Amazon hasn't officially brought its Echo speakers to Canada yet, but that hasn't stopped eager early adopters from getting their hands on them. The good news is you can set it up to work in Canada, although it takes a bit of work to do so, including manually downloading the Alexa app and tweaking some settings in your Amazon account.
But once you've got things set up, you'll be able to enjoy the full benefits of having Alexa at your beck and call.
Update: This article is only relevant to those setting up a first generation Echo speaker in Canada. Check our our guide to setting up the new generation of Echo Speakers in Canada.
Setting up Alexa for the first time
There are a couple ways to initially set up Alexa — either by using the Alexa website or through the Alexa app. Since the Alexa app is not yet officially available in Canada, the website will be the preferred method for most.
Before you go through the setup process, you need to change some settings in your Amazon.com account. The main goal is to trick Alexa into thinking you're in the US, which will unlock most of the functionality and features.
For me, this was a two-step process which required changing my default shipping address to a US address (I went with the address of a border shipping service I've previously used), and then going into your Amazon.com account settings (not Amazon.ca) to change your country setting for your Amazon content and devices.
- Click on Accounts & Lists.
- Click Your Content and Devices.
- Click the Settings tab.
- Under Country Settings, click the Change button and select the United States.
Once you've tweaked your Amazon account settings, the actual process for setting up your Echo speaker is pretty intuitive — simply plug the speaker in and follow the onscreen instructions to finish setup.
If you don't do the tweaks to your Amazon.com account you'll find that nearly all the settings are grayed out which means you won't be able to customize your music and media accounts.
Alternatively, you can set things up using the Alexa app. Since Alexa is not currently available in the Google Play Store to go down this route requires downloading the Alexa app APK from a third-party source and manually installing it on your phone. There are always risks associated with installing an APK you've downloaded from the internet, so make sure you're downloading it from a trusted source. Better yet, ask an Amerifriend to use something like ML Manager to extract and share their Alexa APK.
Tweaking Alexa for Canada
Once you've gone through the initial setup process, it's time to tweak your Alexa settings. All the basic functionality like setting timers and alarms, creating lists, and controlling your smart home products will work out of the box as you would expect, but there are some settings, skills, and tricks to keep in mind to try for a more Canadian experience.
Changing measurements to metric
By default, Alexa uses imperial units for distance and temperature measurements, but you're able to switch over to metric units in the device settings.
- From the Alexa menu, tap Settings
Tap your device.
- Swipe up to scroll down to Measurement Units.
- Flip the switches next to Temperature Units and Distance Units.
It's just that easy! Now Alexa will give temperatures in Celsius, and distance in kilometers.
There are already thousands of skills available for Alexa, and most will work. Now, the actual quality of the skills varies, so you'll want to spend some time browsing through the Skills section on Amazon.com or from within the app.
For skills specific to Canada, you may be interested in checking out the following:
- CBC News hourly updates: Gives you the latest news from our national broadcaster as you would hear on Radio-Canada. Once the skill is added, you can get the latest news by asking for your flash briefing. There are plenty of (unofficial) skills for other Canadian news outlets, but CBC's is the most polished by far.
- Hey, Toronto: For those who live in T.O., the Hey, Toronto skill lets you use Alexa as a voice interface to access Toronto Open Data. Alexa will send the results to the Hey, Toronto website on your phone. You will need to create an account and link it to Alexa, but once you've done this you'll be able to ask about city services and directions around Toronto.
Expect more Canadian-specific skills to become available once Amazon officially launches the Echo in Canada.
Tips and tricks for using Alexa in Canada
- You'll need to mention your city when asking for weather. Since you need to set your country to the U.S. to get things set up, you'll need to remember to include your city when asking for a weather update.
- Spotify Premium is your best bet for streaming music. Alexa has a somewhat limited support for music streaming, which is even more limited for Canadians. Amazon Music and Pandora are not available in Canada, which leaves you with Spotify, iHeartRadio, or TuneIn as your only remaining options. Of those three, Spotify is the superior option although you'll need to be subscribed to Spotify Premium to link your account to Alexa.
- Features that rely on location services won't work. For instance, if you ask Alexa for movie showing times in your city, it won't work because Canada is not yet supported.
How has Alexa been treating you?
Are you rocking an Amazon Echo in Canada? How did your setup go? Any Skill recommendations for your fellow Canadians? Let us know in the comments!
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