Oh, Alexa! We have such a love-hate relationship with you.
On the one hand, you do exactly what we ask you to do. On the other, you're secretly recording our conversations.
That's why we're going to share these seven Alexa secrets. Hopefully, they will help improve our relationship.
1. Automatically delete recordings
Remember when we first discovered that Amazon's Alexa was overhearing, recording and storing all of our conversations with other people? Those were dark days indeed.
No surprise, customers were not happy. Amid the outcry, Amazon rolled out a feature that allowed us to wipe the slate clean with Alexa. All we have to say is, "Alexa, delete everything I said today" and not only is it gone, but it is also not stored anywhere.
To enable this feature, using your app, go to Settings >> Alexa Account >> Alexa Privacy >> Review Voice History and slide the toggle to the right that says "Enable deletion by voice."
If you want to use the website, go to amazon.com/alexaprivacysettings and once again slide the toggle.
2. Remove Alexa search history
Unfortunately, the delete everything command did not erase past search history. You still have to do that manually, at least for now.
Here's how you can delete individual files:
- Open the Alexa app and go into the "Settings" section.
- Select "Alexa Account" and then "History" and you'll see a list of all the entries.
- Select an entry and tap the Delete button.
To delete all recordings through your Alexa app, tap Settings >> Alexa Account >> Alexa Privacy >> Review Voice History. On this page, you'll see a drop-down menu under Date Range with a default setting of Today. Tap on that menu and change Today to All History. Then, tap on Delete All Recordings for All History.
If you want to delete all the recordings with a single click, visit the "Manage Your Content and Devices" page at amazon.com/mycd.
This sounds great, but there is one caveat. Amazon warns us that "deleting voice recordings may degrade your Alexa experience." That means Alexa's artificial intelligence (AR) program won't be very personalized and it may impede her ability to learn from your commands.
3. Call 911
Believe it or not, Alexa is ready for this challenge. But you'll need to buy a few items first.
You're going to need an Alexa-connected device, such as an Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Spot or an Echo Plus. Next, you will need home phone service. You can use either an existing landline or VoIP service.
VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Basically, it means that you can make phone calls over the internet without a landline.
Next, you'll need your smartphone with the Alexa app downloaded on it. The last piece of hardware you need is the Echo Connect, designed especially for landlines.
Amazon has a gadget called Echo Connect. With it, you can use your compatible Echo device to call any number supported by your home phone service provider. Including 911.
Once you have Echo Connect, you can sync the contacts from your smartphone in the Alexa App so you never have to look up a number. Simply say "Alexa call 911," and it will call emergency services for you.
Before you get started with Echo Connect:
- Use your smartphone to sign up for Alexa Calling and Messaging.
- Make sure your phone or VoIP service setup is complete.
- Place Echo Connect in a location that is close to a power outlet, phone jack, and your Wi-Fi router. It doesn't need to be near your existing handsets or Echo devices.
Once you're finished with those steps, set up your Echo Connect with these steps:
- Turn on Echo Connect - Plug the included power adapter into Echo Connect and then into a power outlet. The power LED light on the top of the device is solid when the device has power.
- Connect to a phone jack - Plug one end of the included telephone cable into the back of the Echo Connect. Plug the other end of the cable into:
- A standard telephone jack (for landline phone service)
- A Wi-Fi router (for digital phone service)
- Analogue Telephone Adapter (for VoIP phone service)
- Complete Wi-Fi setup in the Alexa app on your smartphone - From the Alexa app menu, select Settings >> Set up a new device and follow the instructions.
That's it, that's all you need to do to have Alexa make hands-free calls for you. It's not just a great tool for emergency situations. It's also helpful in making regular calls to friends and family.
Because Echo Connect uses your home phone number, family and friends will be able to recognize the call. You can even answer your home phone on your Echo from across the room, so you can easily talk to anyone hands-free when you're busy or away from the phone.
4. Change Alexa’s voice
First off, you can't turn Alexa into Alex. But you can change her language and accent.
Want Alexa's English to have a Canadian or U.K. accent? Maybe you want to change her language altogether. Now you can.
Simply open your Alexa app and tap the three-line hamburger menu in the upper left corner. Then, tap Settings >> Device Settings and select the Alexa-enabled device you want to change languages on. (Note: You'll see a list of Alexa-enabled devices that you own.) Scroll down and select Languages.
This will open a list of languages to pick from, select the one you want. A confirmation pop-up will appear asking if you want to change Alexa's language, tap OK. Go ahead and test a few out before deciding to find the one you like best. That's it, now you can set your Alexa apart from your friends.
5. Use the Alexa Cast feature
This is a new and nifty feature that allows you to play, or cast, your favorite music through any of your Alexa-enabled devices. You control the music from your Amazon Music iOS or Android app.
You can connect or disconnect devices through your music app. Even better, the Alexa-enabled devices don't have to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your mobile device.
Here's what you have to do:
- Open the Amazon Music app
- Look for the Cast icon at the top right, just to the left of the search icon.
- Once you tap that option, you'll see a list of available Echo devices.
- Once connected, you can use the Amazon Music app on your smartphone to skip songs or replay them with just a tap of your finger.
- When you want to stop casting, pull up the device list on your Amazon Music App and tap the disconnect button.
6. Set up multi-room audio
That brings us to multi-room audio, because if you have multiple Echo devices in your home, why should your favorite music be limited to only one at a time? This is also easy to set up.
You'll need to create a Multi-Room Music group through the Alexa app by following these steps:
- Click on Devices in the lower right-hand corner of the app.
- At the top right, look for the + sign.
- Choose Add Multi-Room Music Speakers.
- You'll find suggested names for the group, or you can create your own by tapping on Custom Name.
- Select which devices you want to include and tap Create Group.
Let's say you named your group Upstairs. To test it out, you can say something like: "Alexa, play my summer playlist upstairs." See? Nothing to it.
It's not just about music. Some homes are so big, you might need an intercom system to talk to someone in another part of the house. You may not live in a mansion, but you can create your own "intercom" system to "drop-in" on Alexa-enabled devices.
Use the ones you already have or buy some new Echo products and connect the devices through the Alexa app. Put the Echos in your kids' rooms, the kitchen, the family room -- basically put them anywhere you think they will meet your needs.
First, you'll need to make sure the Drop-In feature is enabled on each of your Echo devices.
- Tap Devices at the bottom of the Alexa app, then look for the Echo & Alexa option at the top left.
- Select an Echo device and then tap Communications.
- Select Drop-In, where you can enable the feature.
Once they're set up, you can use your voice by saying, "Alexa, drop in on the living room Echo," depending on what you've named the devices. You can also access the feature through the Alexa app by tapping on Communicate at the bottom of the home screen and selecting Drop-In.
Now you can make announcements like "Dinner's ready" that will be heard through every device.
6. Get the latest system update
Although Echo devices update their software automatically, you can still manually check to make sure Alexa is up to date. It's easy to check and install; all you have to do is ask Alexa.
Make sure Alexa is turned on and your internet connection is working. Then say, "Check for software updates." When an update has been found and it's ready to install, Alexa's light indicator will pulse blue until the installation is complete.
This part is important: Don't give Alexa any other commands or use her app while she's checking for and downloading updates.
Bonus: Listen to 'The Kim Komando Show'
Yes, Alexa can play "The Kim Komando Show" for you. Just say, "Alexa, play The Kim Komando Show."
Alexa will then ask if you want to subscribe through your Amazon account (unless you've already subscribed). If you say yes, she'll give you the price -- $2.99 per month, and you may cancel at any time. Say yes, and she'll charge your Amazon account.
New episodes are available every Saturday morning. When you tell Alexa to play The Kim Komando Show she'll always play the most recent episode.
You can also tell Alexa to play the prior week's episode by saying, "Alexa, play the next episode." Alexa has two months' worth of shows you can listen to.
If you're interrupted while listening to the show, just say, "Alexa pause." To resume listening say, "Alexa play." When you're done listening just say, "Alexa Stop."
Check out this video to watch Kim try the app out herself. You can see how easy it is to subscribe and start listening.
Do you want to get even more out of Alexa? Check out Kim's eBook, "How to Use Your Amazon Echo: Tips and Tricks." You'll learn everything you need to know to become an Alexa pro. Get your copy on Amazon Kindle today.
Listen up! Google's smart assistant also hears your private conversations
According to new reports, Google's own virtual assistant has been recording the voices of its users for research purposes. What's more, it might be looking at hefty fines from European regulators! Just what on earth has Google been doing with all this private voice data, anyway?