In the world of smart speakers and virtual assistants, Alexa is the reigning champion. Nearly 70% of all smart speaker owners have an Amazon Echo device, and that number is only projected to grow as more Alexa-compatible devices are released.
Why is Alexa so popular? Compared to virtual assistants like Google and Siri, Alexa works with far more gadgets, features significantly more commands and Amazon Echos are pretty inexpensive. Tap or click here to see how the most popular smart speakers compare with one another.
If you have an Alexa device at home, you’re probably familiar with the basics. But Alexa is capable of more than you might expect. We rounded up 20 helpful, clever, entertaining and surprising commands you might not be using yet. You can thank us later.
1. “Alexa, call [contact]” or “Alexa, call [number].”
Alexa recognizes names and spoken numbers and can make calls for you. To make this work, first, register your contacts in the Alexa app. On your smartphone, open the app and follow these steps:
- Tap Communicate.
- Tap the contacts icon.
- Choose the menu icon, and then Add Contact.
- Type a name and phone number, and then select Save.
Once your contacts are registered, just ask Alexa to place the call for you.
Note: There are certain numbers Alexa can’t call, including 911, toll-free numbers or international numbers outside the U.S., Mexico or Canada.
2. “Alexa, move my 9 a.m. meeting today to 4 p.m.” or “Alexa, cancel my 10 a.m. call.”
Alexa is great at recognizing time and commands. She can act as your personal secretary if you sync your calendar.
Here’s how to sync calendars from iCloud, Outlook, Google and other services:
- Open the Alexa app and go to the settings menu.
- Choose Settings.
- Choose Calendar & Email.
- Choose your account provider and select Connect Account.
- Follow the on-screen directions to sync your calendar. Repeat these steps for each calendar you want to add.
Now Alexa can remind you about your upcoming meetings or even move, cancel or schedule one for you.
3. “Alexa, drop in on all devices.”
Remember those clunky old intercom systems in big homes? Alexa can be used as your modern equivalent.
To use it, just say “Alexa, drop in on all devices” to reach every Alexa-enabled speaker or “Alexa, drop in on [device name]” to target just one. Then just wait for the confirmation tone before speaking.
This feature used to only work with a single Echo, but thanks to a recent update, it’s easy to open a channel to all your connected speakers. Tap or click here to see how to get the update, if you don’t already have it installed.
You can call the entire family for dinner without having to ever leave the kitchen. Handy!
4. “Alexa, remember …”
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.”
5. “Alexa, set volume to [number between 1 and 10]”
Echo speakers have volume buttons on the top to adjust audio levels, but you don’t have to get up and walk over to your speaker to change it. Instead, you can just tell Alexa what volume level you want her to play at.
Try experimenting around with different levels to see which one you like best. You can also ask Alexa to “set volume to 11,” which maxes the volume completely. It’s a sneaky reference to a classic movie. Can you guess?
6. “Alexa, what’s the extended forecast?”
Alexa is capable of checking the weather for you, but if you want a more detailed preview of the upcoming week, this command will show you the extended forecast for the next seven days.
7. “Alexa, tell me about the movie [title].”
Alexa is a great resource for trivia and pop culture. Asking her about specific movies will give you a brief rundown on the film’s director, starring actors and the plot. She’ll even tell you the IMDb rating.
8. “Alexa, who plays [character] in [movie or show]?”
Speaking of movies and TV shows, you can also ask Alexa to identify an actor in a movie you’re watching. Just make sure to say the character’s name and the title of the show or movie clearly.
9. “Alexa, who sings this song?” or “When did this song come out?”
With this command, you can ask Alexa to identify a song currently playing through the speaker. This is useful if you put on a playlist you’re not familiar with or like listening to new artists.
To activate this feature, just say “Turn on Song ID.” You can also ask her to disable the feature if you no longer wish to use it by saying “Turn off Song ID.”
10. “Alexa, convert [measurement] ” or “Alexa, calculate [math problem]”
If you’ve been cooking more than usual during the pandemic, Alexa is an excellent kitchen resource. She can convert measurements with a simple voice command. But beyond the culinary world, Alexa can solve complex math problems in seconds.
11. “Alexa, what wine goes well with [food]?”
Once you’re finished preparing dinner, it’s time to find the perfect wine to pair with it. Alexa can help. Just activate this Wine Pairing skill from the Alexa skill shop, and you’ll be well on your way to a fancy dinner at home.
12. “Alexa, play [radio station].”
Alexa can play your favorite radio stations via voice command, too. That’s handy when many of us aren’t making our daily commute. You just need to make sure you know the name of the station you’re requesting, like NPR or KROQ LA.
13. “Alexa, Wikipedia [topic].”
If you’re the type who loves to settle arguments right on the spot, this command is for you. Just ask Alexa to “Wikipedia” a topic you want to discuss and she’ll read a preview of the full article out loud.
14. “Alexa, spell [word].” or “Alexa, define [word].”
If you’re a stickler for spelling and grammar, this command is another excellent argument-settling tool. Alexa pulls all this information from Webster’s dictionary, so you won’t have to.
15. “Alexa, tell me a joke.”
This is an oldie but a goodie. Alexa isn’t just useful — she’s funny too. Most of her soundbites are puns and dad jokes, but there are a few that are genuinely hilarious. Try these:
- “Alexa, how much do you weigh?”
- “Alexa, find Chuck Norris.”
- “Alexa, do you know the muffin man?”
16. “Alexa, give me quotes from [movie].”
If you’re curious to hear what Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator sounds like in Alexa’s voice, you can ask her to give you a quote from “Terminator 2” — or any other movie for that matter. It never gets old hearing her say “Hasta la vista, baby.”
17. “Alexa, how many days until [date or holiday]?”
This is similar to Alexa’s calculation ability, but with a more practical everyday use. Now, when your kids ask how far away Christmas is, you can give them the correct answer. Better yet, they can just ask Alexa and leave you out of it.
18. “Alexa, drop a beat.”
And for the aspiring rappers out there, Alexa can generate a synthesized tune for you to spit some bars over. The beats are surprisingly catchy.
19. “Alexa, what is the value of Pi?”
It’s one of the nerdiest things you can ask Alexa, but she’s more than up to the task. Alexa will read you the value of Pi up to 100 digits, which is surprising and slightly scary to hear.
20. “Alexa, what do you think of Siri?”
A little friendly rivalry never hurt anyone, but Alexa is downright brutal here. Just ask what she thinks about Siri, and you’ll get a backhanded response you might not expect.