6 Amazon Echo tips and tricks
From befriending Alexa to ordering pizza – here’s how to get the best from your new Amazon Echo…
If you’re a new owner of an Amazon Echo, you’ll be itching to see what it can do. We’ve got some top tips on how to get the most out of your Amazon Echo voice-controlled speaker and Alexa, the voice assistant that powers it.
1. Get to know Alexa
Once you’ve set up your Amazon Echo the world is your voice-activated oyster, but it can be a bit daunting to get started.
Luckily, the Alexa app has a ‘Things to Try’ section, which is a great place to start. It basically gives you an idea of the kind of things you can do with your Amazon Echo, such as find out weather or traffic updates, keep up with the football, and find recipes for your favourite dishes. Once you get the hang of talking to a cylinder speaker, Alexa will learn more about you and gradually become more useful in your daily life.
2. Stream smoothly by setting a default music player
Spotify and Amazon Music are built-in to the Amazon Echo and you can also play iTunes by syncing your phone using Bluetooth. To save you having to add ‘on iTunes’ or ‘on Spotify’ after every music request, go to ‘Settings’ in the Alexa app and find ‘Music’, then set your default music player to wherever you keep your main music library.
Ask: ‘Alexa, shuffle my David Bowie playlist’.
3. Remember birthdays by syncing your Google calendar
You can talk to Alexa to add new events to your calendar or be reminded that it’s your mum’s birthday on Saturday by syncing your Google calendar with your Amazon Echo. Simply go to the app ‘Settings’, ‘Calendar Services’ and then ‘Link Google Calendar account’ by signing in and following the instructions.
Ask: ‘Alexa, what’s on my calendar at the weekend?’
4. Get the headlines with your Flash Briefing preferences
‘Flash Briefing’ sounds like someone feeding information to the President while he’s walking from one meeting to another. It’s not quite the same but Alexa can give you the download on the latest news whenever you want, so you know exactly what’s going on around the world. It’s set by default to Sky News, but you can change it to your favourite news channel by going to app ‘Settings’ and then ‘Flash Briefing’.
Ask: ‘Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?’
5. Get pizza and Ubers by adding Amazon Alexa Skills
To really personalise your Amazon Echo you can add Alexa Skills, which are extra little capabilities that help Alexa do your bidding even more efficiently. There’s a huge list to choose from in the ‘Skills’ section of the Alexa app, and to add one, you simply ‘Enable skill’.
For example, if you’re running late and you’re not sure whether you should risk getting the train or just get an Uber, you can use the National Rail and Uber Skills to find out if your train is delayed and order a cab – all while you’re frantically getting dressed and packing your bag.
Some of our favourite Skills include:
- The Bartender – drinks recipes for making the perfect Mojito
- JustEat – in case your New Year’s resolutions crumble at the thought of a takeaway
- The Wayne Investigation – investigate the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents
- Trackr Find My Phone – Alexa will help you search for your lost phone
6. Make Echo the hub of your smart home
Do you have other smart tech in the home? Make life easier by hooking it up to your Amazon Echo to control with your voice instead of fiddling about with different apps.
Philips Hue lighting and Nest Learning Thermostat are among the products that play nicely with Echo so you can adjust heating and lights by merely asking.
You’ll need to add your smart home devices to your Amazon Echo by enabling an Alexa Skill for each one – see a full list of compatible devices
Ask: “Alexa, turn up the heating in the living room.”
Want to get more from Echo? Here's what you need to start creating your own smart home