I WAS PRETTY MUCH an Alexa convert as soon as my first Amazon Echo arrived (I now have three: one Echo and two Dots). But there's no doubting that Alexa has a mind of her own, and often surprises you with her inability or unwillingness to do something you asked for. In some ways, she's astoundingly smart, and other times she'll have you banging your head against the wall because she just. Will. Not. Understand.
In the two months that Alexa's been running the show in my house, I've picked up a fair few tips - some of which really aren't obvious (especially the Bluetooth one). To prevent me from relaying these to real life people with the weird, desperate enthusiasm of someone who's just discovered Breaking Bad, I'm going to share them with you.
So here are my top 8 best Alexa tips and tricks - including workarounds for when she's being awkward (#3), ones that aren't necessarily made clear when you buy an Echo (#6) and all of which work in the UK (take that, US tech sites). Feel free to add your own in the comments
1. Grandma mode is genius
"Alexa, play the song that goes ‘starry starry night, paint your palette blue and grey"
When you've got a song stuck in your head but you don't know or can't remember what it's called, you can use ‘Grandma mode' (note: not its official name) to get Alexa to play it for you. She's managed some pretty obscure choices, and you don't have to know many of the lyrics or be completely accurate with them to get a match - although if the song turns out to have been covered by different artists, you might not get the version you had in mind.
This one turned out to be Vincent by Don McLean. It's pretty good.
2. Turn your Bluetooth speaker on hands-free
"Alexa, turn on Bluetooth"
If you've got an Echo Dot hooked up to a speaker that needs to be switched on before you can hear Alexa through it (my Bose Soundtouch 10 is like this, for instance), it ruins the hands-free magic of Alexa to have to go and turn it on. The solution to this is to tell Alexa to turn on Bluetooth, which should wake up the speaker automatically. She'll reply with "Searching," and a second later your speaker should come to life.
3. Find a radio station when Alexa's being difficult
"Alexa, play Absolute Radio on TuneIn"
Sometimes, I can tell Alexa to play a particular radio station and she'll just play it. Other times, she'll tell me she can't find the exact same station. But if you add "on TuneIn" at the end, she always finds it. A useful workaround for this odd little bug.
4. Live out your Trekkie dreams by changing Alexa's name to "Computer"
"Computer, what time is it?"
"Computer, tea. Earl grey. Hot."
When the Alexa app first came out, your only alternatives to Alexa's name were "Echo" and "Amazon," plus "Dot" and "Tap" for those specific devices. However, as a result of some high-up Trekkies at Amazon, you can now add ‘Computer' to that, meaning you can live out all your Starship Enterprise dreams at home.
To change the name in the Alexa app, go to the menu > Settings > whichever Alexa device you want (if you've got multiples) > Wake Word > Computer. But you might not want to watch Star Trek around Alexa when you do, or it'll be going off every two minutes.µ
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