This article has been updated to include more comprehensive information about Alexa’s functionalities, wake words, and compatibility, as well as the latest updates from Amazon. We strive to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to our readers.

What is Alexa? Smart speakers have exploded in popularity in recent years. This fact has opened up countless new possibilities for consumers and businesses alike. But how can you get the most out of Alexa? Read on for our essential overview!

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What is Alexa?

Alexa, much like Apple’s Siri, is Amazon’s innovative virtual voice assistant. Utilizing Alexa, available on Amazon Echo devices or Alexa-enabled speakers, is straightforward. By simply saying “Alexa,” followed by your command or query, the assistant is ready to assist you. In addition to “Alexa,” you can also activate your device using alternate wake words, including “Echo,” “Amazon,” “Computer,” and the newly added “Ziggy.”

Alexa can be used with an Amazon Echo device or an Alexa-enabled speaker, and by simply saying “Alexa”, it can be instantly alerted that you are ready to use your voice to ask a question or make an instruction.

Why the name Alexa?

Why the name Alexa? Amazon’s voice assistant was given the name Alexa for two different reasons, according to Amazon executive David Limp.

One of the reasons the name Alexa was chosen is because of how it sounds. Alexa has the long “X” sound, which makes it a distinct name that is difficult to be mistaken with other names. A voice recognition device with a common name means it will often be activated by accident.

A Brief History of Alexa

Alexa was first introduced in 2014 as Amazon’s first smart speaker, the Amazon Echo. The Alexa virtual assistant was named after the Library of Alexandria and was originally created by Amazon’s Lab126 division. Alexa was designed to be a conversational AI that could interact with users through voice commands.

After initial success with the Amazon Echo, Alexa was added to various third-party devices through manufacturer partnerships. This allowed Alexa to expand to smart home devices, cars, headphones and more.

In 2016, Amazon opened up Alexa to third-party developers by releasing the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), allowing developers to build skills and voice apps for Alexa. This exponentially expanded Alexa’s capabilities, with tens of thousands of skills now available.

Over the years, Amazon has continued releasing new Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Auto, Echo Buds and others. Alexa is now integrated into Amazon’s Fire TV, Fire Tablets, AmazonBasics Microwave and more.

Comparing Alexa to Other Virtual Assistants, Alexa faces competition from other major virtual assistants, including Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Samsung’s Bixby. Here is how Alexa compares:

FeatureAlexaGoogle AssistantSiriBixby
PlatformsAmazon devices, Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxAndroid, iOS, ChromeOS, Windows, KaiOSApple devices (iOS, MacOS, watchOS, tvOS)Samsung Galaxy smartphones, smart TVs, SmartThings devices
Smart home controlCompatible with most smart devicesCompatible with Google Nest and many third-party devicesHomeKit ecosystemSamsung SmartThings ecosystem
Third-party integrationsOver 100,000 skills availableActions on Google platformMore limited integrationsBixby Capsules platform
Voice recognitionVery accurateVery accurateGood accuracy on Apple devicesBest on Samsung devices
Natural language understandingSophisticated NLU with continuous improvementsState-of-the-art NLU from GoogleLacks sophistication compared to Alexa and Google AssistantSolid NLU for core tasks
Query capabilitiesKnowledge graph gives good general knowledgeKnowledge graph provides excellent breadth of knowledgeLimited knowledge beyond core domainsDecent general knowledge
PersonalizationMultiple user profiles, voice ID, routines and skills preferencesSingle user account integration with preferencesLimited personalization and contextual awarenessUser accounts with some preferences
Pros and Cons of the Different Voice Tools

As the table shows, Alexa excels at smart home control and third-party integrations due to the open Alexa Skills platform. Google Assistant has the edge in natural language capabilities and search query breadth. Siri is limited mostly to Apple’s ecosystem. Overall, Alexa remains a top choice for its versatility, voice recognition and smart home skills.

What Can Alexa Do?

Alexa’s functionality extends from personal assistance to entertainment and smart home management. Its features include calling and messaging, controlling smart home devices, shopping assistance, integration with Fire TV for media control, and various in-car features. Alexa’s growing skill set, enriched by third-party integrations, offers a wide array of functionalities across various domains, including education, health and fitness, and more.

What Can Alexa Do?

Let’s take a look at each.

Calling and Messaging

Alexa allows you to call and message contacts on your phone by using your voice. To set up this feature, you need to download the Alexa app on your smartphone and then link your phone number to the app to gain full access.

Full access includes hands-free phone calls and the text messaging feature. To make a phone call using Alexa, use the command, “Alexa, call (name of the person you want to call).” A few calling commands include, but are not limited to:

  • “Alexa, drop the call.” or “Alexa, hang up the call.”
  • “Alexa, call 555-555.”
  • “Alexa, drop in on Sharon.”

Drop-in is a popular and new feature of the Alexa device that allows you to communicate with other people who have Alexa, Echo Show, Echo, and Echo Dot.

The drop-in feature also works with other Amazon Alexa devices in your home. This drop-in feature functions the same way as an intercom system.

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Smart Home

Alexa also works with smart home devices. A smart home is one that has electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone, computer or other electronic devices. All smart home devices must be paired with the Alexa device for commands to work.

Once paired, all the devices will be accessible by using Alexa commands. You can use Alexa to dim the lights in your home, turn lights on or off, control smart light bulbs, and much more. Smart home commands you can use include:

  • Alexa, turn off the lights.
  • Alexa, dim the lights.
  • Alexa, lock the doors.
  • Alexa set the temperature to 72 degrees.


Shopping gets a little easier with Alexa. One-click purchase information can be used with Alexa to re-order items you use, but only if you’re a Prime member, and make sure you have set up your one-click payment method.

You can also track your order without logging in to check the shipping status of an order. Alexa can help with making and editing shopping lists. Shopping commands you can use include:

  • “Alexa, add yoghurt to the shopping list.”
  • “Alexa, buy a universal remote.”
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Fire TV

If you have ever wanted a voice remote, Alexa can make this happen!

If you have an Echo device, Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, you can set up voice commands to allow you to control these devices.

Once paired, Alexa can power devices on and off, and control the volume and playback options with your voice. Alexa can also search for TV shows and movies. Voice commands you can use include:

  • “Alexa, show movies that feature Denzel Washington.”
  • “Alexa, rewind on Fire TV.
  • “Alexa, search for Titanic on Fire TV.”


Although the Echo Spot and Echo Show are the only display devices, you can grant Alexa access to these devices. These devices enhance Alexa’s features and offer a variety of unique features of their own.

In addition to video calls, the Echo Spot and Echo Show can make drop-in and regular calls. Dropping in on someone who has either one of these devices gives you and the other person access to each other’s video feed.

Video feeds can also be shared on other video-capable devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Aside from sharing videos, you can also stream them. The Echo Show and Echo Spot devices have video streaming capability.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can play videos, turning these devices into a mini movie theatre. Echo Spot and Echo Show devices can help with recipes and provide current news reports. Voice commands you can use include:

  • “Alexa, drop in on the computer room.”
  • “Alexa, play Kitchen Nightmares from Prime Video.”
  • “Alexa, show me the hallway.”

Car Features

Alexa can control your vehicle, but this depends on the make of the car you have. Alexa can control the temperature in your car and offers a lot of other different features, such as, telling you how much fuel is in your car. Alexa is currently compatible with brands including:

Voice commands you can use with your car include:

  • “Alexa, lock the doors.”
  • “Alexa, turn on the parking lights.”
  • “Alexa, turn on the engine.”

Integration with Ring Camera

Alexa’s capabilities extend significantly in the realm of home security, particularly through its integration with Ring cameras. This synergy between Alexa and Ring devices offers users an enhanced level of convenience and security in monitoring their homes.

Using Alexa with Ring Cameras:

  1. Voice Commands for Security Control:
    • Users can employ simple voice commands to control their Ring cameras, such as enabling live views or checking recent motion alerts.
    • Example commands include: “Alexa, show the front door camera” or “Alexa, talk to the person at the front door.”
  2. Real-Time Alerts and Communication:
    • Alexa can provide real-time alerts from Ring cameras when motion is detected, keeping homeowners informed and vigilant.
    • Through compatible devices like Echo Show or Echo Spot, users can communicate directly with whoever is at their door, adding a layer of safety and interaction.
  3. Seamless Home Integration:
    • The integration of Ring cameras with Alexa fits seamlessly into the broader smart home ecosystem, allowing users to have a unified command center for all their devices.
    • This integration enhances the smart home experience, making security checks and surveillance more accessible and user-friendly.
  4. Automated Routines and Customization:
    • Users can set up automated routines with Alexa that include Ring cameras, like turning on lights when motion is detected.
    • Customization options offer flexibility and control, enabling users to tailor their home security to their specific needs.

As technology continues to advance, the collaboration between Alexa and Ring promises to evolve, offering more sophisticated and intuitive features. This partnership symbolizes Amazon’s commitment to integrating their devices, creating a more connected and secure home environment.

What to Ask Alexa?

You can ask Alexa many different questions, including questions about Santa Claus! You can ask Alexa questions that pertain to current events in the news, weather forecasts, questions about your car, questions about sports, and much more.

Aside from asking Alexa questions, this device also understands voice commands, such as:

  • “Alexa set an alarm for 6:30 AM.”
  • “Alexa, call Sharon.”

What Can’t Alexa do?

Alexa has a variety of features that are pretty awesome, such as ordering pizza, getting an Uber, playing music, and answering questions, but outside of all of this greatness, Alexa is still missing some features. Alexa does not offer:

  • Multi-language support
  • Smartphone extension
  • Portable wireless charging
  • Facial recognition
  • Chatbox
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What Is Echo Dot?

cho Dot, Amazon’s compact voice control device, facilitates a range of actions like making phone calls, sending messages, playing music, and controlling numerous smart home gadgets. The Echo Dot can make phone calls, send and receive messages, play music, and control many smart home devices, such as eiling fans, thermostats, door locks, garage doors, and much more. This device can also play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and more.

Do You Have to Have A Prime Account to Use Echo Dot?

A Prime account is not necessary to use Echo Dot, but it does enhance the experience with additional benefits like access to a vast music library. Non-Prime members can send their music to the Amazon cloud and use the Echo device as a playback option.

Alexa Privacy and Security

As a voice-based system, Alexa has raised some privacy concerns over the years. Here are some key considerations:

  • Alexa devices are always listening for the wake word. Amazon claims recordings are only kept until processed.
  • Users can review voice recordings and delete them through the Alexa app.
  • Alexa works best when sharing location and account info, but users can limit sharing.
  • Skills allow third-party access after enabling permission. Review permissions carefully.
  • Set up voice purchasing locks to prevent unwanted orders.
  • Alexa Guard can detect break-ins but also share audio clips.
  • Regularly change the wake word and PIN to improve security.
  • Beware of Alexa “spy” skills that claim offensive capabilities.

While Amazon claims protecting customer privacy is a priority, many privacy advocates remain sceptical. Users can and should review and delete voice recordings and manage skill permissions to ensure privacy and security. Regular updates and modifications to wake words and PINs enhance the security of the device.

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Tips for Using Alexa

Here are some top tips for getting the most from your Alexa-enabled devices:

  • Learn the main Alexa commands like “Alexa, play…”, “Alexa, what time is it?”, “Alexa, add to my shopping list” etc.
  • Discover and enable useful skills like news, smart home control, fitness tracking, meditation and more. Popular skills include Sky News, Fitbit, Uber, andAllocetra Health Healthcare Assistant.
  • Set up routines to automate common tasks like playing music and news in the morning.
  • Make voice calls and send messages to other Alexa device owners.
  • Customize Alexa’s name if you don’t like saying “Alexa”.
  • Shop Amazon easily by setting up voice profiles and voice purchasing preferences.
  • Use the Alexa app to manage skills, routines, music and manage your Alexa devices.
  • Add Amazon Echo speakers to different rooms for whole-home audio streaming via multi-room music.
  • Use the Alexa Guard feature to detect home break-ins and activity when away.
  • Set up compatible smart home devices like lights, thermostats, cameras and appliances to control with Alexa.
  • Limit accidental Alexa activations by pressing the mic-off button on devices.

By mastering these tips, Alexa can become an indispensable voice-powered assistant in your daily life.

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Alexa FAQ

Stay informed with the latest updates and enhancements in Alexa’s capabilities. The recent launch of the new Alexa Echo Dot (5th Gen) and the Alexa Voice Remote Pro signifies Amazon’s continuous effort to improve user experience.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Alexa:

What devices work with Alexa?

Alexa works on Amazon’s own devices like the Echo smart speakers, Fire TV, Fire tablets, Amazon Smart Oven and more. It is also available on many third party devices like smart speakers and displays from Bose, Sonos and Facebook. Alexa can be accessed through the Amazon shopping app on iOS or Android and through the Alexa app.

How accurate is Alexa’s voice recognition?

Alexa’s voice recognition uses AI and machine learning to become more accurate over time. It continuously trains on voice samples to improve. Accuracy is very high on Echo devices and fairly high on third party devices. Accuracy can decrease with background noise.

Can Alexa understand the context and have conversations?

Alexa’s conversational abilities are somewhat limited. While it can answer follow-up questions based on recent context, its ability to have long free-flowing conversations is restricted compared to human capabilities. But its conversational skills are continuously evolving.

Is Alexa available in other languages besides English?

Yes, Alexa now supports several other languages, including Spanish, German, French, Italian, Hindi and Japanese. It also recognizes multi-lingual commands. More language support is being added over time.

Can I customize my Alexa wake word?

Yes, you can change the default wake words of “Alexa”, “Echo”, “Computer” and “Amazon” to your own chosen wake word for supported devices in the Alexa app settings or web interface. This adds personalization.

Does Alexa have a personality?

Not exactly. Alexa has some programmed witty responses and jokes, but at its core, it has no subjective opinions or sense of self. The personality is designed to be helpful, harmless and honest. But Alexa skills can simulate personality.

How much does Alexa cost? The cost of Alexa depends on the devices that you choose to use it with. For example, the Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) costs $49.99, while the Amazon Echo Show 15 costs $249.99.

Is Alexa safe to use?

Alexa is generally safe to use, but there are some privacy concerns about how Amazon uses the data that it collects from Alexa users. You can take steps to protect your privacy by adjusting the privacy settings in the Alexa app.

How do I protect my privacy when using Alexa?

You can protect your privacy when using Alexa by adjusting the privacy settings in the Alexa app. For example, you can disable the “Voice Recording History” setting to prevent Amazon from storing your voice recordings. You can also disable the “Personalized Recommendations” setting to prevent Amazon from using your data to tailor its recommendations to you.

Can I use Alexa without an internet connection?

You can use Alexa to control several smart home devices without an internet connection. However, to use most of Alexa’s features, you will need an internet connection.

What are some of the most popular Alexa skills?

Some of the most popular Alexa skills include:

* Spotify
* Pandora
* iHeartRadio
* Apple Music
* Audible
* Tuya Smart
* Kasa Smart
* Philips Hue
* SmartThings
* Ecobee
* Nest

How do I troubleshoot problems with Alexa? If you are having problems with Alexa, you can try the following:

* Check your internet connection to make sure that it is working properly.
* Restart your Alexa device.
* Update the Alexa app on your phone or tablet.
* Check the Alexa help pages for troubleshooting tips.
* Contact Amazon customer support for assistance.

Latest Alexa News and Updates

  • Amazon recently launched the new Alexa Echo Dot (5th Gen), which is more compact and affordable than previous models.
  • Amazon also recently launched the new Alexa Voice Remote Pro, which features a backlit design, dedicated buttons for launching apps and skills, and a built-in microphone for voice control.
  • Amazon is also working on a new Alexa-powered home robot called Astro. Astro is expected to be released in 2023 and will be able to perform a variety of tasks, such as delivering messages, patrolling the home for security threats, and providing companionship.

Different Ways to Use Alexa

  • Alexa can be used to control a wide range of smart home devices, including lights, thermostats, locks, and security cameras.
  • Alexa can also be used to play music, get news and weather updates, set alarms and timers, and more.
  • Alexa can also be used to get help with tasks such as shopping, cooking, and learning new things.

Pros and Cons of Using Alexa


While Alexa offers convenience and enhanced productivity, it requires an internet connection and raises some privacy concerns. However, the benefits often outweigh these considerations, making Alexa a valuable addition to modern living.

  • Alexa is convenient and easy to use.
  • Alexa can help you to save time and be more productive.
  • Alexa can make your home more secure and comfortable.
  • Alexa can help you to learn new things and stay entertained.


  • Alexa requires an internet connection to work.
  • Alexa can be expensive, depending on the devices that you choose to use it with.
  • Alexa can be intrusive, as it is constantly listening for voice commands.
  • There are privacy concerns about how Amazon uses the data that it collects from Alexa users.

Future of Alexa

  • Amazon is constantly developing new features and capabilities for Alexa.
  • Amazon is also working to make Alexa more accessible and affordable for everyone.
  • In the future, Alexa is expected to become an even more integral part of our daily lives.
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