Most people barely know what their Amazon Echo can do — impress your family with these tricks

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Most people barely know what their Amazon Echo can do — impress your family with these tricks

  • You can do a lot with the Amazon Echo, but sometimes you just need to know where to look.
  • With these Amazon Echo tips and tricks, you'll learn how to book an Uber, shop, set reminders, set custom routines, call people and more.
  • If you have multiple Echos, you can even use them as an in-home intercom.
Amazon unveils a new version of the Echo Dot at an event on Sept. 20, 2018.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Amazon unveils a new version of the Echo Dot at an event on Sept. 20, 2018.

I have a few tips and tricks to help you get started with a new Amazon Echo, in case you bought one during Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

The Echo can do a lot right out of the box, like tell you the weather or sports scores. But you can also use your Echo to call people, order things on Amazon and more.

Before we get started, make sure you have the Amazon Alexa app for iPhone or Android. You'll be using that app to take advantage of some of the tricks in this guide.

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you going.

Call people with Echo

You can use the Amazon Echo to call phone numbers or anyone with an Amazon Echo. To call a phone number, you'll first want to make sure that person is in your Alexa address book. To check:

  • Open the Amazon app
  • Tap the menu button then tap "Contacts."

Once you've confirmed someone is in your address book you can call them by asking Alexa to call a specific person's phone or Echo. Here are the commands to try. (I put my own name in, but swap it out for who you're trying to call):

  • "Call Todd Haselton's Mobile."
  • Or you can call your contact's Echo by saying "Call Todd Haselton's Echo."

Send voice messages

You can send voice messages to friends or family with an Echo too. It's kind of like leaving a voicemail, but your friends will get an alert on their Echo that they have a new voice message. Then, when they see the alert, they can ask their Echo to play it. To send a voice message:

  • Say "Alexa, send a voice message to Todd Haselton."
  • Speak your message.
  • Alexa will confirm you want to send the message.
  • Say "Yes."
  • If you've received a message, say "Alexa, listen to my messages."

Use your Echo as an in-home intercom

If you have multiple Echos around your house, you can use them as an in-home intercom system. You might want to do this if you want to call the kids down to dinner, for example. Here's how to do that:

  • Say "Alexa make an announcement."
  • Speak your announcement by saying something like "Hey everyone, dinner's ready!"
  • Alexa will make an announcement to all of the Echos in your house with the message you spoke.

Book an Uber or Lyft with your Echo

If you're at home and want to get a ride somewhere, you can ask Alexa to get you an Uber or a Lyft. You need to install either the Uber or Lyft skill first. Here's how to book a ride with Echo.

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top-left of the app.
  • Tap "Skills & Games."
  • Search for Uber or Lyft.
  • Tap Enable Skill and link your Lyft or Uber account.
  • Now ask Lyft or Uber for a ride by speaking "Alexa, ask Lyft for a ride" or "Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride."
  • Alexa will tell you how far the nearest Lyft driver or Uber driver is. You can then confirm you'd like a ride.

Order something from Amazon by voice

You can use your Echo to order goods from Amazon. Sometimes, like during Black Friday, Amazon even offers exclusive deals through the Echo. To order stuff from Alexa:

  • Say something like, "Alexa order soap."
  • Alexa will begin to list items that you might be interested in, including products from previous orders, and the price. Say "yes" to confirm you'd like to buy that item, or "no" to hear another item Alexa recommends. Tell Alexa to stop if you don't want to hear more recommendations.
  • You can also order specific goods by speaking something like "Alexa, order me an Amazon Echo Plus." Alexa will confirm the price before you decide to buy it or not.

Get a "flash briefing" of news you care about

You can get a flash briefing from certain news sites you follow, including CNBC, the AP, BBC and more. Customize your Flash Briefing by doing this:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top-left of the screen.
  • Choose "Settings."
  • Tap "Flash Briefing."
  • Toggle the news sites you want to hear news from and tap "+" to add new sources.
  • Now, say, "Alexa play my flash briefing."
  • Alexa will give you the highlight news from the sources you've picked.

Play shows on your Amazon Fire TV

If you own a Fire TV, you can connect your Echo to the Fire TV so that you can ask Alexa to play specific shows or movies. You don't even have to touch the remote.

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left of the page.
  • Tap "Settings."
  • Choose "TV & Video."
  • Tap the + button next to Fire TV.
  • Tap "Manage Devices."
  • Choose "Link another device."
  • Choose the Fire TV in your house you'd like to link your Echo with.
  • Tap "Continue."
  • Choose the Alexa devices to link the Fire TV with. You can select multiple Echos.
  • Tap "Link Devices."
  • Now speak a command like, "Play Man in the High Castle on Fire TV."

Create a Routine

Amazon recently launched a new Alexa featured called "Routines." When you speak a certain preset command, like "Alexa, good morning," you can set Alexa to perform certain actions, like read you the weather, start playing music and tell you how long it will take you to get to work. Here's how to create a custom morning routine, but you can change any of these steps to make something else, too.

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top-left of the app.
  • Tap "Routines."
  • Tap the top button that says "When this happens."
  • Choose "Voice."
  • Enter the phrase "Good morning."
  • Tap "Save."
  • Now choose "Add action."
  • Tap "Weather."
  • Tap "Add."
  • Now tap "Add action"
  • Tap "Traffic."
  • Now tap "Add action" again.
  • Tap "Music."
  • Enter in an artist, like Bruce Springsteen.
  • Choose your music provider, such as Spotify.
  • Tap Next.
  • Tap "Create."

Now, when you say "Alexa, good morning." Alexa will tell you the local weather, how long it will take to get to work on your commute, and will then start playing Bruce Springsteen. (Note: if you haven't set up your commute in the Alexa app yet, you can do this by going to settings > traffic.)

Get a sports update for your favorite teams

Alexa can give you a quick briefing on your favorite teams. First, you need to tell it the teams you follow. To do this:

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top-left.
  • Tap Settings.
  • Select "Sports."
  • Tap Add a Team."
  • Search for your favorite team.
  • Tap "Save."
  • Repeat until you've added all of the teams you follow.
  • Now, speak "Alexa, what's my sports update?"

Alexa will read off the latest scores and upcoming games for each of the teams you follow.

Set a reminder

You can ask Alexa to remind you to do things, too.

  • Say "Alexa, remind me to get candied yams," or whatever you need a reminder for.
  • Alexa will ask when it should remind you. Say something like "Today at 3 p.m."
  • Alexa will confirm that it will remind you at the pre-set time.
  • You can view, edit or add reminders in the Alexa app by tapping the menu button and selecting "Reminders & Alarms."

Set multiple timers

Alexa can be really useful in the kitchen, particularly if you want to set multiple timers at once. Maybe you need to set the oven to one timer and then create a second timer for something you have cooling in the fridge. To set multiple timers:

  • Say, Alexa set an oven timer for 30 minutes.
  • Then speak another timer, like, "Set a fridge timer for 1 hour."
  • You can check in a timer by saying "Alexa, what's the oven timer?" Or "Alexa, what's the fridge timer?"
  • Alexa will alert you when the specific timer has ended.

Play music in different rooms at the same time

If you have multiple Echos around the house, you can link them up to play music at the same time in different rooms. I have a "downstairs" group for my Echos, for example, where I have my living room, dining room and kitchen all play the same music. To do this:

Open the Alexa app on your phone.

  • Tap Devices icon on the bottom-right. It looks like a little house.
  • Tap the + button on the top-right.
  • Tap "Add Multi-Room Music speakers."
  • Create a group name, such as "Downstairs."
  • Choose the Echos you want to include in the group, then tap "Save."

Now, you can speak something like "Alexa, play Beethoven downstairs," and Alexa will play music on the speakers in that group.

More

I think we've covered a lot here, but really that's just a taste of what you can do with an Amazon Echo in your home. You can dig deeper into the steps above to discover more of what you can do with an Echo. And, if you have an Echo Plus, you can even use the "Devices" section to add smart home gadgets, like lights, that you can control with Alexa.

Get stock quotes and the latest business news from Alexa. Just say "Alexa, ask CNBC for business news" or learn more here.