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The best Amazon Echo hacks to get the most from Alexa
Voice assistants have improved by leaps and bounds over the years, so they can now do a lot more than play music or check the weather. Amazon Alexa is possibly the best assistant on the market, depending on what you’re using it for, yet some of its best features are unknown to a lot of people. Here are just a few Amazon Echo hacks that might help out — we’ll do our best to add more as we discover them.
See also: The best Alexa speakers
The best Amazon Echo hacks:
Change Alexa’s voice
While Alexa’s default voice is distinct, it might not be for everyone. One way to switch is by selecting a different language or regional dialect, and with US English at least, you can flip between male and female voices. Just be aware that if you step outside the languages officially supported in your region, you may lose some Alexa features.
Here’s what to do:
- Open the Alexa app and select the More tab.
- Tap the Settings button and head to Device Settings.
- Select the Alexa speaker you want to change.
- Hit the Settings gear icon.
- Scroll down and tap on Language.
- Choose your new language or languages (Alexa can sometimes be bilingual). This affects accent — changing to “English (United Kingdom),” for example, will give Alexa a British voice.
- To flip between male and female voices, go back to the gear icon menu, and tap on Alexa’s Voice. New is the male option.
Looking for something a bit more fun? Amazon and Samuel L. Jackson have partnered up to bring his legendary (and profane) vocabulary to the Echo lineup. It’ll cost you $5, but it’s well worth it. Learn more right here.
Get traffic updates on your Amazon Echo
If you need to budget time for your work commute, Alexa can help. Use this Amazon Echo hack to check local traffic with Amazon’s aptly named Commute skill.
- Open the Alexa app.
- Launch the Settings tab.
- Scroll down and tap on Commute.
- Set your Home and Work addresses, as well as any regular midway stops, such as the coffee shop or daycare.
- Select a Preferred Commute Type (car or public transit), as well as a Default Navigation App.
Once you’ve saved your points, simply ask “Alexa, how’s my commute?” She should answer you with real-time data, including news of accidents and other slowdowns.
Create parental controls
Small kids can have a blast with Echo devices, but it’s wise to silo any speakers in their rooms under Amazon Kids. This lets you impose parental restrictions while selectively sharing your media library, and set up different default services so your Spotify account isn’t hijacked by your child playing Baby Shark five times in a row. Here’s what you do to get started:
- Create an Amazon Household, including a child account.
- Open the Alexa app.
- Launch the Devices tab, then Echo & Alexa.
- Select the Echo you’re trying modify, then tap the gear icon.
- Scroll down, select Amazon Kids, then follow prompts. You’ll be asked to choose your child’s existing profile or else create a new one.
You can optionally enroll in Amazon Kids Plus, but that costs $2.99 per month and doesn’t have anything to do with restrictions. Instead, it supplies a library of kid-friendly apps, books, videos, and skills across Amazon’s apps and devices.
See also: The best Android tablets for kids
Get Alexa’s help falling asleep
We can’t all drift off to sleep in minutes. Luckily, Alexa can play you a selection of gentle sounds, which sometimes helps. It’s incredibly easy to try out, since all you have to say is “Alexa, open…” followed by one of these:
- Thunderstorm sounds
- Fan sounds
- Babbling brook
- Ocean sounds
- Fireplace sounds
- Train sounds
Alternately, you can ask for things like white noise or a bedtime story. You may need to set a sleep timer so noise doesn’t play all night long.
See also: The best sleep tracker apps for Android
Tune your guitar with your Amazon Echo
If you’ve picked up a new guitar or you just haven’t shown your old one enough love, this Amazon Echo hack is for you. Say “Alexa, tune my guitar” and she’ll guide you through each of the six notes.
Don’t worry if you can’t quite keep up, since Alexa will play each note four times. If that’s still too fast, you can always ask her to tune a note again.
See also: The best guitar tuner apps for Android
Build custom routines
Routines are fundamental to getting the most out of Echo speakers, especially if you have Alexa-based smart home accessories — it’s much easier to have the lights come on automatically before sunset then ask for them every evening. Amazon doesn’t do the best job of surfacing this, however, so newcomers might be completely unaware.
We have a more comprehensive routine guide, but here are the basics:
- Open the Alexa mobile app, select the More tab, then Settings.
- From the Routines menu, tap the plus icon in the upper-right.
- Enter a name. Make it short yet memorable, especially if the routine is voice-triggered and you want to remember what to say — it’s easier to say “Alexa, Go Dark” than “Alexa, Kitchen and Living Room Nighttime Shutdown.”
- Tap When this happens to choose a trigger condition. You’ll see a variety of categories, each with their own configuration options.
- Tap Add action to choose what happens when a trigger condition is met. Here categories are limited only by linked hardware and services, particularly since you can combine multiple actions. A “good night” routine, for example, might shut off the lights, lock the doors, lower the thermostat, and reduce the volume on your bedside Echo before it starts shuffling ambient music from Spotify.
- Be sure to tap the Save or Enable button (depending on context) to have the routine take effect.
See also: The best skills and apps for Alexa
Keep up with the news
An underrated feature of Alexa is the Flash Briefing, a short, customizable news mix you can trigger on the fly. It’s often more convenient than checking the web, and certainly waiting for news stations to update at the top of the hour. Say “Alexa, play my Flash Briefing” whenever you’ve got a few minutes to spare.
To create and customize a Flash Briefing:
- Open the Alexa app.
- Select the More tab, then Settings.
- Scroll down and select News.
- Tap Flash Briefing.
- Hit Add Content to choose sources, such as NPR News Now, BBC World Service, and/or a local weather forecast. If you later decide you want to drop sources, use the toggle switches to disable them.
- Hit Edit if you want to rearrange the order in which things play.
See also: The best news apps for Android
Safeguard your Amazon Echo purchases
The ability to shop Amazon with voice commands can be a handy Echo feature, but you should use use this hack to prevent accidental or impulse purchases. To add a voice purchasing code, follow these steps:
- Open the Alexa app, then the More tab.
- Tap on Settings, followed by Account Settings.
- Select Voice Purchasing.
- Assuming voice purchasing is already on, tap Purchase controls.
- Choose the voice code option, and follow prompts to set up a four-digit code.
From then on, anyone trying to buy something via your Echo will have to know your code for an order to go through. The an absolute must if you have a child, since even well-meaning kids can buy things by accident.
We’ve done our best to give you several Amazon Echo hacks to try out, but the assistant gains new abilities all the time. We’ll add relevant new features as we find them.