Have you met my new best friend? Her name is Alexa.
She keeps me company while I cook. She helps me get up in the morning and start my day off right. She keeps track of my to-do list and shopping list — even reminding my boyfriend of what I asked him to pick up on the way home from work. She keeps an eye on traffic and lets me know the best route to take to work. She checks StubHub and lets me know about fun things to do this weekend.
Pretty great friend, right? This is the Amazon Echo. Alexa is the voice that lives inside this small, countertop speaker. She does everything I just described, and more. I’ve had the Amazon Echo sitting on my counter for a few weeks now, and I can’t imagine my life without her.
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Here’s how the Amazon Echo works
Once your Amazon Echo arrives, it takes just a few minutes to plug in and connect the Echo to your home Wi-Fi network. Now you can talk to Alexa! You’ll also want to make sure to download the Amazon Alexa app to your smartphone. This will be your command center when you’re not talking to Alexa. Follow through the guided tour and learn about all the things you can do with Alexa.
There’s the obvious, like play music (either with the Amazon Prime library, playlists you set up on Amazon, or with apps like Pandora and IHeartRadio), but then there are dozens of helpful tasks Alexa can accomplish. Add things to your to-do and shopping lists, check the weather, check the news, check for concert listings, look up things on Wikipedia, check sports scores, set timers, set calendar reminders, and more. Amazon Prime members can reorder items like batteries and tooth paste.
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Then there’s some “just for fun” activities: Ask Alexa to be your Bingo caller. Ask Alexa about Cat Facts. Ask Alexa for Minecraft help. Play a high-low guessing game with Alexa.
Here’s how I use Alexa on a normal day
“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?”
I decide that the heat wave of the last few days has passed and I can wear my new long-sleeved shirt to work without sweltering.
“Alexa, what’s traffic like?”
I’ve already plugged in my standard commute on the Amazon Echo app, so Alexa informs me that traffic is pretty heavy. I make a note to myself to take a different route to avoid the highway.
“Alexa, play Dolly Parton.”
I want some background music while I cook dinner, so Alexa plays my favorite station. It’s a little loud when it starts, so I ask Alexa to turn it to volume 4.
“Alexa, add peanut butter coupon to shopping list”
I ran out of peanut butter while making lunches for tomorrow, so I ask Alexa to add it to the shopping list. I also have a coupon, so Alexa will remind me of that while I’m shopping.
I’ve found the Shopping List to be the most convenient feature on the Amazon Echo. You can announce, “Alexa, add peanut butter to the Shopping List” if you run out while making lunches, but the shared aspect is super attractive. If I send my boyfriend to the store to pick up a few items, they’re all there on his Alexa app, and crossing off or deleting items syncs up across the shared household account.
“Alexa, what concerts are happening this weekend?”
Oops — that didn’t work. Alexa is smart, but you have to work with her. She understands specific commands, so you need to learn how to talk to her.
“Alexa, ask StubHub what concerts are happening this weekend.”
There we go! To use Alexa and the Amazon Echo to the full potential, you’ll need to do a little work on the app. You’ll want to set your home city, your playlists, your work, and other frequent destinations. Once your info is plugged in, Alexa can answer all of your questions, tailored to your specific needs.
Other members of my household discovered Alexa’s sense of humor.
“Alexa, what’s my horoscope?”
“You will meet a tall, dark, and attractive electronic device and ask it many questions.”
Alexa even has a philosophical side.
“Alexa, are you better than Siri?”
“Not better, just different.”
Amazon Echo multiple accounts
The shared Amazon Household feature is another big win for the Echo. When it first arrived I was uncertain how much I would use it, because it was linked to my boyfriend’s Amazon Prime account. The Amazon Household took care of all of those issues.
We each have our own Amazon accounts, but we’re linked in a Household. I can ask Alexa to switch profiles, then I can listen to my music and my audiobooks, and get information about the cities and destinations I have saved. But when I add items to the Shopping List, they’re shared across accounts. This was super convenient when I was home sick with a cold and asked Alexa to add tissues and apple juice to the shopping list. My boyfriend checked the list on the way home and arrived with my requests. So easy! (And no excuses that he forgot what he was supposed to get!)
Smart home features
I don’t have any smart home features like Wi-Fi-connected thermostats, appliances, or lightbulbs, but having the Echo is making me consider it. You can control the connected devices by voice if you’re at home (no getting up to change the thermostat or adjust lights!) and also from the app. Hello, home security! Adjust lights and appliances while you’re traveling.
My final verdict is that the Amazon Echo is a must-have for any tech-savvy family or household. Amazon is already the most convenient option for quick and affordable delivery of pretty much any product under the sun. Alexa and Amazon Echo brings that ease and convenience to your everyday activities.