When Amazon launched its Echo devices in India, I was one of the first tech enthusiasts to buy it. There were multiple reasons for me to grab the Echo Dot. First, the price was a steal. I got for roughly $40 (Rs 2600) combined with the initial discount of 30% which was offered by Amazon, and then I used Amazon pay to get another Rs 500 off. And second, my 8-year old son. He asks me a ton of questions every day, and hence, a smart assistant who can fetch him answers on the go looked fantastic.
That said, after I got it, I did a small research of my own, and found that most of the people were actually using Echo devices for music. Streaming music of your choice from Amazon Echo is addictive. It can stream music from Saavn, and Amazon Prime music in India across genres, artists, individual songs, and what not.
But then, there is more to Echo than just streaming music. In this post, I am going to talk about nine different things you can do with your Amazon Echo Devices:
1. Ask “Basic” Questions
Echo devices are powered by Amazon’s own digital assistant, Alexa. This is the primary reason I got the Echo Dot. After initial learnings, my son now keeps asking questions to Alexa and gets most of the answers. It’s not perfect but does the job. I have compared this to Google Assistant, and surely, Alexa has a long way to go, but she’s getting there.
There is another benefit my son is getting with Alexa. He has started to speak with more patience and higher clarity. Even though Alexa supports Indian English, it’s not perfect getting things clear, and then when a kid talks to an AI, it’s a different ball game altogether. I had to train him to speak clearly, to get his questions answered. Win-win!
2. Go Shopping
All the Echo devices are tied up with your Amazon Account, and with Voice Shopping is enabled by default. You can ask Alexa to search for products. Based on what you ask, Alexa gets you one top result, which also shows on the Alexa App of your phone. You can put it in the cart for later or order it right away.
Amazon has a feature called “One Click Shopping” which uses your already added payment method to order things instantly. If you enable it, Alexa can use it or Amazon Pay or choose ‘cash on delivery’ option if it’s available.
Also, Echo devices support multiple users globally. You can add multiple users, and then go shopping with their account. Unfortunately, voice profiles aren’t supported in India yet.
3. Listen to e-Books / Audio Books
If you have Kindle e-books which you have bought from Amazon, and if that supports audio, you can listen to them over your Echo device. Alexa reading the book can be a little robotic, but you still have a choice. You can also use audiobook service Audible, and play it. Both are tightly integrated and delivers a better experience.
4. Go Skills
Alexa is based on Plug & use theory. So let’s say if you are into Pizza delivery service, you can make a skill for Alexa which allows your customers to order pizza using voice. There are over 25,000+ skills for Alexa globally and around 11,000 skills now available for India at launch.
These skills range from utilities to booking cabs (both Uber and Ola are supported), finding new recipes, dictionaries, news, and what not. You can book an Uber, block a table at your favorite restaurant using Zomato, get daily news from your favorite news channel and so on.
While this is great, it’s also tedious. You will have to figure out which skills you want to use, enable it through the Alexa App, and start using it. However, once set, you should do be doing great using Alexa. Give it a try.
5. Use it as a Nightlight & Relaxing Music
Alexa has tons of skills that can turn on the light ring of Alexa. If you have an Echo Dot in your room, you can use one of those skills to have a beautiful, colorful pulse of low light or you can choose low volume sounds of Ocean, Crickets, Birds and other ambient sounds.
6. Reminders/ Alarms / To Do list
The name says it all. You can have an unlimited number of these things, and Alexa pings you back with a voice for those reminders and alarms. It’s very handy, and effective compared to having it on the phone. The reason it works is that it feels like someone is actually reminding you of things you need to do in person (Hi mom!)
ToDo List or Shopping list is impressive as well. Just ask Alexa to add stuff your list, and when you move out to shopping, you can see them on the phone. I use it every day. My wife keeps adding to the list, and while I am on the way, I know what to pick up. Of course, you can have multiple shopping lists too.
7. Routines or Schedules
If you repeat few things regularly, you can set up routines. This feature lets you trigger actions based on when you say something or at the scheduled time. You can start your daily dose of News Update, Ask Weather or regulate your smart home devices — at a specific time.
8. Use it on the go
If you have an Echo device, you can use it on the go. Like, maybe in your car or when you are out for a small picnic. You will have to make some arrangements though. First, you need to make sure to have a battery pack, and second, you will need to connect it to your mobile hotspot. I would not recommend you to carry Echo Plus because it’s relatively big, but then it’s the one with an awesome speaker!
9. Smart Home
Last (but not the least) on my list is setting up Smart Home using Alexa. There are a few OEMs who build the smart home solution in India including switches and lights. Although they are limited in India and expensive as well, if you indeed decide to turn your home into a smart home, Alexa can help you handle them all in one place.
These OEMs have built specific skills for Alexa. Once you have your smart devices in place, and skills enabled, Alexa will discover those devices and add them to your list. You can then turn them on or off using voice or create routines. Thes routines will make sure that Alexa turns them on or off when needed. In fact, Echo Home has an in-built hub, so it can directly discover most of the standard smart home devices automatically without the need to own a gateway hub.
Amazon Echo devices are much more than just a speaker which can stream music. There are many ways to use them, and I have listed nine which I use almost every day. Go ahead and try these, and let us know in the comments the way you are using it at your place.
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