Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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The 10 best things you can do with an Amazon Echo device
1. Make phone calls (basically, landline calls)
Just when you thought house phones were dead, Amazon brings them back. Alexa can now be used to make calls to other Alexa devices in other houses. And, like the answering machines of the ’90s and ’00s, you can even leave a message.
Just note that anyone who has your number can call your Alexa speaker, but you are able to block unwanted incoming calls.
I happen to think it’s a wonderful and welcome feature, provided my parents don’t use it to check in on me too often…
And what if you lose your phone? Well, Alexa can help you find it, too.
2. Control your smart home
Controlling your lights, door locks, appliances, switches and other smart home devices is probably what Alexa is best at doing. You can browse the smart home compatibility tool to see what Alexa works with, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Control your lights. You can ask Alexa to turn lights on or off. She’ll even change the color if the lights are color-changing.
- Open or close your garage door. Smart garage door openers like Garageio work with Alexa.
- Change the temperature. “Hey Alexa, set the temperature to 68.” Honeywell, Nest and Ecobee are just a few smart thermostats that work with Alexa. Amazon also recently unveiled the Amazon Smart Thermostat. The $60 smart thermostat device works with Alexa, according to Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice president for devices and services, and is meant to work with most existing HVAC systems (the product is available now for preorder and is scheduled to be released Nov. 4.).
3. Get cooking ideas and tips
No, Alexa can’t actually cook for you (yet), but she definitely makes cooking easier and less stressful. I personally keep Alexa in the kitchen to do things like:
- Get conversions. “Alexa, how many tablespoons in a quarter cup?”
- Ask for recipes. Alexa can get recipes from AllRecipes. She can also be used to follow recipes step-by-step on your iPad with GoodNes.
- Play music. “Hey Alexa, play some smooth jazz.” Because cooking is more fun with music!
- Control a sous vide machine. If you cook sous vide, you can ask Alexa to set the temperature.
- Set a timer. You can set multiple timers and ask her for time remaining.
Here’s our longer list of everything Alexa can do in the kitchen (and how it all works.)
4. Get the news
As you get ready for work or arrive home after a long day, Alexa can let you know what’s happening in the world. This is called your Flash Briefing and can be customized to include the news sources you want to hear from. What’s that you say? You want to hear CNET News? No problem — here you go.
5. Entertain your kids for hours on end
Watch this: Kids try to stump Alexa 1:58
Actually, more like, “let your kids entertain themselves.” Alexa is full of games, Easter eggs, silly answers to silly questions and much more. Here are some ways Alexa can keep your kids busy:
- Play games. This guide includes nine of our favorite Amazon Echo games.
- Find Easter eggs. Alexa loves a good inside joke.
- Set timers and play music. Kids will quickly learn how to talk to Alexa and can ask her for timers, music and random trivia.
6. Learn about more features
If Alexa can’t do something out of the box, there’s probably a Skill for it. There are so many Skills, in fact, that Amazon made something called a Skill Finder, which you can use to, um, find Skills. Launch it by saying, “Alexa, open Skill Finder” or “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to give me the skill of the day.”
Here are our favorite Alexa Skills.
7. Get fit (or try to)
While you can’t take Alexa to the gym (unless you have a Tap, of course), you can get her to give you fitness feedback and guidance. Here are some ways she can help you get healthy:
- Check on your FitBit stats. Once you sync your FitBit with Alexa, there are many things you can ask, like, “Alexa, ask FitBit how I’m doing today.”
- Get nutrition information. “Alexa, how many calories in a banana?”
- Do a workout. After enabling the 7 Minute Workout skill, just say, “Alexa, Start 7 Minute Workout.”
Want more fitness help? Starting in 2022, Amazon is going all-in on health and fitness. At the annual Amazon event in September 2021, the company announced Halo Fitness, a platform full of fitness content from top instructors, and Halo Nutrition, a service providing personalized tools to help you eat better. These services are designed to work with the newly updated Halo View fitness tracker.
8. Control your TV
Forget digging around for the remote — Alexa can control your TV almost entirely by voice. The setup takes a bit of time (and money), but once you’re set up, you can say things like:
- Alexa, turn on the TV.
- Alexa, turn on Netflix.
- Alexa, tell Harmony to pause
To do this, you’ll need a Logitech Harmony remote that comes with the Harmony Hub (you can also buy the Hub separately). Then follow this guide.
You can also turn your Amazon Echo into a nifty TV speaker for free.
The 15 coolest things you can do with your Amazon Echo
Get a new Echo and want some ideas on what to do with it? Thinking about buying one and curious about Alexa’s appeal? You, my friend, have come to the right collection of images and captions.
Cool thing 1: Music on demand (even from Apple!)
Alexa’s core feature is the ability to play whatever music you ask her to play, and that’s no different with the new Echo. Just say, “Alexa, play jazz,” or “Alexa, play Walk Like an Egyptian,” or even, “Alexa, play thunderstorm sounds” and she’ll happily oblige.
Along with Amazon Music Unlimited, you can stream from Spotify and Pandora, as well as streaming radio and podcasts from TuneIn and iHeartRadio. And, in a bit of a surprise move from late last year, you can now stream tunes from Apple Music on the Amazon Echo, too. $100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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How’s it sound?
While we’re talking about music playback, let me get in a quick word on audio quality. The second-gen Echo has a slightly bigger tweeter than the first one, but that only represents a marginal improvement over the original. It sounds decent and it’s easily strong enough to fill a room, but if you already have an Echo, there’s no need to upgrade.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 2: Equalizer settings
One other note about music playback — you can now customize the equalizer settings on your Echo speaker, with controls for bass, mid-range and treble ranging from -6 to 6 dB. Just ask Alexa to turn up the treble, set the mid-range to 3, decrease the bass, or any other similar command. You can also access the EQ settings by going to the Device Settings section of the Alexa app, selecting the speaker you want to adjust, then selecting “Audio Controls.”$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 3: Multi-room audio
Got more than one Echo device? You can group them together in the Alexa app, then play music on all of them at once. You can even split the left and right audio channels between two Echo speakers to create a stereo pair. Add in the thumping bass of the new Echo Sub, and you’re looking at a legitimate, voice-activated 2.1 stereo audio setup.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL
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Cool thing 4: Swappable bases
OK, here’s cool Echo trick No. 4: Interchangeable bases called shells. They’re basically like phone cases for the Echo, and swapping them out is just as simple. Just push up through the bottom to separate the shell from the interior speaker, then slide that interior into whatever other shell you like.$100 AT AMAZON
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Amazon offers five different shell options. By default, you get a fabric shell in light gray or dark gray. For $20 more, you can get a silver shell or a woodgrain shell in walnut or oak. I assumed that we’d see at least a couple of other options emerge by now, perhaps from third parties, like we’ve seen happen with phone cases. That hasn’t happened yet, though.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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A Project (RED) shell for the Echo pops up on sale every now and then, but it usually sells out pretty quick. The only other options are holiday-themed shells that make your Echo look like a Christmas present or a candy cane.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 5: Rock out with your aux out
Here’s another design tweak that gives the new Echo an extra trick: An aux-out jack. Grab yourself a 3.5mm cable, and you’ll be able to connect the Echo with your existing audio setup (you can also connect the Echo to external speakers over Bluetooth).$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Not just the Echo
One more thing: The ability to connect with external speakers is now a standard feature across the entire line of Echo speakers (before this year, it was exclusive to the pint-size Echo Dot). That means that you’ll be able to connect Alexa to your existing audio setup no matter which Echo you buy, including the Echo Plus seen here.READ FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 6: Zigbee smarts
Speaking of the Echo Plus, it offers everything the Echo offers, plus the addition of a Zigbee radio that lets it connect directly with Zigbee gadgets like smart lights and smart locks. The standard Echo can connect with those, too, but you need to plug an extra hub into your router to translate the Zigbee signal. With the Echo Plus, your Echo is the hub. That makes it an interesting pick for anyone interested in building out their smart home setup.READ FULL REVIEW
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Second-gen Echo Plus
Here’s the second-gen version of the Echo Plus bathed in the green glow of a color-changing Philips Hue Zigbee bulb that it can control all on its own. The second-gen model offers a slight uptick in sound quality, plus the addition of a built-in temperature sensor that you can use to automatically trigger smart home gadgets like connected thermostats and space heaters when the room gets too hot or too cold.$308 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Echo Show, too
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Echo Plus, Echo Plus 2, Echo Show 2 — whichever device you’re using to control your Zigbee gadgets, you’ll find device-specific assistance for getting everything paired up in the Alexa app.$308 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 7: In-app device control
No matter which Echo you’re using, you can control certain smart home gadgets directly from the Alexa app, no voice command needed. Just go to the “Smart Home” section of the app, then select “Devices” to see a full list of your gadgets.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Not just lights
The Alexa app also offers bare-bones controls for supported smart thermostats, like the Nest thermostat seen here. You can’t access any advanced features, but you can nudge the temperature up and down.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 8: Smart home groups
Even better: You can now add each of your Echo devices into a group of lights and make that the default set of lights your Echo will turn on when you tell it, “Alexa, turn on the lights.” That’s an intuitive way to make each Echo more of a room-specific smart home controller.$100 AT AMAZONREAD
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Cool thing 9: Color control
Alexa has also learned how to change the color of color-changing smart lights. Just tell her to “make my lamp blue,” or “make the living room fuschia,” and she’ll make it happen. You can also create more complex scenes in apps like Philips Hue and Lifx, then trigger them by name with a single command.
For instance, if you make a multicolored scene with several smart lights, save it as “Rainbow” in either the Hue or Lifx app, and then tell Alexa to discover new devices, she’ll “discover” that scene. From there, you’ll be able to trigger it just by saying, “Alexa, turn on rainbow.”$100 AT AMAZON
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In the app
You can play with your color-changing smart bulbs from inside the Alexa app, too. Just tap the little “Set Color” button below the main light controls.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Any color you like
The app doesn’t have an advanced color picker like you’ll get in the Hue or Lifx apps — instead, you get to pick from a pretty good list of preset shades.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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White light tones, too
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Cool thing 10: Alexa Routines
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Here are the things that your routines can currently trigger. Along with smart home control, you can also get Alexa to read the weather, the traffic or the headlines from you Flash Briefing. Music playback and custom Alexa responses are now supported, too, along with options to tweak device volume and settings or make Alexa wait in between actions.$100 AT
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Trigger a song
Routines can also trigger music playback. Creating new ways to get Alexa to play your favorite music is lots of fun. For instance, you could make a routine that plays this whenever you say “Alexa, rick-roll me.”$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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To trigger a custom Alexa response, you’ll just type out whatever you’d like her to say. One weird quirk: Your typed text can include commas, question marks and exclamation points to help shape the way Alexa sounds — but you can’t include apostrophes.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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If you aren’t feeling creative, don’t worry — there are tons of pre-scripted options in the Alexa app that are ready to go, too.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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For the longest time, thermostats weren’t supported in Alexa routines. Now, they’re finally good to go. This one automatically turns my thermostat down at night in case I forget to turn the heat down before bed.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 11: Tidying up
So, routines are cool, but how about your cleaning routine? With an Alexa-compatible robot vacuum like this Neato cleaner, you can trigger a cleaning cycle with a single Alexa command. $634 AT WALMARTREAD FIRST TAKE
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Cool thing 12: Fire TV controls
If you’ve got a Fire TV streamer plugged into your TV, you can use your voice to launch specific streaming apps and shows, or even search for a specific genre. “Alexa, show me kung fu flicks” is a command I’ve used on more than one occasion.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL
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Not just Fire TV
Thanks to Amazon’s open software tools for voice-powered video, third parties like Dish are starting to add in Alexa controls, too.$100 AT l
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Vizio, for instance
You can even connect Alexa with select smart TVs, then tell her to turn them on and off, change the channel or input, adjust the volume or even pause, fast forward and rewind. I use Alexa controls to turn my Vizio on and off all of the time (probably because I have a really bad habit of leaving the remote in strange places).$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 13: Calling and messaging
So Alexa can replace your light switches, your radio, your remote control, and more — but did you know she can sort of replace your phone, too? Sync up with your contacts in the Alexa app, and you’ll be able to use your Echo to call them or leave them a message. When there’s an incoming call or message for you, your Echo will glow green. You can also ask her to call mobile numbers and landlines at no charge.$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Upgrade to the touchscreen and camera-equipped Echo Show or the smaller, cuter Echo Spot, and you’ll be able to make and receive video calls, too. Don’t own either one? No problem — you can still make video calls to other Echo devices using the Alexa app.$34 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 14: Voice recognition
Alexa can also distinguish between different voices. Just go to the “Your Voice” section of the Alexa app to get started. It’s a really helpful feature if you’re sharing the Echo with multiple roommates or family members, or if you want an added layer of security for things like voice purchases and smart lock controls. If Alexa doesn’t recognize your voice, she won’t buy or unlock anything.
Just know that the feature isn’t foolproof. We found that a talented imitator can fool her (the same is true of the Google Assistant, by the way).$100 AT AMAZONREAD FULL REVIEW
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Cool thing 15: Alexa Guard
Your Echo devices can now monitor your home whenever you’re away by using those built-in microphones to listen for trouble. After turning the feature on in the Alexa app, just say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” as you’re walking out the door.$100 AT AMAZONREAD MORE
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If Alexa hears the sound of your alarm or the sound of broken glass while you’re away, she’ll send you a notification. It worked reliably well when we tested it out.$100 AT AMAZONREAD MORE
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Sync with home security
Alexa can also notify Ring and ADT home security monitor
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One other cool thing about Alexa Guard: You can set it to automatically cycle your lights on and off while you’re away to make it look like you’re home.