Amazon’s Echo speakers, and the Alexa assistant, are incredibly useful and pretty darn invasive.
On the practical side, it can function as a security alarm with a device you already own. Neat. Here’s how Alexa Guard works.
Creepy? I once found a voice recording of a conversation my Echo caught when I knew for sure I didn’t ask Alexa to listen in. It just thought it heard the wake word. Check out this massive list of terms that can trigger your smart assistants.
If you have one (or more) Echo devices, let’s make them as helpful as possible. Change these settings to stop the biggest annoyances.
Alexa monitors and learns your behavior and requests. Then it knows what you missed. For example, the response to “Alexa, good night” might be, “You left the kitchen light on. Would you like me to turn it off?”
Instead of shouting, “Leave me alone!” turn off Amazon Hunches. Just say, “Alexa, disable Hunches,” and you’re good to go.
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Up past your bedtime? Adjust Alexa’s volume so she doesn’t wake the whole house. Just say, “Alexa, turn on whisper mode.” After that, any time you whisper to Alexa, she’ll whisper back. Talk in your normal voice, and so will the speaker.
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Your music is muffled
You put on some tunes to clean the house, and the sound is just weird. Now and then, it happens. Luckily, the fix is simple: Unplug the Echo, wait 30 seconds, then plug it back in. The magic restart trick helps in most tech.
What if the sound is cutting out?
Amazon Alexa smart assistant device connected at home on table, defocused living room in background, no people (iStock)
If a restart doesn’t fix the problem, your Wi-Fi network might be to blame. When too many devices are connected to your network, your Alexa device may get lost in the congestion. Try turning off any connected devices you’re not using.
Also, keep your Alexa device away from metal objects, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors, microwaves, and other sources of interference. Placing Alexa at a higher location will help boost signal strength.
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No unexpected Drop Ins
This one isn’t just annoying. It can be downright dangerous. Drop In connects you to another Echo speaker or display for an instant conversation. “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen Echo Show.” You can announce all your Echos at once, too, say to get the family to come for dinner. The command is “Alexa, drop in on all devices.”
But remember, the Echo speaker or display goes both ways. It lets someone immediately listen in or watch what’s happening in the room after 10 seconds.
You can set permissions to enable or disable a specific device.
Open the Alexa app, then tap Devices.
Select Echo & Alexa, and then select your device.
Tap the Settings gear in the upper right > Communications.
Select Drop In, then select which permissions to enable or disable.
Choose On to allow Drop In with permitted contacts only or My Household to Drop In only on devices on your account, or Off which means nobody can Drop In.
It’s unsettling when Alexa activates out of nowhere. Most likely, she heard something from the TV or your conversation with someone that sounds like her wake word (Alexa, Echo, or Computer, based on what you chose) and it set her off.
Try saying, “Alexa, why did you do that?” You can also change Alexa’s wake word by saying, “Alexa, change the wake word” if you accidentally trigger her more often than you’d like.
You forget which one is 3rd Echo
The default names aren’t handy, especially with several speakers around. A straightforward way to distinguish your speakers is by naming them after the room they occupy, such as Kitchen, Computer, Living Room, Bedroom or Office.
Open the Alexa app.
Select Devices > Echo & Alexa.
Photo of an Amazon Echo Dot with a red ring and Alexa muted. (Fox News)
Choose your device, tap the Settings cog, then Edit Name.
Note: You may not see this option for every device.
Speed it up
Follow-Up Mode lets you give your smart speaker multiple commands at once. After it follows your first command, wait for Alexa to say, “OK.” Then, fire off your next command, and you’re good to go. After you’re done, say “Stop,” “Thank you,” or “Go to sleep” to stop Alexa from waiting for further commands.
You need to enable this:
Open the Amazon Alexa app and tap Devices at the bottom of the screen.
Choose the device you want to use this feature on, then scroll down and tap Follow-Up Mode.
Slide the toggle next to Follow-up Mode to the right to enable the feature.
‘Sorry, I didn’t quite get that’
It’s frustrating when you have to keep repeating yourself. If it happens often, take a few minutes to give your Echo a better sampling of your voice.
A person holds an iphone showing various apps inclusing BBC IPlayer, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Amazon Music, Sky Go, Disney Life and Amazon Alexa. (Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
In the Alexa app, tap More > Settings.
Select Your Profile & Family. Select Your Profile.
Tap Add Your Voice.
You can set this up for everyone in your household if you want to.
Alexa often parrots back what you said to make sure she understands. If you say, “What’s 34 minus 13?” you’ll hear the entire equation before getting the correct answer. It’s grating, but you can stop it.
Open your Alexa app and tap More > Settings.
Scroll down. Under Alexa Preferences, tap Voice Responses.
Slide the toggle next to Brief Mode to the right to enable this feature.
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