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!..

What is Alexa?

Similar to Apple’s Siri, Alexa is the female virtual voice assistant from Amazon. 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 use your voice to ask a question or make an instruction. 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 the way 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 that has a common name means it will often be activated by accident. Other commands or “wake words” that can be used are “Echo” or “Amazon”.

What Can Alexa Do? What Can Alexa Do?

Alexa has a variety of general features but also has a lot of dedicated features, such as:
  • Calling and messaging,
  • Video,
  • Auto,
  • Education,
  • Food and beverage,
  • Health and fitness,
  • Kids.
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, 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 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.

Smart Home

Alexa also works with smart home devices. A smart home is one that has electronic devices that are able to be controlled remotely by phone, computer or other electronic devices. All smart home devices must be paired with the Alexa device in order 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 yogurt to the shopping list.”
  • “Alexa, buy a universal remote.”

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, 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 calls, as well as, 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 video, 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, which can turn these devices into a mini movie theater. 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 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.”

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 forecast, 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

What Is Echo Dot?

The Amazon Echo, often referred to as the Echo Dot, is the second generation Amazon device that features voice control. The Echo Dot can make phone calls, send and receive messages, play music, and control many smart home devices. This device can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and more. The Echo Dot can also control the lights in your home, as well as, ceiling fans, thermostats, door locks, garage doors, and much more.

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

No. You do not need to have an Amazon Prime account to use the Echo Dot, but it does make using the device a lot more convenient. Prime members can listen to all of their favorite tunes from many different artists. Non-Prime members can send their music to the Amazon cloud and use the Echo device as a playback option.

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