Top 3 Amazon Echo Features

Amazon Echo Dot

If you’re anything like me, you just got an Amazon Echo and are wondering what to do with it.  While I’ve been going back and forth between the Echo and Google Home, an unexpected gift put me down the Echo direction and I’m really happy it did.

Amazon Echo Dot

When I first got it, the play features got old quick.  I wanted to know what I could actually do with it, and that’s what I’m going to post here.  I’ll start with what I consider are the top 3 uses of the Amazon Echo.  There are plenty more, but these are the best.

This is probably the #1 use in my house.

Alexa, play children’s songs

Alexa, play relaxing music

Alexa, play New Kids On The Block

We are constantly playing music through the Echo.  One thing I would recommend is finding a dedicated speaker for it.  We have the Echo dot and while it has a decent on-board speaker, it’s much louder when it has an actual speaker.  Another important thing to note there is the dedicated part.  If you are sharing inputs with something else and you have to constantly switch back and forth, you will miss what Alexa’s responses are and it won’t be as helpful.

The other thing I’ve found is Amazon’s Prime Music works a lot better than Spotify.  We consistently got the artists and songs we wanted with Amazon, whereas Spotify would be, for lack of a better term, spotty.

Home Automation

This is far and away my favorite feature of Alexa.  I will be spending a lot of time talking about and reviewing the different home automation devices I use.  Some work better than others, some are easier to set up and some just plain suck.  That being said, Alexa has changed how we interact with our home.

Alexa, turn Sunroom Lights on

Alexa, turn Backyard Lights off

I know it seems silly, but being able to not have to go to the switch to turn lights on and off just seems futuristic.  The seamless integration between Echo and the components I use makes this setup a breeze.

I’ve also hooked it up to my thermostat and sprinkler controller, so I can command them too.

Overall, this is my favorite feature of Echo.  It isn’t used as often as the music is, but it’s significantly more valuable.  If I had to pick one thing that you must do with your Echo to make it seem worth it, home automation is it.

Calendar and Lists

Last on my top 3 list is calendar and to-do list integration.  My wife and I can now more easily share our regular activities and things that need to be done.  The biggest one is calendar.

Alexa, add Grace’s doctor appointment for this Friday at 9 to my calendar

Every morning when I wake up, I can ask Alexa what I have for the day and she reads off my calendar.

The list interface from the phone could be better, but the voice interaction is spot on.

Alexa, add Rake Leaves to my to-do list

So there you have it.  There are certainly more features, but those are my top 3.  Let me know what you’ve found to be the most useful.

Read next: Understanding Home Automation Protocols


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