It’s well known that Amazon Alexa has become many people’s new best friend, butler, homework tutor, and workout coach. There are tons of things you can do with an Echo hub or dot. Each of them is cooler than the last. Alexa’s own impressive array of inherent skills and helpful answers has been added to by hundreds of new smart home skills that extend her abilities to include banking, ordering pizza, managing home security… the list is nearly infinite and getting longer.
But if you’re just getting started with your first smart home speaker, it helps to begin at the beginning. Even without a bunch of extra skills or additional smart home devices, Alexa is the best personal assistant a person can have. So today, we bring you six easy native Alexa functions that you can use to enhance your daily routine that you can start on day-one, no setup required.
1) Wake Yourself Up
You: “Alexa, Set an Alarm for 7 AM”
Alexa: “Alarm set for 7 AM”
Waking up on time has always been a challenge for some people. Others struggle to find the perfect alarm to really get them out of bed. Alexa does it all, and she starts with a simple, elegant alarm feature that works for just about everything. Simply tell her to set an alarm for a specific time and she’ll do the rest.
When the time comes, Alexa’s alarm is a clear yet gentle chiming that also causes her blue ring to flash in an attention-getting way. If you tend to wake with a start, Alexa’s alarm is a nice calming sound with a friendly blue glow. If you tend to sleep through your alarm, rest assured, she keeps going forever until you tell her to “Stop” or “Cancel”.
Alexa can also be set up to play music or trigger other smart home devices along with your alarm, but we’re starting with the no-setup basics today.
2) Play a Little Music
You: “Alexa, Play Smooth Jazz”
Alexa: “Playing Smooth Jazz on Amazon Prime”
Want a little energy music with breakfast to help you jazz up for work, or a little mood music to chill down in the evening? Alexa’s got it all on-demand. If you have a favorite internet music account, you can set that up in the Alexa app and she’ll play it with commands like “Play my Smooth Jazz Station on Pandora”, but by default she has access to several thousand free songs on Amazon Prime that she’ll happily play with requests for a specific genre, artist, or title. Or she’ll pick something at random if you’re not sure.
3) Catch the News
You: “Alexa, What’s in the News?”
Alexa: “Here’s your Flash Briefing”
The Flash Briefing is by far one of the coolest things included in Alexa’s array of native features. There are a handful of news sources that provide the daily (that’s right, daily) news highlights of the top stories. Probably to convince you to buy into their specific news skills to get all-day-long news playing through your Echo. But the Flash Briefing usually lasts about ten minutes and will definitely keep you as apprised of current events as skimming Google News for half an hour. So if you like to stay up on news but aren’t a news junkie, this is a fantastic feature to work into your daily routine.
4) Remind Yourself or Your Family
You: “Alexa, Set a Reminder for 4 PM on Katy’s Echo Dot”
Alexa: “What should I set a Reminder for?”
You: “Finish Your Homework”
Alexa: “Okay. Reminder set for ‘Finish Your Homework’ at 4 PM on Katy’s Echo Dot”
Sure, you can set reminders on your Google Calendar or smart phone apps, but these little reminders that chirp and send emails are all too easy to ignore. Alexa integrates reminders with your day by talking to you like a household member and reminding you of anything you ask her to.
Even cooler, she’ll send reminders to other rooms if you designate the specific smart speaker that needs to share the reminder. Otherwise, the reminder will come from the speaker you spoke to initially. So whether you’re reminding yourself to hit the grocery store or reminding your children to finish their homework, Alexa is on the ball.
5) Control Your Fire-TV Without a Remote
You: “Alexa, Turn up the Volume”
Fire TVs are awesome, whether you’ve got an actual TV or a Fire Stick with a dongle that turns any HDMI-TV or monitor into an Amazon Prime Video device. But each TV or Stick only comes with one remote. So if you have Amazon Prime Video (like so many Prime members), you’ll be delighted to know that Alexa is now your personal button-pusher. You can have her turn the TV on and off, turn up or down the volume, but most useful of all, she’ll search the videos. If you’re tired of search-and-typing the names of shows you want to watch, Alexa is the single best thing that has ever happened to Smart TV controls. Just ask for your show by name and she’ll pull up the results.
6) Read Yourself to Sleep
You: “Alexa, Read ‘Call of the Wild’ from my Kindle”
Alexa: “Reading from Kindle”
You: “Alexa, Set a Sleep Timer for an Hour”
Alexa: “I’ve set your Sleep Timer for 60 mintes”
For a double-whammy, Alexa will combine any feature you’ve triggered with something called a “Sleep Timer.” Unlike the normal alarm, which goes off and wakes you up, the sleep timer puts you to sleep by playing your music or reading your Kindle books to you and then shuts off after the designated amount of time. So if you like to fall asleep to the TV or to audiobooks but don’t like to leave them playing all night long, Alexa is like your kindly relative who will switch off the radio after you fall asleep. But she can’t quite tuck a blanket over your sleeping form… yet.
From wakeup to bedtime, Alexa can enhance every aspect of your day with features she comes with natively. Even before you install a single new skill or set up a single smart light in the app, she can read you books, play you music, share the news, give you the time, set alarms and reminders, and so much more. Contact us today to find out more about automating your life with the technological possibilities of the modern smart home.
Matt has spent most of the past 2 decades working in systems administration, developing video games, and watching documentaries. He's a casual student of history, anthropology, physics, and psychology along with anything else that can be researched online when the mood strikes. He currently works as a freelance writer.
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