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10 new Alexa features to try on your Amazon Echo

Amazon added several new tricks and tools to its Echo devices and Alexa app.

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Your Amazon Echo has some new tools.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon has made several new improvements to its Echo speakers and the Alexa app in the past month, from a redesigned app that makes it easier for you to find what you're looking for to starting a routine with your voice.

Last month, the big tech company also announced three new Alexa updates designed to help you to better interact with Alexa. Here are the latest features that you can use on your Amazon Echo ($34 at Amazon) now.

Hear news notifications

Starting now, you can get notifications on your Amazon Echo for the latest news from NPR and Fox News. The notifications will play short summaries of top stories of the day and can connect you to the full story if you're interested in hearing more.

To get started, say "Alexa, enable news notifications for NPR/Fox News." The new feature is rolling out to more news outlets in the coming months.

Start routines with your voice

You can now enable Featured Routines with a voice command. For example, to start your morning routine, you can say "Alexa, enable my good morning routine," so when you say "Alexa, good morning," it'll start the routine you created. This is great if you wake up 30 minutes before your scheduled routine and you want to go ahead and get the day started.

Upload photos to your Echo Show ($128 at Amazon) through the Alexa app

Amazon has made it easier to upload your photos to your Echo Show. To do so, open the Alexa app on your phone and tap Devices, then select the Echo Show you want to upload the photos to. Next, tap Home Screen Background and either upload photos from your phone or your linked Facebook account. You'll need to give Amazon permission to access your photos before you can start downloading.

Alexa hands-free for Alexa app

If you're not within talking proximity to your Echo speaker, no problem. You can now access Alexa on your speaker through the Alexa app with just your voice. To turn on the feature, open the Alexa app on your phone and tap the blue Alexa icon at the top of the screen. A window will open that says Use Alexa hands-free. Tap Turn On to begin using the new tool.

Amazon Music hands-free Alexa voice commands

Go hands-free in the Alexa app.

James Martin/CNET

New Alexa app home screen

Amazon redesigned the home screen in the Alexa app that changes the way you navigate within the app. For example, the settings are now located on the lower right hand side of the screen, rather than the top left. The more you use the app, the better it can personalize suggestions on the home screen. So if you regularly listen to a specific music playlist, it will appear at the top of your suggestions. 

Other new Alexa features

  • Personal wellness tip: "Alexa, what's my wellness tip of the day?"
  • Alexa accessibility website: Provides additional information for Alexa features, like Alexa Captioning, Real Time Text, Show and Tell, VoiceView Screen Reader, Tap to Alexa, and more.
  • Stock market information: "Alexa, what are the top stocks right now."
  • MLB and NBA return: "Alexa, play MLB/NBA highlights." For Echo devices with screens only.
  • Camp Prime: How-to videos with at-home family activity ideas.

Ready for more tips? Here are six Alexa features you should turn off now, the best rooms in your house to put your Echo speakers and five unexpected uses for your Amazon Echo.

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