There's a truly incredible number of things you can do with Amazon's connected speaker, and ideally a lot of these things will casually become a part of your daily routine over time. Amazon's Alexa service is designed to be something you can rely on for just about every aspect of the connected home, and to get the most out of this experience you want to start by setting it up correctly out of the box.
Here's everything you need to know about getting started with your Amazon Echo.
1. Connecting with the Amazon Alexa app
While you don't need your phone to do much with your Echo once it is set up, you will need the Alexa app to get there.
Every part of the set up and maintenance process happens through the Alexa app, so your first step is to install the app. While it is installing, connect the power supply to the only port on the bottom of the pillar and wait for it to start speaking to you. When you open the app for the first time you'll be prompted to sign in to your Amazon account, and then it'll be time to connect to your Echo.
Amazon Echo connects to your WiFi network, but to get there you need to first connect directly to the speaker from your phone. This process starts with an orange ring around the top of the Echo to let you know it is ready to connect. Your phone will either find the Echo automatically, or you'll need to locate it manually as an available wireless network to connect to. Once a connection is confirmed you'll see the Alexa app prompt you to choose what WiFi network the Echo is connecting to. Once you've selected the network you'll hear the Echo confirm it is connected to the network and it will check for the most recent version of the software.
At this point you have connected Echo to your network, and can now set it up to your preferences.
2. Giving Echo access to your accounts
Now that your Echo is connected to the Internet, you need to give it some things to do. When you logged in to your Amazon account you gave Echo access to Amazon music services, which is great if you're a Prime Music user, but there's a good chance you'd like to give Echo access to something else. Opening the side menu will give you access to music services to log in to, with more as you scroll down.
You can also use this side menu to grant Echo access to your Google Calendar and your physical address for work and home. Doing so will make it so Alexa can tell you what is on your agenda for today as well as what the traffic for your commute will be.
While no account is required for the news, you can also choose what news sources are used for the Flash Briefing where Echo reads you the news for the day.
Setting each of these up to your personal preferences goes a long way towards embedding Echo in your day to day life, turning your morning reading and research into a casual conversation.
3. Connecting Alexa to your connected home
If you've started down the path of the connected home, where smart gadgets give you the ability to control your lights or your thermostat or your coffee maker, you're going to want to connect those things to your Amazon Echo. The Settings menu in the Alexa app has a connected home section, and from here you can connect most of the popular connected home accessories to your Echo.
If you've got a SmartThings or Wink hub, you'll need to log in and connect to the hub so Echo can access everything on your network. From here you'll be able to speak and have Echo control the things you'd normally use the control apps to access.
If you're connecting Philips Hue bulbs, the Alexa app will scan your network and give you some options for control. You can either speak to control individual bulbs, or you can group those bulbs and control groups all at once. Once you've set this up, you can speak group names and have all of the same functionality as you would with an individual bulb, which makes whole room control much more enjoyable.
4. Explore your Amazon Echo for fun
We've covered the basics for setting up your Amazon Echo, but there's a ton of other things you can do that are just plain fun. For starters, there's a whole section of the Echo side menu labeled Skills for you to check out. Skills are basically third-party apps that can be installed on your Echo. Some of them are silly, like having Alexa roll a six-sided die and read you the result or having a random Shakespearean insult voiced at you, but others give you access to bus schedules and simple science and math facts for kids to use. Scrolling through Skills is well worth everyone's time, and it's updated with new features regularly.
Routines are another great way to get to know your Echo. You can set up groups of activities, like light controls and Flash Briefing reads, to be triggered as a group when you ask for morning or evening routines to be activated. This becomes a lot more useful once you've gotten to know how you like your Echo set up, and can be edited at any time.
Finally, if you are ever unsure about what your Echo can do, the Things to Try tab in the sliding menu will give you a massive list of things you can ask Alexa. Once you've burned through that list and have mastered everything, you can try connecting your Echo with IFTTT for even more features.