Ever since I bought fifteen Echo Dots, I have been on the lookout for more ways that I can lean on Alexa for help throughout the day. As with any voice assistant, there are areas in which I find Alexa lacking. One major disappointment that is always on my mind is how some skills do not support multi-room audio. Even with occasional letdowns like this, I am happy with my investment in the Alexa ecosystem and want to share some of tips and tricks that I have learned on my adventure.
7am: Good morning
Although the time that I wake up tends to fluctuate a bit in either direction, I have several Alexa routines set up between 7-8am that handle a plethora of tasks. The first of which is to toggle various lights on and off throughout my home.
The lights I turn on are in places that are sort of tricky to power up each day. One example includes our bedroom closet which has a unique switch that would toggle the light on/off when opening/closing the door. While this sounds great in theory, we took the door off of the closet so that raised some issues. We now use smart light bulbs in there that Alexa toggles on each morning.
Another example is my toggling outdoor lights off. These are controlled by smart dimmer switches that which I installed about a month ago. Turning these off saves energy and ensures that the bulbs inside last as long as possible.
7-8am: Tell me when it is 9am
My wife and I run a business and return any voicemails left at around 9am the following morning. To help me remember to return these calls, I simply ask Alexa to “let me know when it is 9am”. She replies quickly and confirms that she will do so. While a recurring alarm could be set for this, there are some days when we do not need to return calls so I would rather not have an alarm go off.
10am: Pair with my phone
Now that I am finished making outbound calls, I switch away from my earbuds to an Echo Dot using the command, “Alexa, pair with my phone”. The first time I did this on each of my Echo Dots, I had to go to Bluetooth settings on my iPhone and add the device in question. After doing that, I am now free to say that command and play some podcasts on a louder speaker.
Podcasts are an area that I have found disappointing on Echo since most of the skills out there do not support multi-room audio. Pairing this issue with the fact that playback position is not remembered across Echo devices is the main reason I prefer to use the Bluetooth connection and simply reuse the command above when I switch rooms.
11am-7pm: Play audiobooks, music, more
I have been an Audible subscriber for several years now. I don’t particularly enjoy reading so I tend to grab audiobooks and listen instead. Unlike the podcast playback position woes mentioned above, Audible audiobooks sync progress without a hitch. Allowing me to ask Alexa to “play my audiobook” and have an Echo Dot resume where I left off.
Since I tend to have a couple audiobooks on deck, it took me a couple of attempts to find a phrase that I would remember how to say. I landed on, “Alexa, ask Audible to play [book title]. This is because I’ve gotten used to the “ask [skill name]” so it just sticks for me.
Considering that Amazon owns Audible, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a whole bunch of ways to talk to Alexa about Audible. It is most certainly a shock that, like most podcast skills, Audible’s does not support multi-room audio. This is a major disappointment, but the fact that playback position is remembered does help sooth the pain and frustration from a lack of multi-room audio support.
When I am not listening to audiobooks, I play music. Thanks to the recent rollout of the Apple Music skill, I have been able to say things like, “Alexa, play music” to have it queue up the custom radio station curated by Apple’s algorithms.
When I watch movies and TV shows, I typically use Plex. Upon realizing that Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and its Echo devices have a Plex skill, I picked up one of its streamers and can now say, “Alexa, ask Plex to play Modern Family”. This requires taking a few minutes to hook up an Echo to your Fire TV, but all-in-all, it is really simple to do.
Just like in the morning, I have several routines that toggle lights, halt any music playback, change the temperature, turn on the bedroom fan, and much more. Setting this up has made my evenings feel simple, yet futuristic.
If you didn’t know about some of the tips and tricks mentioned in this article, be sure to check out several other Alexa features that you may not have discovered yet.
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