Last week's Amazon Prime Day deals meant a lot of new buyers and users of the Amazon Echo and Amazon Tap, two voice-enabled speakers that feature "Alexa," the helpful assistant that many owners like me have come to love more than Apple's Siri.
If you are a new owner or have a family member who bought the Echo or the Tap (basically a more portable version of the Echo), you're probably aware that it can stream music from a mobile device via Bluetooth or directly from Prime Music and Spotify. It can also give news updates by responding to voice commands.
But after the thrill of that wears off, you may find that the day-to-day uses for the Echo are a little more surprising. Here are the three things I use my Echo for most often:
1. Timers. Our Echo sits on the countertop between our kitchen and dining room, and rather than set timers on my phone or the stove when I'm cooking, I call out, "Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes," often as I'm sticking something in the oven. My kids also use it for their 20-minute-at-a-time reading timers for their library reading rewards.
2. Shopping lists. As I dig through our pantry or stick my head in the fridge, I can call out, "Alexa, add onions to shopping list." When I go to the grocery store, I pull out my phone and the items on my shopping list are automatically made available in the Alexa app.
3. Lights. My Phillips Hue lights are controllable with the Echo, so when I enter or leave the house, I usually call out, "Alexa, turn on living room" or "Alexa, turn off living room" to turn on or off the lights. I can easily do that with my phone, too, but if I'm carrying bags or in a hurry, it's faster.
In our house, my kids like to ask Alexa to tell them (super corny) jokes and during April Fool's Day, they got some harmless prank ideas, too. Amazon sends out a weekly email to Echo/Tap owners with other ideas, new services added and media you can play by asking Alexa about it. Experiment and figure out how to get the most out of the hardware. You can find lots more stuff to try on the websites lovemyecho.com and echotricks.com.
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