There are so many things you can do with an Alexa-enabled smart speaker. Order things through Amazon, update your shopping lists, turn your electronics on and off and ask her a question when you’re having a debate with the family over where you’ve seen that person in that film before.
So, if you’re just using the speaker to play your Spotify playlists, you’re missing out. Amazon is constantly adding extras to the function of Alexa speakers, and there are over 100,000 Skills to make use of.
Alexa skills are like apps for the smart speaker. You can enable and disable skills, using the Alexa app or a web browser. Skills are voice-driven Alexa capabilities.
Adding or deleting Alexa skills on your speaker is just like adding or deleting apps on your phone. An app allows you to act, from ordering pizza to playing games or getting news and weather updates. Skills to the same, but you can use your voice.
As mentioned, there are over 100,000. But we have combed through some of the top picks which can make everyone’s life easier, no matter what you use Alexa for.
What Are The Best Skills For Alexa?
Ranking skills is difficult as they all do different things, and people use their smart speakers for different things. For instance, you may not be happy to have a shopping skill on your Alexa in case another member of the family orders something.
But there are so many which everyone can use. You may not have even heard of most, which is where we come in.
Do you struggle to get to sleep without some form of white noise? Maybe there is traffic outside which you’d rather cover-up or silence is just not your jam.
Don’t buy a white noise machine that literally just gives you white noise. Your Alexa can do this on top of everything else. There at a couple of different skills in the genre, but they all pretty much do the same – Sleep and Relaxation Sounds is free to enable.
Just say “Alexa, open Sleep Sounds” and you can choose from rain, sea, rainforest, thunderstorm, panpipes and other relaxing noises which will help you venture into the land of nod.
Find My Phone
The peril of a lot of the other Find My Phone apps or services out there is that you need a phone of a similar make and model to communicate with it. But if you have an Alexa, you can connect your phone and it will ring if you ask politely.
The big thing here is to connect your phone before it has a chance to be lost. Just say “Alexa, find my phone” and you will be asked for your phone number. Add additional numbers by asking to add a contact. One of our favourite skills and apps for this is Trackr.
It rings your phone so you can find it. So if you lost it in Tesco, it might not be handy. If you put it on the table and then someone put the ironing on top of it, you will hear it ring (or vibrate if you’re always on silent).
Remember back in 2018, when a famous celebrity died every day and our phones were constantly giving us Breaking News alerts? If you found it a bit much and instead now like to check as and when you want, the BBC News skill is great.
You get a flash briefing – the little bits of news you need to know about before you head to the office and partake in water cooler chitchat – but don’t have to wade through loads of other things too. Or, if sport is more your jam, BBC Sport is also available.
Connect the Fitbit skill to your Fitbit, and you can listen to how many steps you have taken that day and your other fitness goals/achievements. Just say “Alexa, ask Fitbit…” and you can actually have Alexa tell you anything to do with your Fitbit journey, including how you slept.
Alexa can even take you through a 7-minute workout, or 5-minute plank – whatever you feel like doing that day. The app on your phone will also show some pictures so they work perfectly together (or you can see what to do if you have a video smart speaker).
We say ‘music’ in general as Alexa has a wealth of options here.
If you have a Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon Music account, you can connect it and listen to your own playlists as you work or cook. You’ll have Amazon Music anyway if you have Prime and don’t want to pay any additional subscription fees, although you will have adverts and be limited to what you listen to.
Ask for your playlists, or certain artists and genres. You can also ask for playlists created by other users or the platform themselves, such as if you want something upbeat which can help you with a workout.
But you can also connect radio stations, such as BBC Sounds for listening to Radio 1, catchups or podcasts or Global Player for stations such as Capital or Radio X. Third-party radio apps such as TuneIn are also available, as are Audiobooks if that is more ‘you’.
Everyone’s favourite takeaway app Just Eat, now on your smart speaker. You can re-order a previous meal and ask Alexa where your food is for updates on delivery times.
Admittedly, that is about as far as it goes. But if you always get the same pizza or kebab from the same place (because who amongst us actually browses a menu before going for our old favourites anyway), it is enough.
BBC Good Food
Or, if you have a fridge full of food that needs using up but can’t work out what to do with it all, just ask BBC Good Food to find a recipe on your behalf.
“Alexa, ask BBC Good Food to find a recipe with chicken”.
“Alexa, ask BBC Good Food for a quick curry recipe”.
“Alexa, ask BBC Good Food for a pancake recipe”.
Whatever takes your fancy, the skill will find a recipe for you and then read it out when you’re ready to go. If you have a video-enabled Alexa, even better, as you can read the step-by-step guide too.
Short phrases or words can be translated into a number of supported languages, such as Spanish, Dutch and French. Maybe you’re learning a new language and hearing the phrases is easier than reading them, or you’re off on holiday/a business trip and want to know the basics.
Translations are an easy way to get quick phrases, whether you’re learning or just curious. Some aren’t always exact (such is technology) but Translated gets the best reviews.
Sorry for a boring one (but it is helpful – don’t lie and say it isn’t).
Bins collected on a two/three/four-week cycle? Always forget what went out last week and what is due tomorrow?
Maybe you wait for your neighbours to go first, but it gets to 10 pm and you realise that they are doing the same thing so you just politely wave at each other pretending not to be waiting for someone to go first?
Bin Calendar keeps you in check. It will tell you when the next collection is and what to put out so you can be known as the Bin King on your street. What better way to look like you have your life in check?
You need to link it to your subscription account, but if you already have a Headspace account, linking it to your Alexa means you can take time out whenever and wherever you are.
Whether you want to wind down, meditate, get ready for bedtime or exercise, your Alexa is instant and loud enough for you to
Can I Get Alexa Guard In The UK?
Alexa Guard is one of the latest skills available in the US. It listens out for sounds such as broken glass and smoke alarms, sending an alert to your phone if something is heard. For a subscription of $50 per year, it can also listen out for footsteps, dogs barking and babies crying amongst other suspicious noises.
What you can do is connect your Alexa to existing security systems like the Ring, Arlo or Blink, to act as a bridge. So, if for instance, your camera picks up movement, it can set off an alarm or turn on lights as a deterrent.
We will keep you updated if Alexa Guard ever comes to the UK however because we think it could be a very handy home security system for the 21st century.