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6 Ways Your Amazon Echo Can Make Your Life Easier

amazon echo

If you don’t already have a preferred digital assistant yet like Siri for iPhone users or Google Assistant for Android users, allow me to make a case for adopting Alexa, the digital assistant and interface for Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays.

Related: 11 Surprising Reasons Every Senior Needs An Amazon Echo

I have an Amazon Echo Show in my kitchen that I use throughout the day to do all sorts of useful things, and I thought I’d share some of those useful features with you here today. Once you see all the ways that an Amazon Echo speaker (and, by extension, Alexa) can make your life easier, you’ll wonder why you haven’t gotten one already!

6 Ways Your Amazon Echo Can Make Your Life Easier

amazon echo

1. Plan Your Day

  • Check the weather, in your own area or somewhere else!
  • Ask about the day’s top news stories.
  • Start the day by checking your calendar. Alexa will tell you what appointments you have coming up that day, and you can tell her to add new appointments as you make them. (You can also manage your appointments manually in the Alexa app.)
  • Ask Alexa what traffic is like when you’re getting ready to leave. If traffic is heavy, she’ll give you a heads up so you know to leave a few minutes early.
  • Ask about nearby restaurants, coffee shops, pharmacies, banks, etc. Alexa can access all the information you need about the businesses in your area, including hours, addresses, phone numbers, and more. Ask “Alexa, what time does Taco Bell close?” or “Alexa, where is the nearest Wendy’s?”
  • Ask about showtimes and tickets at movie theaters near you.
  • Add to lists or create new ones. Alexa can keep track of your shopping list for you, and then you can pull the list up in the Alexa app when you’re at the store. You can create as many custom lists as you want, so you could have one for groceries you need, one for bills that need to be paid, one for chores, etc.
  • Set an alarm. Whether you’re getting into bed or nodding off on the couch, you can tell Alexa to set an alarm to wake you up right on time.
amazon echo

2. Entertain Yourself

  • Learn something new—if you’re curious about the distance from the earth to the moon, or wondering about what events led to the War of 1812, just ask Alexa.
  • Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Not only can you tell Alexa to start or stop your audiobook or podcast, you can also pause, skip to a certain spot or chapter, and even set a sleep timer.
  • Check up on what’s happening with your favorite sports teams. Alexa can tell you sports standings, or results from specific games or matches. You can also get the scoop on your favorite teams by opening the Alexa app, going to Settings > Sports Update, and saving your favorite NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NHL, WNBA, and NCAA teams. Once you’ve done that, you can get all the latest updates on your teams by saying “Alexa, give me my sports update.”
  • Play music. This is the function I probably use most—all I have to do is ask Alexa to play whatever album or playlist I want to listen to. (I also like to ask Alexa to play songs that are mentioned in books that I’m reading—it takes the reading experience to a whole new level!)
  • Play games with Alexa—apparently she has over 5,000 of them! Play group games like Song Quiz, Escape the Room, or Common Knowledge, or challenge yourself to solo games like Akinator and Twenty Questions.
amazon echo

3. Get Help

  • Get notified about suspicious or alarming sounds. Alexa Guard can use the microphone in your Amazon Echo speaker to let you know when she hears breaking glass or a smoke alarm in your home. (Alexa Guard Plus, a beefier version of the feature, can both alert you and your local emergency services for just $50/year—which is a great annual price for a monitoring service.)
  • Get help for your pet. If your pet is sick or acting strangely, the MyPetDoc skill can help you determine what’s wrong and what steps to take. If Alexa doesn’t know what’s wrong, she’ll forward your conversation and phone number to a veterinarian who will contact you shortly. (Just remember that while Alexa can give you guidance, she’s not a substitute for a real vet!)
  • Get first aid tips. The Mayo Clinic skill can give you basic first aid instructions for everything from minor scratches to CPR. (This skill is for instructional purposed only—if you’re in a life-threatening or emergency situation, call for help.)
  • Get help in emergencies with the Ask My Buddy skill. It can send a text, SMS, or phone call to a preselected emergency contact if you’re in need of help and can’t reach your phone.
amazon echo

4. Keep In Touch

  • Send a hug. Let your friends and family know you’re thinking about them by sending a hug through Alexa. Just say, “Alexa, send a hug” to deliver a virtual hug to any of your Alexa contacts.
  • Call a loved one with an Alexa-enabled device. Use your Amazon Echo to make voice calls (or your Echo Show to make video calls) to and from other Alexa-enabled devices. Alexa looks through your phone’s address book to find contacts who have the Alexa app or an Echo device, and then gives you the option of calling them. You can also use Drop In to speak through other Alexa-enabled devices in your home—learn more about that here.
amazon echo

5. Shop Online

  • Quickly and easily re-order an item on Amazon. If you notice you’re out of paper towels, just ask Alexa to order some more.
  • Get exclusive deals by asking “Alexa, what are your deals?” She’ll tell you about exclusive deals that you need an Alexa-enabled device to take advantage of.
amazon echo

6. Control Your Smart Devices

  • Turn your smart lights (or regular lights connected to a smart plug) on or off. Learn how to connect Alexa to your Philips Hue lights, or look for Alexa Skills for other smart home platforms and devices.
  • Control your smart thermostat. Several smart thermostats can be connected to Alexa, allowing you to adjust the temperature with voice commands. Some smart thermostats, like the ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, even have Alexa built in.
  • Start your car. A number of car makers have Alexa Skills that allow you to start your car remotely, lock and unlock doors, and more via Alexa. To find out if your car can be controlled remotely with an Alexa Skill, click here and scroll down to the “Connected Car Alexa Skills.”

Which of the features available through Alexa do you currently use most, or which one would you use most if you had an Alexa-enabled device?

See how to give Alexa a makeover in this video!

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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Bright Ideas

  • It is also compatible with Vivint smart home products. So if you have Vivint smart home security, you can ask the Amazon Echo to turn on your lights, lock the door etc. with your home automation & security products.

  • I have this and the dot – love them! I have them connected to my thermostat and various lights\electronics as well as house alarm and can control them verbally. Want to get one for my mom as well – figure it can help her in cases of emergency – believe we can also have it text or call with connected cell – not certain yet though.

    • It certainly seems like a nifty gadget, but am wondering the same thing. It looks like Alexa is a tiny speaker and microphone that you take with you from room to room, so that it will always be within “ear-shot.” Ok, neato! So, do you simply call out your wishes into the air? Alexa hears you and will obey?

      The part I’m stuck on is you must have to carry this unit around with you at all times, in order to maximize the giant list of things it can do, which isn’t necessarily out of the question, but I seem to do this already with my iphone, lol.

      • You don’t carry it anywhere – just set it up in a central location in your home, and shout out from anywhere!

        Yes, Siri, can do a lot of these things, but Amazon echo is a speaker, so you can put on music while you’re cooking. Being hands-free is definitely a big advantage!

  • My husband is blind and disabled, the Echo has been such a good thing for him. He loves to listen to the audio books, the music, spends a good amount of time thinking up questions to ask her. The fact that you can verbally ask her and she does it. Such a blessing for him. I love the list/to do feature and especially the access to so much music.

  • I also bought my Echo on Amazon prime day and saved that $50. Alexa tells joke! When I wake her up in the morning she tells me what is special that day. LucyBall’s birthday…so much more. She is learning my likes and the music she plays is exactly what I need. Let me kn
    ow any other great ideas and uses for Alexa.

  • Alexa not only reads audio books to you, she will also read Kindle books,
    whether you have bought and downloaded them from Amazon or merely
    downloaded them from your local library in kindle format.

  • I LOVE my echo for list making!!! In the past I would think of something I needed, but if I was in the middle of doing something I would forget to add it to my list. Now, I can just say it the second I think of it and Alexa adds it to my list!!

  • The New Amazon TAP, does the same things as the ECHO, but it is portable and smaller in size with great sound and No Need to be plugged into a was receptacle !!! With 9 hours of battery life per charge. You can use it out at the pool, in the garage, in the car or with the clip while out for a bike ride or out working in the yard. We paid $79.00 with free shipping.

  • The Echo also has an IFTTT channel, which increases its usefulness for me. I already use Remember The Milk for task and shopping lists. The IFTTT integration allows me to tell the Echo to add something to the list, and it shows up on our shared list, so if my husband is at the store, he knows what to buy.

    I also like some of the “skills” set up for the Echo. I haven’t found anything I can’t live without, but there are several useful and amusing ones.

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