7 ways to make the Alexa speakers smarter


Thanks to Amazon‘s dedication to its assistant platform, Alexa, its line of smart speakers have gotten much smarter over the last three years. You can now buy just about anything from Amazon, call or message your family and change the color of your lights, all without reaching for your phone or lifting a finger.

Even with major updates and new hardware, however, Alexa still has trouble with many things. Fortunately, there are some things you can do right now to make Alexa smarter. Here are seven you can do right now.

Set up voice profiles

If you have trouble with Alexa understanding you or not waking when you say the wake word, you may need to do some voice training. This setting helps Alexa learn your voice.

Not only will Alexa know who is asking it questions or giving commands, with voice profiles set up, it will give personal responses with information from that user’s accounts, such as from their personal calendar or music tailored to their preferences. This means, if more than one person will be using an Alexa speaker, you will also need to create a household, which not only lets users share content libraries but also lets you create multiple voice profiles to get personalized results from Alexa.

To create a voice profile, open the Alexa app on Android or iOS and go to Settings. Near the bottom, you will see a setting called Your Voice. Follow the on-screen prompts and read all the phrases to the Alexa speaker, then tap Complete. Give Alexa a few minutes to finish learning your voice.

Set your location

It may seem obvious, but giving Alexa your correct address (and making sure to update it if you move) is vital for getting accurate information, such as morning commute traffic and weather forecasts or updates.

To set your location for each speaker, open the Alexa app and go to Settings. Select one of the speakers under Devices and enter your address beside Device location.

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Set a default music service

For music and radio, Alexa speakers are compatible with several music streaming services: Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM. Best of all, you don’t have to pick and choose which service to use with your speakers. You can connect all your accounts and pick which one you want to use on the fly by specifying which service you want to use. Say something like, “Alexa, play Shaky Graves on Pandora.”

Even better, you can set your favorite service as the default, so you don’t have to specify each time you listen to music. To do this, open the Alexa app on Android or iOS or go to alexa.amazon.com. Go to Settings > Music & Media. Click Choose default music services and click the radio button beside your preferred services to set them as default. Click Save when you’re finished to save your changes.

Turn on notifications

Alexa can now deliver notifications. For now, the feature is limited to package tracking notifications for items you purchase from Amazon. In the future, these notifications abilities will be available to third-party skills, as well.

When enabled, your Alexa speakers will play a notification sound and glow yellow when your packages are out for delivery and again when they’re delivered.

To make sure your shipping notifications are turned on, go to alexa.amazon.com and go to Settings > Notifications > Shopping Notifications and check that the toggle next to Delivery Notifications is on.

Connect your to-do account

Alexa is now compatible with several list and task manager services, such as Any.do, AnyList, Cozi Lists, Picniic and Todoist. When you connect one of your accounts with Alexa, your lists or to-dos will be two-way synced. For instance, tasks you create in Any.do will appear in your to-dos on Alexa, and to-dos created with Alexa will appear in your Any.do account.

To add a list or to-do account, in the Alexa app, go to Settings > Lists. Click Get Skill next to the account you want to add, click Enable, login to your account and authorize the connection.

Seek out new skills

One of Alexa’s biggest advantages over other assistants is its vast (and quickly growing) skill library. Skills are essentially third-party apps for Alexa speakers that can do anything from ordering Dominos pizza to getting airport security wait times.

Here are 40 of the most useful skills available today.

Some of our favorite skills are better replacements for things Alexa can already do. For instance, Big Sky is a much more in-depth weather service (that uses the Dark Sky API) than the native weather capacities of Alexa. AnyPod makes podcast listening a little better, since it lets you play specific episodes (not just the latest episode). And the Night Light skill turns your Echo speaker’s light ring into a night light.

When all else fails, use IFTTT

IFTTT, or If This Then That, has become a sort of saving grace for smart speaker owners, especially those trying to stitch together a smart home with devices that aren’t all compatible.

IFTTT helps break the language barrier between tons of online services and smart home devices, allowing them to play well together. Alexa, in particular, has quite a few triggers it can perform with IFTTT, and what you can do with it is virtually endless. Here are just a few examples:

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