You can now order millions of products just by asking for them. That wasn't always so. Before this month, you could only reorder things you had previously purchased using Prime. Now you can order anything that is Prime-eligible and is not apparel, jewelry, shoes, watches, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Prime Pantry, Amazon Prime Now or add-on items. You can even order a Dominos pizza, or a ride from Uber or Lyft.
The light ring on Alexa speakers can tell you all sorts of information, like what the volume level is, whether you've missed a call or message and if the mic is turned off. But thanks to a nifty third-party skill, the light ring can also be used as a subtle night light. Once you enable the skill, just say, "Alexa, open Night Light for 45 minutes." The light ring will pulse blue for 45 minutes (or however long you say) or until you say, "Alexa, stop."
Similar to calling, Amazon added an intercom option to Echo speakers within a household. This gives you a direct line of communication to the Echo devices spread around your house. Say, "Alexa, drop in on the living room," and anything you say will be played through the Echo speaker in the living room.
Back in May, Amazon updated its Echo speakers with the ability to make calls and send messages to other Alexa users. Anyone in the contacts list on your phone -- who is also an owner of an Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show and has enabled calling -- will show up in your Alexa contacts list. You can send them a message by saying, "Alexa, send [name] a message," or call them by saying, "Alexa, call [name]." The message or call will ring all of their Echo devices and the Alexa app on their phone. Separately, you can enable Drop In with loved ones so you can check in on them. Drop In works much like voice or video calls, except the person on the other end does not have to answer.
If you tend to sit too far away from your Alexa speaker to reliably control it, such as from the kitchen while the speaker lives in the living room, consider picking up a Voice Remote for Amazon Echo. It sells for $30 or £20 and works for both the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (not the Tap). Pair the remote in the Settings menu in the Alexa app, and you can remotely talk to your Echo from across the house, in other rooms, or even while outside. It does connect using Bluetooth, so the range is limited. But it can save you some frustration if you're not always near your Echo.
You don't need to wait on Alexa to light up after you've spoken your wake word to say a command. You can say, "Alexa, turn on the lights" without pausing. If you're far from your Alexa speaker and can't see it, however, you might want to confirm she heard you before speaking the entire command. If you want an audible notification to know Alexa is listening, go to the Alexa app, open Settings > [Echo name] > Sounds and toggle Wake-up sound. For an audible confirmation that Alexa heard your command, you can also enable the End of request sound.
Until late last month, you could only add Skills to your Alexa devices by using the Alexa app or echo.amazon.com to browse or search the Skills database and manually add them to your device. The process is clunky, mainly because the poor organization of the Skills repository. Now you can add Skills by voice. Assuming you know the name of the Skill you want to add, just say, "Alexa, enable Lifx" or "Alexa, enable Magic 8-Ball." After just a few seconds, the skill will be enabled and available to use. Give it a try with one of our favorites (duh) -- the CNET News skill.
Amazon has replaced the voice search function in the Amazon shopping app with Alexa. You can control your smart home, ask for facts, get unit conversions and much more. To use it, open the Amazon app on iOS or Android and tap the microphone icon to the right of the search bar. From there, you can ask anything you would normally ask Alexa. You can even stream music, an audiobook or a podcast while you shop from your phone.
In August, Amazon rolled out an update that let users stream music to different groups of speakers -- or even all speakers -- around the house. All you need to do to use this Sonos-like feature is to create an Audio Group in the Alexa app and say, "Alexa, play Manchester Orchestra on [group name]."