Alexa is at your service. She will listen, no matter what time of day or night. Ask a question, and she'll do her darnedest to find the answer. Alexa is loyal, approachable and fun, making Amazon Echo one of the greatest consumer tech sleeper hits of the past few years.
But Alexa has flaws, just like the rest of us. Sometimes, she's a little slow on the uptake. She doesn't always take in her environment. A poor signal can make her woozy and even unconscious. Most users are astonished by Alexa's abilities, but at the end of the day, she's only human. Or, you know, human-like.
Here are three common issues that users have with Alexa and some simple ways to fix them. These problems aren't earth-shattering, but they can instantly turn a smooth relationship into a rocky one.
Tip within a tip: Before we point out Alexa's biggest flaws - to be fair - we have to say there are some pretty amazing things she can do, too. Click here for a full list of Alexa commands you're not using but should be.
Problem #1: Bad wireless connection
Once you've gotten into the rhythm of talking with Alexa, you may forget that it relies on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in order to function. While your laptop always reminds you that it is a computer, with little symbols on your screen that indicate signal strength, Alexa just feels like a little ornament that talks.
Well, Alexa is just as susceptible to bad connections. This is usually alarming when that human-like voice fails to respond to your questions and commands.
There are two great ways to deal with this: First, reboot your Echo. This is the classic troubleshooting maneuver, and it often works. Once the Echo is switched back on, you may have better signal strength than you've had for days.
Another is to move the Echo to another location, preferably away from other electronics. Different cross-signals have the potential to interfere with each other, so the less your Echo has to compete with other Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, the better.
Problem #2: Alexa can't hear you well
Over time, you may find yourself repeating the same commands to Alexa. Or maybe Alexa hears you but doesn't understand, asking you to clarify. This can be frustrating. After all, the software worked fine when you first installed it. Why is Alexa so aloof all of a sudden? Is she getting senile?
You can use the same techniques for Problem #1, and either of these may resolve the issue. Rebooting and moving your Echo away from other devices is always a good idea, and it certainly can't hurt.
Another low-tech solution is to assess the noise level in your house. If you recently removed a rug, your voice might reverberate more than you realize. If there's a newborn crying in the background, this might confuse Alexa's voice-recognizing magic. Quarter your Echo in a place where your voice can be crisply heard, and background noise is at a minimum.
The high-tech solution is to use Voice Training, available through the Alexa app. The app will give you certain phrases to say aloud, which will help Alexa understand you better in the future.
Problem #3: Alexa can't communicate with other smart devices
If you've invested in smart appliances, you're probably excited to dim the lights and lock your front door by giving Alexa a firm command. This futuristic ability will make you feel like a "Star Trek" captain, minus the funny uniform.
But sometimes Alexa can't communicate with other devices. Indeed, Alexa may not even be able to find these other devices. That can be very frustrating, especially after you've spent good money on a smart washing machine.
You may have to fiddle with your Alexa app, using Smart Home >> Your Devices >> Discover Devices to track down the intelligent machines in your house. It's possible there's just a hiccup or a bad connection, and a little finessing will link your Echo to its brethren.
Still, many smart devices aren't yet compatible with Echo. The machine is expanding its catalog of collaborators every day, so it may just be a matter of time before you can orchestrate your whole smart home. But the Amazon people are still catching up with all the remarkable technology now available.
If Echo does recognize these devices but they're not responding to invocations, you might want to check the user's manual for your smart appliances. Some technology requires very specific commands in order to work; this has less to do with Alexa and more to do with how your other smart services were programmed.
When all else fails, though, reboot, reboot, reboot.