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Amazon Alexa: 5 Hidden Features You've Gotta Try on Your Echo

You know Alexa can play music and give you the weather, but how about finding your phone or guarding your home?

Amazon Echo speaker
Your Amazon Echo includes many useful features you might not know about.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Today's big Amazon product event brought us details on new products like the Kindle Scribe for notetaking and the Halo Rise sleep tracker. Amazon also announced new Alexa commands that expand support for Disney and integrate with BMW automobiles, but your Amazon Echo device is already packed with tons of commands that can do everything from controlling your home devices to making phone calls.  

You might be surprised to learn all the actions that Alexa can perform. For example, did you know you can cast your music from one Echo device to another? You can also quickly send donations to a charity and have Alexa guard your house while you're away.

Read on to discover five surprising things your Amazon Echo can do and how to use these little-known features.

1. Alexa Cast to other devices

When you're really into a song that you're listening to on your Amazon Echo but need to go to another area in the house, it can be frustrating to pause the music. Fortunately, if you have multiple Echo devices, you can use the Alexa Cast feature to send that music to another speaker.

From the Amazon Music app on your phone, select the playlist you're listening to. Pull up the music controls and tap the button on the lower right side of your screen. Then select which Echo speaker you'd like to cast to.

You can also do this from the Alexa app. Just tap on the playlist you're listening to and select which device to play it on. For instance, all devices or just one Echo speaker.

2. Guard your home with Alexa

If you're ever worried about your house when you're out of town, you can turn on Alexa Guard before you leave the house. Just say, "Alexa, I'm leaving" and the voice assistant will start listening for signs of a break-in, like glass breaking. If it hears anything suspicious, it will send you an alert so you can decide whether to contact authorities and have them check it out. 

When you arrive back home, you can say, "Alexa, I'm home," and it'll stop listening for noises.

Want Alexa to guard your home? Read our guide on how to set up Alexa Guard Plus on your Amazon Echo smart speakers and displays.

three amazon echo dot speakers

An Amazon Echo can guard your house while you're away.

Ry Crist/CNET

3. Donate to charity with Alexa

If you have a charity that you'd like to donate to that's on Amazon's list -- there are nearly 400 options to choose from -- you can use your Amazon Echo to send the donation over. When you say, "Alexa, I'd like to make a donation," the voice assistant will ask which charity you'd like to give to. Then Alexa will ask how much you want to donate. Note that you'll need to have Amazon Pay set up before trying to send your donation.

4. Shop on Amazon with Alexa

When you're running low on house supplies, like paper towels or toothpaste, you can ask Alexa to order some for you through Prime Now. You'll first have to enable voice purchasing in the Alexa app.

To do so, open the app and go to More > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchasing > Purchase Controls and select who can make purchases. When you're ready to buy something, say, for example, "Alexa, I'd like to buy toothpaste." The product will be added to your cart and Alexa will ask you to confirm that you want to buy it now.

You can add a PIN code in the same settings so that only you can make purchases on your Echo speaker.

amazon echo dot with clock on table

You can ask Alexa to order household items for you.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

5. Find your lost phone with Alexa

Losing your phone in the house happens way more often than you'd like to admit. And when you don't have anyone around to call it for you, it can be frustrating trying to track it down on your own. Fortunately, you can use your Amazon Echo to find it. You can ask Alexa to call your phone, but if it's on silent, that won't do much. Another option is to download the Find My Phone skill in the Alexa app. 

Want to know more about your Amazon Echo? Check out the four worst places to put your Amazon Echo in your home and how to customize Alexa for a better Amazon Echo experience.