9 must-know Amazon Echo tips and tricks
Amazon's Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices can do more than just check the weather and sling playlists.
Siri had a good run, but its time in the spotlight is over. Alexa has arrived, and it’s way smarter than Siri. Alexa, of course, is the voice-activated “smart” assistant lurking inside the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap products. (It recently made its way to select Amazon Fire tablets as well.)
If you own one of these gadgets, you probably know the basics by now—you can ask Alexa for today’s weather forecast, a daily news briefing, an oven timer or a favorite playlist. But as the Echo family of products has grown, so has the ecosystem that surrounds it. Alexa, disembodied though it may be, can do a lot more than you might think—everything from finding your misplaced phone to helping you get a good night’s sleep. Here are nine ways to get the most from your virtual, voice-powered assistant.
1. Listen to podcasts
Alexa is probably best known for its music acumen and can sling tunes from a variety of sources, but it can also serve up podcasts. That’s thanks to the Echo’s direct integration with TuneIn, a service that’s home not only to live radio stations, but also to a large library of podcasts.
Thus, you can ask Alexa to “play The Nerdist podcast” or “listen to The Truth on TuneIn,” and you’re good to go. However, although you can pause and resume playback, you’ll lose your place if you ask it to do anything else while that episode is paused. What’s more, if you want to listen to anything but the most recent episode, you have to tell Alexa to “play the previous episode”—and do so over and over until you get to the one you want.
Needless to say, that’s not exactly ideal. You can get more granular by searching TuneIn via the Alexa app, then choosing the exact episode you want to hear. But your only voice-powered option is to hear the latest one.
2. Listen to the book you’re reading
If you spend a lot of time in your car or do a lot of walking, you don’t have to neglect the latest literature—Alexa can read the text of any book in your Kindle library. In fact, it’ll pick up wherever you left off, which is nice if you stopped reading at bedtime and want to resume while, say, whipping up dinner in the kitchen. Just say, “Alexa, read the Kindle book [Title of Book].”
Now for the bad news: Although Alexa’s text-to-speech reading is decent, for now it’s no substitute for professional narration. Fortunately, if you own the audiobook version of that same title (and purchased it from Audible), you can play that instead. Just change the phrasing: “Alexa, read the audiobook [Title of Book].”
3. Change your default music service
When you ask Alexa to play some music, it defaults to Amazon’s own Prime Music library. That’s fine if that’s your primary source of songs, but if you’re a subscriber to another service, such as Spotify, iHeartRadio or Pandora, you might prefer to make that the default service.