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March 12, 2016

Amazon Echo tips and tricks

by John_A

Amazon released Amazon Echo last year, and it recently introduced two new models of the $179 Bluetooth-enabled speaker, each with their own set of features and functionality. But all three have one thing in common: Alexa.

Amazon Echo is a 9.25-inch-tall cylinder speaker with a 7-piece microphone array. This mic setup allows the speaker to respond to the wake word “Alexa,” which happens to be the name of the speaker’s Siri-like assistant. With Alexa, Amazon Echo is capable of voice interaction, controlling compatible smarthome devices, music playback from devices over Bluetooth, etc.

It can even make to-do lists, set alarms, stream podcasts, play audiobooks, read PDFs, provide weather forecasts, warn you of traffic, answer trivia, and serve up other information in real-time. Echo requires a Wi-Fi connection to respond to voice commands, and it must remain plugged in for power. If you’d like to know more, here’s several tips and tricks…

This guide will help you to not only master Amazon Echo but also Alexa.

Amazon Echo: How does Echo work?

Read Pocket-lint’s Amazon Echo review for information. You can also check out this Amazon support page for details about how to get the speaker up and running. The basics include plugging Amazon Echo’s powder adapter into an outlet, then downloading the free Alexa app for iOS, Android, and Fire OS and using it to manage your settings and connect to a Wi-Fi network.

Amazon Echo: How many Echo models are there?

One year after launching Echo, Amazon debuted two sibling speakers.

The new ones are called Amazon Tap and Echo Dot. If you were to sit all three devices next to each other, starting with the Echo and ending with the Dot, one would be tall, one would be medium, and one would be short. However, the differences between Amazon’s speakers aren’t limited to height; each one is best suited to a specific environment – whether that be at home, on the go, or as an enhancement to your current audio setup.

We’ve dissected how each Amazon speaker is different here.

Amazon Echo: What are some Echo tips and tricks?

Mute the ‘Alexa’ wake word

Amazon Echo is always listening for the word Alexa. That way, whenever you say it, the speaker will immediately consider what you’re about to say next and can adequately respond. But if you want the speaker to wake and respond to absolutely nothing, there’s a mute button on the top of the speaker can that you can press to mute Alexa. Press it again to unmute her. Simples. 

Amazon Echo on the web

There is a couple ways you can access Echo’s settings, as well as your to-do and shopping lists. The first, as we discussed earlier, is through the speaker’s free app. The second way is through the web. Just visit this site in your browser: http://echo.amazon.com.

Setup Household Profiles

Also, from the Echo website, you can link your family Prime accounts. With a feature called Household Profiles, you can add another adult to your Amazon Household to listen to either his or her content (for instance, music and audiobooks) and manage shared features (like lists).

Go to Settings, scroll down the page, and set up your Household. Shared members will have to download the Echo app and agree to join the household. You can also use the app to setup your household. More information about Household Profiles is at this support page.

Switch Amazon account profiles

Thanks to Household Profiles, Amazon Echo can be synced with more than one Amazon account. To find out which profile you’re currently using, say “Alexa, which profile am I using?” To switch profiles, say either “Alexa, switch profile” (moves to the next profile) or “Alexa, switch to David’s profile” (moves to the profile you named). More information about Household Profiles is at this support page.

Control a smarthome device

You can control some smarthome devices with Alexa (see a list of compatible devices here). After you say “Discover my devices” or use the Echo app to discover and pair smarthome devices, you can ask Alexa to do things like “Turn on/off [smart home device name]” or “Dim the light to [##] per cent” (see a list of commands here). You can also setup groups (see here) so that saying “house lights” turns on/off three lamps.

Force software updates

Amazon Echo has a CPU and software running it that needs updating. The speaker looks for updates every night, but if you want to force an update, just hit that same mute button we discussed earlier, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and the speaker will update.

Amazon Echo: What can you say to Alexa?

Here are some examples of things you can say to Alexa, along with links to their relevant Amazon support pages:

  • What’s new?
  • Ask questions
  • Check your calendar
  • Control media playback on Bluetooth devices
  • Control music with your voice
  • Control smart home devices
  • Discover & buy music
  • Find local businesses and restaurants
  • Find traffic information
  • Get updates on the weather
  • Go to the movies
  • Hear the news
  • Keep up with your favorite sports teams
  • Keep track of important tasks and items to purchase
  • Listen to audiobooks
  • Listen to Prime Music
  • Listen to stations, shows and more
  • Read Kindle books
  • Reorder products from Amazon
  • Request music
  • Set up alarms and timers
  • Switch between profiles
  • Use these anytime
  • Voicecast

Amazon Echo: Are there any Easter eggs?

Alexa responds to a wide number of fun Easter eggs. This Reddit thread and this website aggregate several of the hilarious and interesting commands you can issue to Alexa. We’ve picked out a few of the more interesting ones and listed them below.

“Simon says…”: You can get Alexa to repeat anything you say if use the command “Alexa, Simon says…”

Alexa, play Bingo”: Look up and download some free printable bingo cards, and ask Alexa to start a Bingo game with you.

“Alexa, ask Word Master to play a game”: This is like Geography. Alexa says a word, then you have to follow with a word that starts with the last letter of the word she said.

“Alexa, start Animal Game/Capital Quiz”: This lets you play 20 questions about animals or geography.

“Alexa, start Star Wars quiz”: Self-explanatory.
Alexa, play Jeopardy”: Trivia geeks will love these game-show style questions. Don’t forget to answer in the form of a question.

“Alexa, roll the dice”: Missing the di to your board game? She’ll roll 6-sided, 10-sided, 20-sided, and other dice as well.

“Alexa, open the Wayne Investigation”: This starts a chose-your-own-adventure game that immerses you into the world of Gotham.

Amazon Echo: Want to know more?

Check out Pocket-lint’s Amazon Echo hub for related news.

Read more from News

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