How To Get Started With Amazon Echo And Alexa
– Your Amazon Echo device has just arrived and you might have glanced at the quick-start guide in the box from , but beyond the basic setup, do you know the first things you should do with your new Echo?
Alexa is the virtual assistant inside Amazon Echo devices – for a briefing on how Alexa works, check out What can Alexa do?
We’re about to run through our list of the top things to do to get started, but first check out this video for the basic steps including the initial set up with the Alexa app:
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Where Its Difficult To Access Alexa
While you can access Alexa from both Amazons products and now third-party devices, theres one placerather curiouslythats quite difficult to access Alexa: your phone. Despite the fact that there is an Alexa app available for Android, Fire OS, and iOS, it exists solely for you to install your Alexa devices, tweak settings, and review information the Alexa-enabled devices share with you.
However, you cant use the Alexa app to actually ask Alexa questions. Though were certain Amazon has their motives for this design choice, we certainly hope they include the functionality in the future. After all, theres nothing more ubiquitous than the smartphone, and if they want as many people as possible integrating Alexa into their lives , then integrating Alexa right into an app that people always have with them would be a smart move.
Although Amazon doesnt include access to the Alexa service directly through their own application, they apparently have no restrictions on third parties doing so. You can get third-party apps that allow you to use Alexa right on your phone.
With any confusion over where you can and cant use Alexa out of the way, its time to focus on the fun stuff you can do with Alexalike controlling your entire Kodi media center with your voice.
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Prime Members Can Get Two Free Audiobooks From Audible’s Premium Section
As a Prime member, you can download two free titles from Audible’s premium section when you sign up for a free trial. Everyone else only gets one free book to download. You can listen to the audiobooks on your Alexa devices by saying “Alexa, read my audiobook.” You can also ask to hear a specific audiobook in your library and ask Alexa to read faster.
Note that your username for Audible and Amazon needs to be the same to listen on your Echo speaker.
What’s The Difference Between Alexa And Echo
Often mixed up or used interchangeably, Alexa and Echo are actually two different things. Alexa is the name of Amazons smart assistant and is the equivalent of Apples Siri. Echo, on the other hand, is the name given to all of the physical Amazon-made devices that Alexa lives in, so to speak. To put it another way, Echo devices are the lamps, and Alexa is the genie that lives inside them.
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Using Amazons Range Of Smart Speakers
One of the most common ways of using and communicating with Alexa is through Amazons range of Echo smart speakers.
- Echo Dot
- Echo Plus
- Echo Studio
The Echo Dot is priced at around $40, making it a very inexpensive way to introduce Alexas powerful AI technology into your home, whereas the Echo Studio offers much better sound quality for around $200.
As shown below, Amazon has also developed the Echo Show, a smart speaker with a built-in display handy for visual feedback such as song lyrics, video, or weather widgets.
Its worth mentioning that there is no monthly fee for using Alexas basic functionality on any of the Echo smart speakers.
The only cost is the upfront cost of the speaker itself, following which Alexa will be free to use going forward .
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The Echo Line: Hands Free Control
In the Amazon product family, the term Echo is reserved for a specific class of Alexa-enabled devices. All Echo devices sport an array of seven microphones around the top of the device that are always on and waiting for your commands.
There are currently two Echo devices on the market: the , and the smaller Echo Dot . Both are triggered by a wake word followed by a command: Alexa, whats the weather like today?. Future devices that bear the Echo namesake will likely also feature the same far-field microphone array found in the earlier Echo models.
What Else You Need To Know
There were a few other little bits that stood out for us in our time with the Show.
Privacy mode, for example, results in an annoying thick red line that persists at the bottom of the screen while its on – visually strong-arming you to keep your mic on when watching content. Amazon, if you’re reading this, just having the red LED illuminated up top would have sufficed.
The camera and video calling capabilities are also only really useful if your family and friends have Echo Shows, with no support for other video services like Skype or Hangouts. Skype is said to be on the way though, so watch this space.
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The Tap Fire Tablet & Fire Tv Line: Push
In addition to their always-on Echo line, Amazon has several devices that support a push-to-command model of interaction with Alexa. Although the is also a Bluetooth speaker and is shaped somewhat like the Amazon Echo, it doesnt bear the Echo name, nor does it have the always-on listening feature of the Echo line. Instead, you need to press a button to put the device in listening mode, after which you can say a command.
The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick with voice remote work on the same principle. While your device and television are on, you press the microphone button on your voice remote to issue commands to Alexa. The Fire TV lineup also has the bonus feature of displaying the output of most commands as cards on your TV screen.
Amazons $49 Fire Tablet, Fire HD 8 , and Fire HD 10 all come with Alexa as well, and you simply hold down the home button as you say your command. You can also use your Fire tablet as a secondary Alexa device of sorts using Voicecast, which will automatically wake up your Fire tablet and show you more details from a voice command you gave to your Echo.
Can You Use An Echo Dot Without Alexa
Technically, youre going to need to use Alexa in order to use any Echo smart speaker or display. This includes the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show and any other Echo device. However, this shouldnt be an issue for you.
Alexa is completely free with an Amazon account. If you dont have an Amazon account well, that is free too!
If youre concerned about privacy, all Echo smart speakers allow you to turn off the devices microphone . This way, it will only be activated at your discretion.
Lets backtrack just a little to define the terms Alexa and Echo.
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Does Alexa Echo Dot Need Wifi
Why Alexa Does Not Work Without Wi-Fi
Without Wi-Fi it is simply impossible to connect to these applications and features. In order to make the most out of your Amazon Alexa investment, a Wi-Fi connection or hotspot must be available to get started and to take advantage of all that the device has to offer.
Change Your Echo Wake Word
This one isn’t necessarily essential, but you might find it handy especially if you have someone called “Alex” living in your house.
Under each Echo device’s settings, you can choose to change the wake word to something else, though the choice is pretty limited. Alas, there’s no option for “Hal”, but you can get your mini sci-fi nerdgasm by changing it to “computer”. Other wake words include “Alexa”, “Echo” or “Amazon”.
You’ll have to change the wake word for each independant Echo device.
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Do You Have To Pay For Music On Alexa
There are several methods to listen to free music via Alexa on your Echo device. The easiest and most obvious way is to use Amazon Musics free version. Alternatively, you can listen using other popular free streaming services, although each of these services will have limitations without a premium plan.
When it comes to limitations, Amazon Musics free streaming service is no exception. Youll have access to thousands of playlists and stations, but you wont be able to request a specific song. Youll also be subject to commercials.
If youre a Prime member, however, youll have access to approximately 2-million songs with no commercials and you can listen to whatever you want. As an Amazon Music Unlimited member, you have access to 75 million songs.
Other options to consider include Apple Music, Spotify, iHeart, SiriusXM and Pandora.
Check out this article from Alphr on how to listen to free music with your Echo Dot.
Do You Need Amazon Prime To Use Echo Speakers
Do you need Amazon Prime to use Echo speakers? Well, you cannot play music from Amazon Prime Music without a Prime package. But even without Prime, the Alexa speakers can play several other media sources. So in short, you do not need Prime to get some use from your speaker. Now you may wonder if you should buy Prime just because the added features. But wed suggest holding off on Prime, until you play with your speaker and determine that you really need Prime to gain access to services that you want.
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How To Create An Amazon Account On A Computer
Creating an account often involves tediously entering a lot of information. For some of us, typing on a computer is easier than fingering a tiny touch screen.
If youd prefer to create your new Amazon account using your computers web browser, you can do so with these simple steps:
Go to and click the Accounts & Lists menu
Click Create your Amazon account
Complete the registration process
Once youve created your Amazon account, you can use it to configure Alexa, shop online, or upgrade to gain access to the Prime Video streaming service.
Try Amazon Music For Free
Before, there was no automatic provision for music built into the Echo or Alexa, but you could access Prime Music if you were an Amazon Prime subscriber.
However, Amazon has a free tier of its music streaming service that’s ad-supported and available for any Alexa-enabled devices.
The new level gives users to access to a selection of top playlists and stations for free beforehand, as we say, this was only available for Prime members. It’s naturally more limited, since there’s no subscription required, and is similar to the two million free songs that Prime subscribers get. If you were to pay for Music Unlimited, there’s access to more than 40 million, by comparison.
You can access the free music based on songs, artists, eras or genres, saying things like, Alexa, play the station. Alternatively, you can choose one of the many preset playlists, including Fuego Latino, Country Heat and more.
If you want to try out a fully paid subscription, you can do that, too. Simply take out a , which you can cancel at any time. It’s a great way to try before you buy.
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What Is An Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo is a line of smart speakers and displays designed to access Alexas AI. Unlike a traditional Bluetooth speaker, these devices house several components including microphones, speakers, a WiFi module, processor and a memory chip. This allows the user to access and control Alexa using voice commands.
As alluded to above, there is an Echo Show line which all include LCD displays. The display models also house a front-facing camera for added features such as video calls. Other benefits of the Echo Show comprise the ability to have Alexa play movies, display recipes and even the words to your favorites songs.
Just think of the Amazon Echo as the hardware and Alexa as the software.
Using Your Echo As A Bluetooth Speaker Without Alexa
Its worth noting that you technically could use your Echo device as a Bluetooth speaker without using Alexa. The thing is, youre going to need to initiate Alexa on the device upon setup. Otherwise, it wont function at all.
Aside from avoiding Alexa, there are other reasons you might want to do that though. Streaming directly from your phone could be useful if you cant access certain media with Alexa. Also, visitors can play their music on your speaker.
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Is Music Free On Alexa
If youve got music saved on a device like your phone, you can stream music to an Echo for free via Bluetooth. If youre an avid music listener, however, then youll more than likely want to pay for a music subscription service like Spotify or Amazon Music Unlimited, if you’re not already doing so.
have Prime Music included in their subscription, which serves up around two million songs. Its not a bad amount by any means, but its still a long way off of the 35-40 million songs offered by Spotify and .
Do You Need Amazon Prime To Use Your Amazon Echo
No, you dont need Amazon Prime to access the Alexa virtual assistant. You can use the Echo Dot without it and still enjoy all of its features.
A smart speaker is a device that can answer questions and carry out tasks without much interaction from the user. An Amazon Echo Dot, for example, requires Alexa to be activated before it becomes an active part of your home.
However, having an Amazon Prime membership has various benefits that go beyond just using Alexa with the device. For instance, youll have access to over 2 million songs at no extra cost with personalized playlists created by experts in music discovery or ad-free streaming on all your favorite music apps.
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Amazon Prime Day 2022
Arguably one of the best times of the year to grab one of Amazon’s many own-brand products is during the massive Prime Day sales, which just happens to be right around the corner. Arriving online on , the big Prime Day sales will be dropping massive discounts on all the Echo speakers, Kindles and tablets, as well as quite literally anything else, including smartphones, massage guns, and beard trimmers.
We’ve already spoken about the many perks of signing up to Amazon Prime to unlock Amazon’s music service, but it’s also worth getting just so you can get those free next-day deliveries and also access to all those excellent exclusive offers. It’s £7.99 a month to sign up for and well worth it if you’re looking to make the most out of these sales.
What You Can Do With Echo Dot Without Alexa
Using the Echo without Alexa is akin to having a car without tires. Alexa is the heart and soul of all Echo devices without her, the Echo would be nothing more than a speaker with limited capabilities.
Still, if you want to use the Echo without Alexa for good reasons, heres how you can get the most out of your Echo device.
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Recommended By Our Editors
Wi-Fi password-saving works across Amazon’s Fire tablets and Kindle ebook readers as well. Here’s more on with saved Wi-Fi passwords. If you change the Wi-Fi password on your router, you’ll have to change the stored Wi-Fi password at least once.
To Turn Off Timer And Reminder
You can also switch off the timer or reminder without using Alexa by pushing the Action button on top of the speaker.
The Alexa app is the heart of the Echo, without which it cannot work. People have discovered methods to utilize Alexa without an Echo device, but not vice versa. You may even use Alexa without wifi by creating a personal hotspot, but without Alexa, neither the mobile app nor the web app, the Echo will work.
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Are There Any Other Hidden Costs With Alexa
While there arent any hidden costs associated with Alexa, there are services you could pay for to enhance your experience. Weve already mentioned Prime benefits, but there are other services. Many of them being third-party subscriptions.
Lets say want to turn your lights on with your new Echo Dot? Well, youre going to need the compatible hardware, of course . How about watching Netflix on your Echo Show? Well, then youd obviously need a Netflix account. You wouldnt have to pay anything extra to use any of these compatible devices or subscriptions with your Echo device though.
Other popular paid services which are compatible with Alexa include Spotify, Hulu and Alexa Guard Plus.