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Smart Home

How to use Amazon's Echo Buttons to trigger your Alexa Routines

Available in a two-pack for $20, Amazon's Bluetooth Echo Buttons are a cheap and easy way to trigger your smart home with a quick tap. Here's how to do it.

Ry Crist/CNET

Amazon's Bluetooth Echo Buttons arrived as a cheap, niche Alexa gadget back in 2017

Available in a two-pack on Amazon for $20, the Buttons promise to serve as buzzers during Alexa-hosted trivia games, as well as other novelty use cases. Fun and kid-friendly, perhaps, but also far from essential to the Alexa experience.

Maybe that's why those buttons got an upgrade this year that lets them trigger your Alexa Routines. One of Alexa's most useful features, Routines let the AI assistant perform multiple, pre-programmed actions at once. For instance, a single Routine could turn off all of the smart lights in your home, adjust the thermostat to a nice sleeping temperature, and lock the smart lock on your front door, too. You could trigger it by saying, "Alexa, goodnight" -- or, now, just by pressing on an Echo Button.

I know, I know -- buttons might feel a bit prehistoric in your fancy, futuristic, voice-controlled smart home. After all, wasn't Alexa's voice-first interface supposed to set our fingers free? Wasn't the Echo supposed to be a Star Trek computer for our homes

Well, sure, but they still had buttons on the bridge of Starship Enterprise. 

Why get an Echo Button?

Voice controls are great, but they aren't always the right fit for the job at hand. 

Say you're up late reading a book in bed with your partner snoring beside you. You could ask Alexa to turn the lights off, sure, but that'd wake them up. Wouldn't a dedicated lights-off button at your bedside be the better approach? And, since these are designed to be kid-friendly, why not give Junior a magic button for the lights too, or even one that triggers one of Alexa's awful jokes with every tap?

Whatever you decide to trigger, here's how to get started:

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Press and hold your Echo Button until it glows orange. Then, just ask Alexa to set the thing up.

Ry Crist/CNET

Pair your Echo Buttons with Alexa

Setting Echo Buttons up is really easy. Each one comes with two AAA batteries -- you'll insert those, then hold the button down until it glows orange, which means it's in pairing mode. Making sure you're close to the Echo speaker you want to pair it with, ask Alexa to "Set up my Echo Button." She'll discover and pair with it within seconds.

The only thing to be aware of is that Amazon locks the batteries in with a very small screw to keep things kid-safe, so you'll need a small-size Philips head screwdriver to open it up.

echo-button-alexa-routine-trigger
Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Make your Button a trigger

Open the Alexa app on your Android or iOS device and tap the options icon in the upper-left corner. Tap "Routines" to go to the Routine-building interface, then tap the little plus sign icon in the upper right corner. Tap "When this happens," then select "Echo Button." From there, you'll press the Echo Button itself to pair it with the Routine.

Create your Routine

Now that you've selected your Echo Button as the trigger for your Routine, it's time to get creative and decide what your Routine will actually do. 

To do so, tap "Add action" to see your options. Amazon gives you a lot of them, so here's a quick rundown (and again, keep in mind that a single Routine can incorporate multiple actions from this list):

Alexa Routines offer lots of options.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET
  • Alexa Says -- Trigger one of several scripted Alexa responses, trigger a random joke, song or story, or have her say your own custom response from any of your Echo devices.
  • Calendar -- Trigger Alexa to read today or tomorrow's calendar entries, or your next appointment.
  • Device Settings -- Stop audio playback or change the volume setting on any of your Echo devices.
  • Messaging -- Send a custom notification to your phone via the Alexa app, or send a custom Alexa notification to an Echo device.
  • Music -- Trigger a song, artist or playlist from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify or TuneIn on any of your Echo devices.
  • News -- Trigger Alexa to read your current flash briefing.
  • Smart Home -- Trigger a preprogrammed scene, turn a device or group of devices on or off, or adjust settings like brightness levels or the temperature of your smart thermostat.
  • Traffic -- Trigger Alexa to let you know how long it'll take you to get to work.
  • Wait -- Add a pause of anywhere from 1 second to 4 hours in between actions within a Routine.
  • Weather -- Trigger Alexa to report the current weather conditions in your area.

Pick the ones you want to use and follow the onscreen prompts to customize everything to your liking. Once you've got everything just the way you want it, tap "Create" to finalize the Routine.

You're all set. Give that Echo Button a tap any time you like, and you'll trigger the Routine you just created. And, if you ever want to tweak what that Routine does, you can always do so in the Alexa app. Happy button-mashing!

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