6 of Amazon's best new features for your Echo and how to use them

Alexa will soon have additional security features, group calling and more.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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New features are coming to your Echo devices.

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Your Amazon Echo device is getting a slew of new features, which Amazon announced this week at a private, virtual media event. The changes range from a totally redesigned line of Echo speakers (they're spherical!) to software enhancements that promise to make Alexa on your existing Amazon Echo smarter and more secure. 

The tech giant also announced a rotating Echo Show and a flying security camera drone that can survey your house, along with new Echo devices for kids. They'll all be able to take advantage of Alexa's new features.

Here are the six best new Amazon Echo features and how you'll use them once they become available.

Echo Guard Plus can make your home more secure

Amazon's Echo Guard was released as a free home security feature to help detect and alert you to glass breaking and smoke alarm noises. Now Amazon wants to upgrade you to Echo Guard Plus for $5 a month for even more security features. 

Your Echo will listen for additional sounds, like doors opening when you're away, and can play sounds like dogs barking to deter intruders. If further attention is needed, Alexa can connect you to a 24/7 Emergency Helpline, which can then request medical, fire or police assistance.

Once Echo Guard Plus is available, you can access it by opening the Alexa app on your phone and selecting More > Settings > Guard


Amazon's new features will come to Echo speakers new and old, including these two made just for kids.

Amanda Ringstad/Amazon

Alexa is getting smarter about your routines

You've always had to use wake words like "Alexa," "Echo," "Computer" or "Amazon" to activate your smart speaker routines. Now you'll be able to create routines that are activated by the sounds of snoring, a baby crying or a dog barking. For example, a routine could turn off your TV when the device picks up the sound of snoring. Or you could set up a routine that turns your lights on when your baby starts to cry.

When the new routines feature is available, you'll be able to access it by tapping More > Routines in the Alexa app to set up all the details.

Group calling comes to Echo

Soon, you'll be able to call up to eight friends or relatives at the same time with Amazon's new group-calling feature. It'll work with audio on Echo speakers and video calls on Echo Shows. To get started, you can say something like "Alexa, call my family." You'll be able to create and name groups in the Alexa app.

All new Echo Dot with Clock

This is Amazon's new Echo Dot with Clock.


Share music with friends

When you're listening to music on your Echo speaker and a song comes on that reminds you of a friend, you'll soon be able to share the song with that person. All you have to say is, "Alexa, share this song with Jill." After you share the song, the person will be able to listen to it on their own Echo device or the Alexa app.

A real Netflix app for Echo Show

You're no longer limited to watching Amazon Prime movies on your Echo Show. If you've got a Netflix account, you'll soon be able to watch Netflix video on your Echo Show as well. To use it, you'll say something like, "Alexa, search comedy movies on Netflix."

A new way to support loved ones

The Care Hub feature is designed to help you stay in touch with your aging loved ones from a distance. Once it's available, the two households need to agree to create a connection between your two Alexa accounts to get started. If your loved ones need help, they can say, "Alexa, call for help" to get in touch with you.

You'll also be able to see their activity feed so you know if they're up and moving, and set up an alert if the device detects no activity before a certain time of day.

We'll update this story as these features begin to roll out.

For more Amazon Echo tips, check out how to share your Alexa routines with friends and family, four places to avoid putting an Amazon Echo in your home and three best uses for an Amazon Echo in your bedroom

Watch this: Amazon's newest Echo can follow you