Alexa learns from you, so all you really have to do is start talking to it. If you want to teach it to control the other connected devices in your home—a smart heater or air conditioner, smart TV, or smart door locks—you add each of those individually as “skills.” Amazon makes adding skills easy; you can add them through the Alexa app, or on the Amazon website's app store-like interface. Once installed, you can manage and delete skills in the Alexa app.If you rely on ride-sharing services try the Lyft skill. It makes getting a car as easy as saying, “Alexa, get a Lyft.” Try adding the Headspace skill to launch a meditation session. The Bartender is another useful one if you want to be able to ask Alexa how to make fancy mixed drinks.One more tip: If you subscribe to Spotify, you can set up the streaming service to be your default for music requests, so when you say, “Alexa, play Black Sabbath,” the speaker will start playing from Spotify without you having to specify “… from Spotify.”
Alexa can do a great many things. Just be aware that it's always listening. The microphone on the Echo speaker stays on constantly, just waiting to hear the magic wake word, “Alexa.” It doesn't spring to action or record anything you say until it hears that wake word, but if the thought of an always-on microphone creeps you out anyway, look for the microphone's mute switch. Almost every modern Alexa-powered speaker has one. You should also brush up on the ways to keep Alexa data private as well.
This setup guide was updated in December 2020.
How to Set Up All Your New TechYou got a cool gadget! You lucky duck. Now you’ve gotta set it up. You poor sap. WIRED's master guide can help.