This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the rearview, and Christmas quickly approaching, you may find yourself in possession of a new Amazon Echo device. Whether you’re gifting yourself or someone else, if you do decide to pull the trigger, there are a few important things you should know for when you receive your package and pull your new Echo device out of the box.
You’re probably interested in using Alexa to play your favorite album on Spotify or even set an alarm, but there is so much more to your Amazon Echo. For example, Alexa can learn who it’s talking to, order supplies for around the house, turn on your lights and even act as a home security camera. Not to mention, you can make calls and send texts using the Echo speaker — or drop in on someone else’s speaker (with their permission, of course).
Right out of the box, Alexa won’t tell you how to do these things, but we’ve got you covered. Read on for essential tips about your Amazon Echo that you’ll need to know.
1. Find a good spot for your Echo in the house
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The first thing you’ll do when you’ve unboxed your new Amazon Echo is to plug it in. And when you only have one Echo speaker, you don’t want to just plop it down anywhere in the house — in fact, there are four places you should never place your device. You should make sure it’s in a central spot where your voice can carry from most rooms, like in the kitchen or living room. (Here are the four best uses for an Amazon Echo in every room of your house.)
2. Get the basic stuff taken care of first
Now that you’ve got your Echo plugged in and set up, it’s time to learn the basics. This includes downloading the Alexa app and setting up your location so you’ll have an accurate weather forecast.
We also recommend that you take the time from the beginning to create a voice profile for everyone who lives in the house. While you can set this up at any time, Alexa being able to recognize different people’s voices will give everyone in your household a personalized experience. For example, when Alexa recognizes your voice, it’ll play the music and news you like to listen to and if you want to call or message someone it’ll consult your address book.
You may also want to set up voice purchasing so you can quickly order an item you often buy, like paper towels. To do this, you’ll also need to enable 1-Click ordering in the settings app. Remember to set up a password so that only you can make purchases this way. You can find this in Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchasing.
3. Use voice commands to get stuff done
Every action you want Alexa to take will require a voice command. For example, turning on music, controlling the volume of the smart speaker and creating lists or reminders. You’ll just say something like, “Alexa, turn the volume down,” or, “Alexa, add coffee to my shopping list.”
You can also communicate with Alexa through textsinstead of speaking. Just open the Alexa app and tap the Keyboard button in the top left corner.
Don’t want your wake word to be Alexa? You can change it to Echo, Computer, Amazon, Ziggy or Hey, Disney. Just say, “Alexa, change the wake word,” and make your choice.
Read more: All Amazon Echo Wake Words That Aren’t Alexa – and What They Do
4. Control your smart home devices from your Echo speaker
Wishing you could arrive home at night with the lights already on? If you’ve got smart lights, smart plugs or switches, you can control them using the Alexa app so that you never have to trip going up the front porch stairs again.
Other devices you can control include smart locks (in case you forget to lock your door before leaving, say), thermostats, robot vacuums and so much more.
5. Call, text and drop in on your friends using Alexa
Lost your phone in the house again? No worries — you don’t need it, because Alexa can make calls and send texts for you from a compatible device. Just say something like, “Alexa, call Mom,” or, “Alexa, text Katie.” The contacts have to be in your address book for this to work.
You can also use your Echo speaker to drop in on friends and family who have added you as an accepted contact. To do so, just say something like, “Alexa, drop in on Dad.”
Now that we’ve got the essentials out of the way, here are five surprising things you didn’t know your Amazon Echo could dothe 10 weirdest things Amazon Echo can do
and how to turn your Fire TV into a larger Amazon Echo Show.