How To Get the Most Out of Alexa

Cute little girl with mom using digital tablet at home

By Tracey Dowdy

Amazon’s Alexa was introduced in November of 2014 and just keeps getting better and better – or should I say smarter and smarter?

Amazon has integrated Alexa into a host of its own products like Fire TV and the Echo Speaker, but they’ve gone one step further and allowed third-party hardware makers to adapt their products to be compatible with their devices. In fact, Ford offers Alexa in its new cars.

Alexa covers a comprehensive number of categories and needs: Alexa devices, smart home hubs, light switches, outlets, as well as locks and your home security. It can even manage your heating and cooling systems, enabling you to kick on the AC in your house while you’re stuck in traffic on your afternoon commute.

Using these tips will make you feel as smart as Alexa herself.

  • Create individual profiles. If more than one person in your house has an Amazon account, you can add them to your profile. Not sure whose profile is active? Just ask Alexa. You can share libraries, though it doesn’t separate shopping or wish lists. Even more important, adding profiles means they can use your Prime Account, so add users with discretion.
  • Delete, delete, delete. Everything you say to Alexa is recorded and stored. If the thought of all your requests floating around in the great beyond doesn’t thrill you, use this link to go in and delete them.
  • Amazon has almost 2000 native skills, but allowing third-parties to tap in to their technology takes it to another level. Use Skill Finder to help you unlock a host of skills, like asking Capital One to make a secure payment to your account or check your balance, or ask for the Skill of the Day to hear what’s new.
  • This one may be a little dangerous. Initially, you could only order previously purchased items but Amazon has updated Alexa so you’re now able to order anything at all from Amazon Prime.
  • Grab an Uber. Or a pizza. Amazon has expanded Skills to include third-party apps, so users can order a pizza from Dominoes or Pizza Hut, a ride from Uber, or even pre-order a Starbucks coffee so it’s ready when you get there.
  • Get exclusive Prime Deals. As if Prime Day wasn’t great enough, Amazon sometimes runs special offers exclusively for Echo, Echo Dot and Tap owners. When they were first introduced, Echo Dot and Tap were only available to those who owned an Amazon Echo.
  • Arguably, one of Alexa’s greatest skills is her ability to settle an argument and not just in a “How long was the Hundred Years’ War?” kind of way with a fact. If you enable Skills, you can have Alexa roll the dice, flip a coin or even ask The Magic 8-Ball.
  • If you really want to go down a rabbit hole, start looking for all the easter eggs Amazon has hidden in Alexa. From movie quotes (Alexa, party on, Wayne), to music (Alexa, who let the dogs out?) to Dad jokes, (Alexa, why is six afraid of seven?), Alexa’s got a million of ‘em!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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