alexa-enabled smart speakers with the Amazon Music app. Amazon Music can make it easy to pass the same bit of media across multiple devices, which is much more difficult to attempt with the Alexa smartphone app.

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Driving with Alexa

Nissan owners can use the NissanConnect app to give Alexa control over their vehicle. This function allows Alexa to start the engine, honk the horn, manipulate lights and more.

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Alexa is getting smarter

Alexa can now tell you when it’s discovered the answer to a question it didn’t know before. Answer Update has been rolled out to random Alexa devices and can send you a smartphone alert when it has learned a new answer.


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Watching TV

The Fire TV Cube combines Amazon’s Echo Dot and Fire TV streaming stick into a single device. Users can use the cube to both control their smart home and turn the TV on. However, due to an ongoing spat with Google, there is no native YouTube app.

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Multitasking with Alexa routines

Alexa can be scheduled or verbally told to perform several tasks automatically, including making coffee, reading news headlines and even waking you up. This functionality can simplify your morning routine.

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Ordering takeout

There’s an endless gallery of smartphone apps that are dedicated to ordering food, but if scrolling through your smartphone sounds like too much work, you can verbally place a pizza order with Alexa instead. If you have a trivia app handy, you can even let Alexa moderate a round of questions while you wait for that pizza to arrive.

Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker, to see other products that are compatible with Amazon Alexa

This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by

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