Virtual assistants give us the luxury of a personal assistant without the associated costs. Just think of a question or request and say it.
Like any connected tech, you should exercise caution and know what you’re getting into. While smart assistants such as Alexa are useful and fun to use, they are there to listen and you can’t always know who is listening or what they are doing with that information. Tap or click here for three privacy settings for your Alexa.
You already know that Alexa can play music, set alarms, stream podcasts and give you the news and weather. Amazon’s virtual assistant can do so much more. Here are 15 commands to get more out of Alexa.
1. Use Alexa to make phone calls
In the movies, powerful people make phone calls through their personal secretaries. Alexa can fill this role for you without the need for her own desk and salary. Here’s how to set her up for this task:
- Open the Alexa app and tap Communicate, then the Contacts icon, followed by the Manage Contacts icon.
- Tap Add Contact and enter a name and number. Repeat for any other contacts you want to add.
- You can also choose Import Contacts to make this easier.
- Have a number but no contact information? Just speak the number and Alexa will make the call.
2. Tell Alexa to watch out for burglars
Alexa Guard is like a pair of ears you can leave at home. Your Echo device will listen for sounds and alert you as needed. Here’s how to set up this virtual guard dog:
- Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon in the bottom right, then Settings.
- Tap Guard > Set up Sound Detection.
- Toggle the smart alerts you want to activate and tap Confirm.
3. Use Alexa as an intercom in your house
Want to rouse everyone out of bed or call them to family dinner? You can send your voice to every connected speaker in the house.
Just say, “Alexa, drop in on all devices.” Wait for the tone, then speak. You can also target just one device by saying, “Alexa, drop in on [device name].
4. Lost your phone? Ask Alexa to find it
Misplaced your smartphone? Normally you’d ask someone to call your number so you can find it. What if you’re alone and don’t have access to another phone? Alexa can help.
- Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Skills & Games.
- Search for Find my Phone and choose from the list of skills.
- Tap Launch to set up the skill.
5. Have Alexa share a photo of you
You can take and send a photo to a contact or Echo device such as the Echo Show.
- Open the Alexa app and tap Communicate, then the Share camera icon.
- Tap Camera and take your selfie.
- Select a contact or device and tap Share.
6. Tell Alexa to lock the doors, including the garage door
Alexa can do so much more when you connect the virtual assistant to your other smart devices. Alexa can help you secure your home by locking the doors at your command.
- You’ll need a smart lock. Tap or click here for our list of best smart locks.
- In most cases, you’ll need to add a skill as dictated by the smart lock manufacturer.
- If you want to control your garage lock, you’ll have to purchase a smart lock first then add the skill.
7. Have Alexa create a playlist
Music keeps us going when we’re working, getting ready to go out or doing anything that can be enhanced with background music. You can create a playlist with just your voice, thanks to Alexa.
- You need a streaming service that’s compatible with your Echo device. Alexa can only add songs that are currently playing.
- Say “Hey Alexa, create a playlist” and follow the prompts to name it.
- Ask Alexa to play any song to add it to your new playlist.
8. Tell Alexa you need white noise to sleep
Having trouble sleeping? Alexa can provide some soothing sounds to send you off to dreamland. Just search for “white noise” or “sleep sounds” in the Alexa app and enable the ones you like. Each skill will tell you what command to use for Alexa.
9. Have Alexa give you news from sources you specify
Everyone has a preference when it comes to staying informed of what’s going on in the world. You can ask Alexa to play the news, but what if you want a specific source? Here’s how to do it.
- Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Settings.
- Scroll down to select News, then tap Edit next to My News Channel.
- Add the channels you want. When you want to hear the news, say, “Alexa, play the news from [news source].
10. Tell Alexa to turn on or off the lights
Alexa works with many smart home devices. Smart lighting is easy to set up with Amazon’s virtual assistant. Most smart bulbs are compatible with smart speakers. Setup is simple.
- Install your smart light first. Then open the Alexa app and tap the Devices icon.
- Tap the plus + icon in the top-right, then Add Device.
- Select your smart light and follow the instructions. Tap or click here to read more about how smart lighting can improve your life at home.
11. Change Alexa’s voice or accent
Are you tired of hearing Alexa? Perhaps a little change can bring back the old magic.
- Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Settings.
- Tap Device Settings and select your Echo device.
- Tap Language and select from the list of languages and options, then tap OK.
12. Play over 5,000 games with Alexa
Alexa is a great assistant, but she can also be fun. Think of a game you grew up playing and she can probably join in. Simply say “Alexa, open [name of the game].
Here are some to get you started: tic tac toe, bingo, rock paper scissors, blackjack, 20 questions, memory match, escape the room, true or false, Jeopardy!, Heads Up!, Deal or No Deal, categories, dice. You’ll think of others. Trust us.
13. Start your day with a custom Alexa routine
Routines save you time by putting a bunch of actions together. You can create custom routines with Alexa to start your day or unwind after work.
- Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon.
- Tap Routines > Create Routine and add a name and commands with actions
- You can also go to Routines > Featured to get some ideas and inspirations.
14. Have Alexa make you smile with a joke
We can all use a laugh these days. Though her repertoire ranges from corny to cringe-worthy, Alexa can brighten up your mood with some jokes. Use your imagination or get started with some of these:
- Alexa, can you tell me a “yo mama” joke?
- Alexa, what happens if you step on a Lego?
- Alexa, why did the chicken cross the road?
- “Alexa, tell me a Thanksgiving joke.”
- “Alexa, tell me a joke.”
15. Have Alexa remember important events
Just like the Reminders app on the iPhone, Alexa can remember specific dates and events for you. Say “Alexa, remember …” followed by whatever you’d like her to keep track of.
For example, “Alexa, remember I have a doctor’s appointment at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning” or “Alexa, remember I put the check in my bedside table.”