We've written plenty on Amazon Echo and how updates to Alexa are continuing to improve the experience. With the launch of the new Echo Dot, we've been playing with Alexa more than ever, teaching her new skills and learning just how useful she can be as our personal home assistant.
Amazon's open API means more and more companies are partnering up, helping Alexa to be more integrated than ever.
Essential reading: Amazon Echo Dot review
That means the list of skills has been steadily growing too, and Alexa feels so much more functional than she did a year ago. Examples of skills range from exercise apps to trivia, news updates from your favourite sources, and more ways than ever to control your smart home appliances.
If you're looking to level up your Alexa, read on for our favourite
Amazon Echo skills for connected tech
You can tell Alexa to turn up or down the thermostat simply by downloading this skill. You'll be able to say things like "Alexa, change the Hallway to 68 degrees" or "Alexa, raise the bedroom by four degrees" without having to touch a thing.
Probably one of nicer, and more affordable smart lightbulbs, LifX's line doesn't need a hub to use with Alexa – it only needs the skill to be downloaded, and of course, your voice to tell Alexa to turn on and off the bulb.
Finally, Philipe Hue and Alexa are playing nicely, meaning you can say things like "Alexa, dim the living room lights to 20%" from the comfort of your favourite chair. The only problem is that she can't change the colours of the bulb - we hope that changes soon.
You'll need a hub and the compatible devices for this one to work, but it syncs up really well making Alexa the perfect smart home controller.
August Smart Lock
If you have an August Lock and Connect on hand, and installed, just head into the skills menu of your Alexa app and download August Home. Link up the accounts and you should be set to control your locks with the sound of your voice.
Head to your Skills and sync up your Fitbit by enabling it to share information. After that, preface your questions by saying, "Alexa, ask Fitbit…" about your sleep, steps, calories, stairs climbed and more, so you can find out how active you've been by the most lazy means possible.
How to add skills manually: Amazon Echo tips and tricks
Amazon Echo exercise and health skills
This one comes with a timer and cycles between different reps for quick exercise bursts. The latest version also keeps track of your exercises and resumes where you've left off. If you're not sure about what to do, the companion app also provides images and directions for the various reps.
Push Up Century Club
Ever want to increase your ability to do push ups? Try the Push Up Century Club skill with Alexa. Based on your current level, Alexa will determine which set of reps you should start with. Then she'll guide you through a workout complete with 30-second breaks in between.
This skill has Alexa guiding you through a beginner's pilates class where you'll just need the Echo and a mat. From there, it will take about 20-30 minutes to complete.
For those who want to meditate and gain a clear mind, try this skill on for size. It's really just relaxing sounds that play for a minute, but hey, maybe that's all you need to recharge.
Amazon Echo game skills
Every day, you can ask Alexa to play this and she'll change up the categories. Though there are only six questions asked, it's still a fun little game to play.
You'll need to download bingo cards for this game if you don't already have them, but having Alexa on hand to call out numbers is quite useful and adds to that "authentic bingo hall" experience.
Again for the older crowd, Drinkmaster is a fun skill for parties. There are three games you can play: Circle Of Death, Never Have I Ever and Most Likely. To start simply say "Alexa, Start DrinkMaster". Alexa will walk you through the rest.
If you haven't tried Akinator before, it's a game where a cartoon geniue tries to guess what you're thinking of by asking a series of questions - with scarily accuate results. And now it works with Alexa!
Amazon Echo travel skills
Sync your Uber and/or Lyft account through the Amazon Alexa app to allow access. From there, you can ask Alexa to use the rideshare app. Just make sure your location is right so the driver can find you. You can also ask Alexa for arrival statuses, cancel ride requests and for Lyft, even rate drivers.
Airport Security Wait Times
Airport security checkpoints are a pain if you're rushing to catch a flight, but this Alexa skill will keep you updated on the latest. Obviously times change a fair bit throughout the day, but if you're wondering if you can get away with an extra half hour before leaving for the airport, it might be best to check with Alexa first.
"Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $200" - that's the essence of what Kayak is about. You can also ask it for flight costs between specific places, and Alexa will scan the skies for the best deals.
Other useful skills we like
Easily one of our favourite skills. The Bartender lets you ask Alexa how to make a cocktail, responding with the exact ingredients required and how they should be mixed. If your Echo is in the kitchen or by the bar, it would be a sin not to have this skill installed.
Similar to the above, but this one's all about food, helping you find the ingredients for thousands of dishes. Also try out the Jamie Oliver skill to find more recipes via voice commands.
Share the Facts
The Echo has automatically received a new election-focused skill that lets Alexa keep you updated on the presidential race - ask her things like "Alexa, who's winning in the presidential polls?" for an answer. However, there's another you can download called Share the Facts, letting you fact-check the claims made by candidates, like ""Alexa, ask the fact-checkers is it true that 300,000 Floridians have lost their health insurance because of Obamacare?" Obviously after 8 November this skill will be a bit redundant.
A must for any guitar player. Alexa will sound out each note in turn, helping you to tune your strings. It's a simple skill, but as any musician will attest, a mighty useful one.
That's right, your wildest dreams have come true: Alexa can order your favourite pizza with just a simple command thanks to Domino's Echo skill. It's a bit limited in functionality, but you'll be able to get Alexa to order your pre-set 'Easy Order' by request, as well as track it when it's on its way.
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