So you’ve recently bought an Amazon Echo speaker, eh? If you’re new to the whole smart home thing, you might be feeling overwhelmed trying to figure out not only how to use all the features and Alexa skills that are available, but also deciding which ones are actually most useful to you.
Thankfully you’ve ended up in the right place.
By now we’re assuming you’ve figured out how to stream music, check the weather and set an alarm. These are all Alexa skills that you will use a ton. But what about the ones that are less obvious?
There are large number of super helpful things your Echo speaker can do for you, such as provide security alerts, automatically manage your lights and connect you to friends and loved ones. But figuring that out requires a little discovery and know-how.
That’s why we’ve created this list of 9 cool Alexa skills you may or may not have known your Echo Speaker can do (and how to activate those features.)
1. Receive Alexa-Exclusive Amazon Deals
Did you know that there are special Amazon deals that you can only get by asking Alexa? This Alexa skill has been a thing since the first Amazon Echo appeared back in 2014, but it’s especially worth mentioning now because Amazon Prime Day 2021 is just around the corner. And if you’re looking for the best Prime Day TV deals, the best Prime Day tech deals or just the best Amazon Prime Day deals in general, you’ll definitely want to be pestering Alexa when June 21 rolls around.
During the last Prime Day, there were steep discounts on Ring video doorbells, Blink Wi-Fi cameras and Amazon smart plugs, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see more products featured that can help enhance your Alexa-enabled smart home. But in order to take advantage of all these deals, you’re (obviously) going to have to be an Amazon Prime member, so don’t forget to sign up for Amazon Prime before Prime Day 2021 rolls around.
2. Create a Multi-Room Audio System
While you might know that you can stream audio to your Echo speaker, not everyone realizes that if you have more than one Alexa speaker, you can group them together and have them all simultaneously play the same audio. This is not only nice if you’re doing things all around the house, but also if you’re having a party where people are spread throughout. It’s as simple as opening up the Alexa App, hitting the “Add Device” button in the upper right hand corner of the Devices tab, and following the instructions to combine speakers. After that you can enjoy Spotify upstairs, downstairs, outside or anywhere you have an Alexa speaker.
3. Turn Your Echo Into a Security Watchdog With Alexa Guard
If you’re interested in adding a layer of security monitoring to your home, but don’t necessarily want to cover your private space in cameras, Alexa Guard is a less obtrusive compromise. This freemium Alexa skill will alert you if it hears noises such as a smoke alarm or glass breaking, and can even automatically turn your lights on and off so that it seems like someone is home. But if you throw down $50 a year for Alexa Guard Plus, it can also listen for suspicious activity, set off a siren, or even automatically call law enforcement for help.
4. Let Alexa Automatically Manage Your Smart Lights
There are always those moments when you inevitably leave the house or go to bed and there are lights that are still on. To help assist you with doing this less, there’s a baked-in Alexa skill called Hunches that can learn your activity patterns, and when a device is on that is usually off you can either have Alexa send you a notification, or just automatically turn the device off. As mentioned before we’ve found this most helpful with lights, but could also be used to ensure that your doors are locked or the thermostat is turned off. And this isn’t exclusive to any one brand of connected bulb: If you have bulbs from Hue, LIFX or C by GE, this feature will work exactly the same. To activate this feature, you only have to go into the settings menu of the Alexa app, navigate to the Hunches section and follow the instructions to turn it on.
5. Use Your Echo as a Speakerphone
Now that we live in the era of smartphones, most of us don’t have a landline phone. That means that if our phone dies, our reception is spotty or we leave our phone on silent in another room, we might not notice when someone is trying to get ahold of us. And for close friends and family members, the Drop In feature on your Echo speaker can mimic those landline phones of your childhood. Family members, close friends or anyone else you give permission to can use their Alexa device to call your Echo speaker. It’s also a great way to call your parents and not be accused of picking favorites because you called one of their smartphones instead of the other’s.
8. Call for an Uber
For those of us who use Uber on a regular basis, we’ve all found ourselves running late for dinner, a concert, a party or some other engagement and we’re too busy to even look at our phones. And when we’re finally done scrambling to get ready, we open up the Uber app only to realize that we have to wait 10 more minutes for a car to arrive. But thanks to Uber’s Alexa skill, you can use your Echo speaker to queue up an Uber while you’re doing other things so that there are no surprises when the time finally comes to leave the house. This might be multitasking at its finest.
6. Prevent Your Echo From Yelling at You With Whisper Mode
Alexa is great to have around the home, but there are few things worse than asking for the time at 5:17 a.m. and having Alexa respond at full volume. But with whisper mode activated, you can whisper at Alexa and Alexa will whisper back at a lower volume than usual so that a voice isn’t booming throughout your home while everyone is sleeping.
9. Play Jeopardy!
While your Echo speaker can obviously be used for entertainment purposes, it can do more than just play music and podcasts. In fact, there are a number of audio-based games you can play, ranging from simpler games such as 20 Questions to straight-up RPGs such as Skyrim. But the one we always gravitate to is a classic: Jeopardy!. While this may not feature the voice of the late Alex Trebek, Alexa will run you through a handful of clues, testing your knowledge across a variety of subjects. And if you’re looking for a bigger challenge, you can subscribe to the premium version and get access to Double Jeopardy!
7. Send a Virtual Hug to a Friend
Not every feature has to be hyper-practical to be beneficial, and if you know someone else who owns an Alexa-enabled speaker, you can use your Echo to offer up a thoughtful gesture. Simply tell Alexa to send a hug to whoever you might have in mind and Alexa’s voice messaging system will go to work for you and brighten up someone’s day. Think of it as a Facebook Poke for a new generation.
How To Do Even More With Your Echo Speaker
So now that you are learning what Alexa devices can do to make your house a smart home, you might be realizing that having more than one Alexa device opens up all sorts of new possibilities. And if you made it all the way to this point and you don’t actually own an Echo speaker, our guess is that you’re strongly considering one. Either way, we have a few recommendations for Echo speakers and other Alexa-enabled devices you can add to your smart home setup.
Amazon Echo Dot With Clock
This Echo speaker has quickly become a bestseller, not only because of it’s affordable price and excellent audio quality for its size, but also because of its versatility. This Echo speaker has an LED display beneath its fabric that displays the time, which makes it a great option for a desk, a nightstand or anywhere else you want a small speaker in your house. But despite its small size, The Alexa voice assistant can carry out all the same functions as the larger Echo speakers. Best of all, it’s currently 25% off, which means that you can save $15 and use that cash for something else you’ve been meaning to buy.
While the Alexa functionality of the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot are largely the same, the larger Echo speaker does offer a few unique advantages. Most obvious, the larger size of the Echo Dot means that it has larger speakers. This in turn means that the audio quality is going to be better, which is great if you’re someone who listens to a lot of music. Second, the Amazon Echo is able to handle natural language process locally thanks to added memory, which means that it can process your voice requests faster and more accurately. And finally, the Amazon Echo has an integrated Zigbee hub, which means that it’s going to connect to the majority of your legacy smart home devices without the need for additional hardware. While there are many people who will do just fine with a few Echo Dots, the added benefits of the Echo are hardly superfluous.
Amazon Echo Show 8
If you really want to take your smart home game up a notch, consider adding an Alexa smart display, such as the Echo Show 8. In addition to carrying out all the same Alexa functions as the aformentioned Echo speakers, the Echo Show 8 offers the visual element which can be great for confirming purchases and smart home commands made via Alexa, checking in on your Ring Video doorbell, guiding you through a recipe and making video calls to friends and family. Plus, with the ability to connect to services such as Netflix and YouTube, it can serve as a bite-sized TV in your kitchen or bedroom. And like the other Echo devices, the Echo Show 8 is currently on sale for $79, which is $50 off its usual $130 price tag.