We’ve written this guide to take you through everything you need about Amazon Alexa and Echo.
Whether you’ve just got one or you’ve been talking to Alexa for a while, we’re here to help you get the best from it.
Alexa is the name of the voice assistant that’s built into all Amazon Echo devices.
You can ask it questions, play music from streaming apps, control your TV, manage smart devices, and more.
Setting up your Echo is easy: just download the Alexa app to your phone, then switch the Echo on and follow the instructions.
If you’ve bought something from Amazon before, use the email address and password you use when buying. If you don’t have one, you can make one on the Amazon website.
When you’re within range of Alexa, say ‘Alexa’, followed by the command you want. The microphone is tuned to hear your voice over music and other background noise, so you don’t need to shout or over-enunciate.
Amazon call this ‘Far-Field Recognition’, but the important thing is that the Echo will hear you whenever you want it to.
You can ask general questions or ask Alexa to remind you of things at any time. More specific requests, like playing music or reading the news, need ‘Skills’ to be installed. You can find out more in the section below.
Skills are apps that you add to your Echo to give it new features and abilities.
You download them for free from the Skills menu in the Alexa app. Once they’re installed, any new commands or features will work right away.
If you have a smart device that works with Alexa, like a Nest Thermostat or security camera, you’ll need to download the Skill for them to work as they should.
Alexa has loads of Skills already built in, so you don’t need to download anything to get started.
1. Open the app
2. Open the settings menu by pressing the top-left icon
3. Search for the Skill you want
4. Press 'Activate'
Skills to try
Try downloading these handy Skills to great new functionality to your Echo:
BBC News: ‘Alexa, what’s in the news?’
Sleep and Relaxation Sounds: ‘Alexa, ask Sleep Sounds to play heavy rain’
Hive Heating: ‘Alexa, set the heating to 23°C’
Deep Breath: ‘Alexa, start Deep Breath’
Allrecipes: ‘Alexa, Ask All Recipes for a quick lasagne recipe’
The Wake Word turns the speaker on and tells it to start listening. If you live with a person named Alexa, the TV keeps accidentally activating it, or you just want to use a different one, you can change it.
Menu < Settings < Alexa Devices < [Name of device] < Wake Word
1. Open the menu and press Settings
2. Press the name of the device you want to change
3. Scroll down and press 'Wake Word'
4. Press the arrow to see the words you can use
You have to choose from a list of words chosen by Amazon to make sure it works as consistently as ‘Alexa’ does.
It's doubtful that you'll ever be able to use a custom Wake Word, as the chance of picking one that can be accidently activated is too high.
Alexa understands several different commands for common requests, so you don’t need to know the exact phrase for most basic functions to work. For example, if you want to know the time, you can ask Alexa…
What time is it?
Tell me the time
What hour is it?
However, some apps need a specific word order to work properly. You’ll find these on the app page when you download a new Skill.
We’ve listed our most used commands below. You can change the number on any commands to suit you.
Give them a try by saying ‘Alexa’ (or your Wake Word if you’ve changed it) and repeating the phrases as they’re written.
What time is it?
Tell me an interesting fact
What’s in the news?
What’s the weather like in Preston?
Make a to-do list
Remind me to buy milk in the morning
How do you spell ‘meticulous’
What does ‘meticulous’ mean?
Convert 8 kg to pounds
What is 20 x 129
Convert £20 into dollars
Who sings the song ‘Bedroom Calling’?
Who played Deidre in Coronation Street?
Alarms & timers
Set an alarm for 8 am
Set a repeating alarm 7 am
Wake me up at 6.30 am to Goodbye Horses on Spotify
Snooze for 10 minutes
Cancel all alarms
Turn on all alarms
Set a food timer for 12 minutes
How long is left on my timer?
Echo devices with a screen have unique commands that prompt them to show things on the screen.
Show my calendar
Show me the weather in Acton
Show me the weather for this weekend
Show me pictures of Group B rally cars
Show me my pictures
Show me my alarms
Set volume to 9
If you have music on your phone, tablet, or computer, you can play it by saying:
Play [song] by [artist]
To play from an app, like Spotify or Amazon Music, the Skill needs to be installed. Once installed, you need to give this specific command:
Play [song/album] by [artist] on [app name]
e.g. Play ‘Be Sweet’ by ‘The Bombpops’ on Spotify
Play ‘Sagarmatha’ by ‘The Appleseed Cast’ on Amazon Music
It works with playlists too:
e.g. Play the ‘Quiet’ playlist on Spotify
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