If you’re new to the Amazon Echo, you probably know most of the basic actions and commands you can tell Alexa, such as playing music, setting timers, and getting weather updates. However, here are some tricks you may not have known about that will take your game to the next level.
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Call and chat with other users
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A relatively new feature that came with Echo, you can now call and send messages to other Echo users. The cool thing about it, however, is that you use your voice to make calls and send messages, all completely hands-free.
You should have already gone through the setup process after updating the Alexa app at some point, so after that all you have to do is say «Alexa call Mark». As long as they’re set up and in your contact list, Alexa will call that person and you’ll have a two-way conversation right away.
Use it as an intercom
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Also a newer feature is «Drop In», which allows you to instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home (as well as other close friends and family members who allow it) and have a two-way conversation much like an intercom system.
All you have to do is make sure all your Echo devices have Drop In enabled, then just say «Alexa, paste on Kitchen Echo». From there, you can talk to the person on the other end.
Pairing with a Bluetooth speaker
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If you want better sound from your Echo or Echo Dot, you can connect it to an external Bluetooth speaker. You will still be able to use the Echo Dot and give it commands, but it will simply pass the audio output functions to the Bluetooth speaker.
To do this, simply go to the settings in the Alexa app and open the Bluetooth menu to pair the speaker. First make sure it’s in pairing mode!
Use this as a bluetooth speaker
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What if you want to use a full-sized echo as a Bluetooth speaker for, say, your phone? The speaker on the Echo is pretty decent, so if you don’t want to play music through your phone’s speakers, you can plug an Echo into it instead.
You will need to access the same Bluetooth menu as before, but instead of connecting a Bluetooth speaker, you simply connect your smartphone to your echo. This is useful for local music or other audio that you can’t get directly from the Echo voice control.
Control your Kodi and Plex media centers
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If you have either Kodi or Plex Media Center, you can take it up a notch and use your voice to play all of your media without lifting a finger.
Setting up the Plex and Echo integration is quite easy, as there is a Plex Alexa skill that you can turn on. However, getting Alexa and Cody to play well together is a bit tricky, but well worth it for the added ease of use.
Link your calendar
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If you’d like to connect your calendar to Alexa so you can easily view future events and appointments with your voice, you can do so if you’re using Google Calendar, Outlook, or Apple iCloud.
This can be configured by going to settings in the Alexa app and selecting «Calendar». From there, link your account and you’re off to the races.
Change the «Wake Word»
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By default, Echo uses «Alexa» as its wake word, which means you must speak the word in order to activate the Echo’s microphone in order to speak a command. However, if there is someone who lives in your household named Alexa, this probably won’t work as a wake word.
The good news is that you can change it by going to settings, selecting your echo, and then clicking Wake Word. Other options are Amazon, Echo, or in true Star Trek style, Computer.
Order almost everything from Amazon
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As if Amazon’s one-click order doesn’t make it easy enough to order just about anything you want on their website, you can also use Echo to order items — if you’re a primary subscriber.
Just say «Alexa, buy toilet paper.» She will review your past toilet paper order history and recommend the toilet paper you ordered last time (if you ordered toilet paper, that is). You can also be specific with a product like «Alexa, buy Charmin Ultra Soft 12 pack».
Control all your Smarthome devices
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Perhaps what makes the Echo really shine is using it to control all SmartHome devices. You can turn the voice off and on, or set the thermostat to a specific temperature without touching the thermostat itself with your finger.
Things like Philips Hue, Nest thermostat, Belkin WeMo switches, Logitech Harmony Hub and a few other SmartHome hubs are supported by Echo, so just install the SmartHome skills you need and go crazy.
Listen to podcasts and audiobooks
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While you probably know that you can play music through echo, you can also listen to podcasts and audiobooks.
Podcasting is achieved using TuneIn, which is built-in and automatically enabled on your Echo. All you have to do is say «Alexa, play this American life from TuneIn».
As for audiobooks, you’ll need an Audible account, but once you sign up and buy some audiobooks, you can tell Alexa something like «Play the audiobook Как получить максимум от вашего Amazon Echo — gadgetshelp,comand she will start playing it.
Improve your listening ability
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If Alexa doesn’t always hear you correctly, you can try to improve her listening abilities by teaching your Echo to hear your own voice better.
In the Alexa app, you can click on «Voice Training» in the settings and go through a list of things to say. During this time, your Echo will hear these commands and hear your voice in order to better understand you in the future. You can also use these other tips to help Alexa understand you better (like strategically naming your devices so they don’t sound the same).
Accurate weather Weather, traffic and sports updates
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One of the easiest things you can do in your echo is get weather, traffic, sports updates, and other information. However, it doesn’t work very well unless you tweak all of these things so that your results are more tailored to your preferences.
Just go to settings in the Alexa app, select your Echo device, and then tap «Device Location» to set your weather address and other information. And while you’re in the settings, you can customize your sports updates and flash briefing, as well as traffic information.
Mute automatically with output timer
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If there are certain times when you don’t want your Echo to listen for a wake-up word, you can automatically turn it off at certain times during the day using a clever trick that includes a simple output timer.
This essentially turns your echo off and then back on again at a certain time. I find this really useful when the power goes out in the middle of the night — when it’s already off, it won’t turn on or beep on boot, which can wake us up.