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7 shocking things Alexa still can't do on your Amazon Echo

Amazon's digital assistant got several new advancements last year, but unfortunately it still can't do these simple commands.


Amazon's virtual assistant is smart, but it can't do everything.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There're a ton of things that your Amazon Echo speaker can do, like turning on the lights, ordering household essentials from Amazon and playing your favorite songs. And Alexa has even gained several new features in the past year, like being able to sense if you're getting annoyed and using Alexa Guard to help protect your house while you're away. However, there are several surprising functions that Alexa still doesn't have.

For example, you can't customize your virtual assistant's name and you're limited to four wake words you can use. Also, Alexa can't record a voice memo and instead converts your voice notes to text. And of course, Alexa keeps it clean and won't say curse words. 

Read on to find out more of these simple things your Amazon Echo ($37 at Amazon) speaker still can't do.

Now playing: Watch this: Amazon Echo Show 8 review: Alexa is getting even better

Amazon Echo doesn't do a baritone

If you'd rather have a male voice as your digital assistant, you're out of luck. As of right now, Alexa only speaks in a female-sounding voice, unlike Google Assistant and Siri which give you a choice of voices at multiple vocal registers and accents.

You can change Alexa's accent by going into the Alexa app Settings > Device Settings > select a device > tap Language > and choose your preferred language/accent. However, a warning will pop up to let you know that changing to a different country's language might take away some of the Alexa capabilities and skills you currently have. 

For example, if you switch the language to English (Canada), there may be some functions that aren't available for that country yet. The warning isn't specific about which skills or other functions won't work.


Your Echo speaker will not swear at you, no matter how rude you are.

James Martin/CNET

Use swear words

Without downloading a new capability, like the Samuel L. Jackson skill, you can't make Alexa cuss. If you try to get Alexa to use swear words, it'll say "I'd rather not say anything rude." Even if you try playing Simon Says, Alexa will beep out any swear words you try to get it to say.

Call 911

While you can place calls to anyone in your contacts using your Amazon Echo speaker, you can't use it to call 911 or other emergency numbers. This is because it's not connected to a phone line. Amazon says if you need to call 911, you'll need to use your cell phone, landline phone or other telephone services. 

Google Home ($80 at Walmart) also can't call 911. But if you have an Apple HomePod ($300 at Target) and an iPhone ($499 at Apple), the HomePod will attempt to make the phone call using the iPhone connected to it.

Perform multiple actions with one command

If you try asking Alexa to perform more than one command at a time, it won't happen. For example, if you say "Alexa turn on the lights and tell me the weather," the voice assistant will only complete one of those commands. 

While yes, you can turn on Follow-Up Mode to complete several actions, it's not the same. You'll have to speak one command, wait for Alexa to perform the action and then speak the next command. With this feature, you're only eliminating saying "Alexa" multiple times. 

If there are certain actions that you typically say together, you can always create a routine to complete several commands at once.

Google Home lets you give up to three commands at one time. For example, you can say "Hey Google, dim the lights, turn on the music and change the temperature to 70 degrees."


You'll have to use more than one command if you want Alexa to turn off the lights and play soothing music.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Record a voice memo

You can use your Amazon Echo to set reminders and make lists, but you can't use it to record a voice memo. This feature should be easy for Amazon to add since Alexa stores your voice records in the Alexa app each time you give Alexa a voice command. 

It would be nice to say "Alexa, read my voice memos," so you can hear everything you need to do in your own voice, or leave a message for the family, rather than listen to Alexa mispronounce words.

Google Assistant also can't record memos, and the most Siri can do is take you to the Voice Memos app where you will still have to press the button to record. So while it isn't unusual that you can't do this on an Echo specifically, it would be nice to have.

Create custom wake words

Your Echo speaker can only be activated with four words -- Alexa, Echo, Computer or Amazon, but none of your choosing. So if you wanted to call your Echo something like Jarvis, you won't be able to at this time. 

To be fair, Google Assistant and Siri can't do that either, but the feature seems well within Amazon's capabilities and it's one that would give users more control over their device.


Your only wake word options are Alexa, Computer, Echo and Amazon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Display karaoke lyrics on the Echo Show

If you're listening to Amazon Music on your Echo Show, the song's lyrics will show up on the screen. So we're wondering how much longer it will take Amazon to create a Karaoke skill that shows the lyrics and plays the tune to sing along with. 

There is a Kids Karaoke skill that plays songs like Old MacDonald Had A Farm -- but there's still no karaoke skill for adults, like 80's karaoke. 

Now you know some of Alexa's limitations, but did you know there are seven things your Amazon Echo can do that Google Home can't? Also, here are six surprising things you didn't know your Amazon Echo could do.