It all started in November 2014 when Amazon launched the Echo , a sleek cylindrical-shaped home speaker with AI support. Known as Alexa, Amazon’s artificial intelligence quickly gained popularity in many homes.
Today, Amazon’s Alexa products may be commonplace in tech news, although some may not know anything about it yet.
What is Amazon Alexa?
Alexa is the name of the voice-based smart home assistant developed by Amazon. While many people use the name interchangeably, Alexa is actually the name of artificial intelligence technology, not the product.
Alexa is used in Echo Amazon products, including Echo Dot, Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Show 5.
By the way, if you have doubts about which Echo device to choose, I leave you some comparisons:
- Amazon Echo VS Echo Dot
- Amazon Echo VS Echo Plus
When purchasing any of these devices, the user must download the Alexa application on their mobile phone to complete the configuration.
The company recently announced that iPhone users could access Alexa without the use of any Echo devices. That is, they could access this technology through the Amazon application.
As with Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, Alexa also has a female voice. In addition, Alexa not only responds when required, the user can “talk to her” using normal phrases.
Obviously, to use it you need it to connect to the WiFi network in your house, so in case you have signal problems, it may be interesting to buy a WiFi repeater.
How does Alexa work?
Amazon’s Echo devices use “Alexa” as a signal word by default. While the device is always listening, it only begins to track and analyze what the user says after hearing the word “Alexa.”
After that, it offers the most relevant results, but if someone at home has Alexa ‘s name, the user can change the word alert as something like Amazon, Echo, etc.
From this point the user can ask these AI assistant questions, they can even ask him to play music, ask him about the weather or ask him to convert measurements for him.
The wizard can also be used to purchase products from Amazon or to control other devices in a smart home.
Not only that, there are also multiple applications and services that work with Alexa , so the user can do basically anything, from ordering a pizza from Dominos or asking him for the latest news in the Washington Post.
In fact, Amazon has named each of these different capabilities as “skills” and one of the newest is the ability to operate as a home intercom system.
The Alexa settings allow the user to customize a lot of things beyond changing the alert word through the mobile application.
From the menu that is located on the left side of the screen, the user can access your favorite music sources, videos or electronic books, including services such as Spotify or Pandora.
Not only that, it is also possible to add items to to-do lists or pending purchases, as well as manage alarms or reminders.
Under the “Skills” section, you can download some third-party capabilities like adding a computer session, downloading ambient rain sounds, even adding a game.
From the “Settings” section, you can customize the Alexa experience even more, managing notifications from Amazon Shopping, adjusting the content you want to obtain in the daily report of the headlines, as well as choosing what information about sports teams you want to receive.
The user can also enter the address of their home or work, so that Alexa provides traffic updates and can even synchronize their activity calendar so that they can know what is happening in the day to day schedule.
In case Alexa is having trouble understanding the commands the user is telling her, a quick voice training session can be implemented to basically teach her how to speak.
And if the user is concerned that the wizard may make purchases on their behalf by mistake, then they can enable or disable voice purchase or add a 4-digit confirmation code that must be spoken out loud to confirm the purchase.
From the Settings of the application you can also view a history of all the voice interactions that have taken place with this Amazon assistant. The user can simply touch any item in this list to listen to the recording of that session and of course can also delete them.
Alexa vs Siri which is better?
In reality, everything depends on what the user is looking for, since although similar, each service provides different capabilities.
It should be mentioned that until recently, Apple’s Siri was available only for iOS, Mac devices and to a limited extent through Apple TV. Currently, however, Apple has introduced a direct competitor to Amazon Echo: HomePod. How do Alexa and Siri compare to each other?
- Smart home control. Both Alexa and Siri work with a wide variety of smart home lights, thermostats, plugs, etc. Echo from Amazon works with a wider range of products and brands, however, the key aspect regarding Apple’s HomePod is that devices compatible with this technology also need to be compatible with HomeKit, which in the case of Echo they are not.
- Speech recognition. It is true that both technologies sometimes do not understand what the user says or asks. In general terms, however, Amazon Echo with Alexa, has a better ability to understand the words spoken by the user.
- Response accuracy. But while it is true that Alexa better understands the things being said compared to Siri, this does not mean that it always offers the most accurate answer. It seems that Siri is slightly ahead in this segment, despite the fact that Alexa’s question and answer base is comparable.
- Quality of voices. The fact that these devices are first and foremost a speaker should not be forgotten, however, if you plan to use the device to play music, Apple’s HomePod is probably the best choice.
What things can you do with Alexa?
Of course, with this type of artificial intelligence users can do many things at home, some of which we share below.
Control smart plugs
Do you want to turn devices on or off with your voice or program them to do it automatically according to the time or other activation?
Well, the best thing to do is use a smart plug.
You connect it to Alexa, give it the relevant orders and voila, you no longer need to do it by hand.
By the way, if you need more than one plug, perhaps a smart power strip will be better for you, which also usually has several USB ports.
Control Roomba robots
The Roomba robots from iRobot, are some of the most popular on the market and the few in which you can use voice commands. If you have one of the most sophisticated Internet contacts, such as the 900 series, with Alexa you can control this class of robots.
In fact, the latest iRobot HOME update for both Android and iOS introduces the skill where all you need to do is say “Alexa, tell Roomba to start cleaning.” The biggest drawback is that this feature is currently only available to users in the United States.
Other things that can be done with Alexa is to look for other skills (Skill Finder) to increase the functionality of devices that work with this technology.
Amazon introduced a skill that allows Alexa to find more skills. It is a quick and easy way to discover new integrations that the user may not know. In this case, just ask something like “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to show me the skill of the day”.
You can even discover skills in a specific category. For example, you can say: “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to show the best skills in the Games category.”
Plex: Manage multimedia content
This is surely one of the favorite Alexa skills of many users as it allows them to control their media library effortlessly.
If you use Plex Media Server and have an Echo device in your living room, you can ask Alexa to play movies.
TrackR to find your phone
If you have an account registered with this service, you can tell Alexa to find your phone for you. Doing so will ring your mobile’s earpiece at full volume, which will undoubtedly tell you where your device is. Something very convenient for those who want to forget where they leave the phone.
Control your home heating
There are thermostats like those of the Hive brand , which allow you to control the temperature of your home using Alexa.
It is also very convenient for users as it saves them the effort of having to get up to adjust the temperature.
Control the air conditioning
There are smart air conditioners, which you can connect to Alexa and other voice assistants.
From knowing what each device consumes, controlling the temperature, lighting, etc.
Although the link with a device like Amazon’s Echo takes time, Alexa may only request Uber on request. When connection is established, it may take time.
Spotify is by far the best music streaming service today, and with Amazon’s Echo devices that support Alexa’s AI, Premium subscribers can simply tell you what they want to hear.
In fact they can tell you to play a song by a specific artist or an entire playlist.
In this case the user can ask Echo to remind them of meetings and other important events registered in their Google calendar. Particularly suitable for those people who tend to forget their daily activities.
Along with all of the above, there are also other products and services that support Amazon’s Alexa. For example, LG’s new Smart InstaView refrigerator already comes with functionality for Alexa.
For its part, the information and entertainment platform Sync 3 from For now allows certain voice controls with Alexa. Even the latest 4K TVs from affordable brands like Seiki, Element and Westinghouse offer native support for Alexa.
Control security cameras
A security camera is the best to keep our home protected, because you can be away from home and receive a notice if you have an intruder.
With Alexa you can control all the security cameras in your home, as long as they are compatible.
Listen to Audiobooks
Yes, you can listen to audiobooks with Alexa through Audible, a specific service for this, but which usually has a monthly cost.
I find it interesting to listen to your books while doing sports and other activities.
And much more
These are just some of the things you can do with Alexa, but I warn you that there are many more and those that come out every day new.
I leave you the most frequently asked questions that I usually ask about Alexa.
Can Alexa be used without the Internet?
No. You need the Internet for Alexa to work , since it needs to connect to Amazon servers to return the answer.
Does Alexa recognize different voices?
Today anyone can give instructions to your Alexa, although you can create voice profiles, to customize the responses to certain commands such as calls, news, music, shopping and others.
Is Alexa compatible with Android and IOS?
Yes, Alexa is compatible with Android and IOS.
Can I use Spotify for free with Alexa?
At the moment Spotify can only be used with Alexa in the US, although an update is planned.
Can Alexa be used independently?
Yes, you can set Alexa to only respond to commands from the device you’re talking to.
So you can have 2 devices in 2 rooms or even 2 houses and just run commands that you speak to.
Can I use an Alexa speaker as a Bluetooth speaker?
Yes, some of them allow it and others you can even connect them by cable.
I recommend you read my guides to know more.
Can I make calls with Alexa?
You can make calls from one Alexa device to another Alexa, but not to other devices.
Alexa Amazon App
Using the Alexa Amazon mobile app , users can manage their alarms, music, shopping lists, and more.
However, it is important to mention that this Alexa App is only available for download from app stores in the United States.
Currently, the application is compatible with mobile devices that work with the following operating systems.
- Android 5.0 or higher version
- iOS 9.0 or higher version
- Firm OS 3.0 or higher version
This application can be downloaded from the application store that corresponds to each platform. That is, Android users must access the Play Store, iOS users to the App Store, and Fire OS users from the Amazon Appstore.
Also mention that the official website can be accessed from web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Microsoft Edge on the WiFi-enabled computer. Clarify, however, that at this time the calls and messages from Alexa to Alexa are only available with the Alexa App on compatible Android and iOS smartphones.
Once the application is installed on the mobile device, the home screen shows the user their activity with Alexa.
From the Home menu, descriptions of all recent interactions with Alexa can be viewed. In addition, in the “Conversations” menu , it is possible to access and manage calls and messages conversations from Alexa to Alexa.
The Play Now menu meanwhile, allows you to view and control the playback of music and different media, showing what is in the playback queue and also with the possibility of viewing a history of the music that has been played.
The Music, Video & Books section allows you to find songs, stations, programs, videos, as well as e-books for Kindle and in the “Lists” section, users can view and manage their purchases, as well as their to-do list.
In the case of Smart Home, this section allows you to manage all those smart home devices that are linked to Alexa.
Finally and perhaps one of the most important sections in this application is “Things to Try”, which is basically a section where you can find a list of example sentences that can be said to Alexa to perform the different skills.