CNET's 10 favorite Alexa tips of 2016

This year has been amazing for Amazon's digital assistant. She's grown, matured and learned a bunch of new tricks. Here are 10 of the best she learned in 2016.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
3 min read

Amazon 's Alexa has grown tremendously this year, in both the number of devices the smart home assistant powers and in what she's capable of.

Over 5,000 skills are available in the catalog, most of which have been added in the last six months. That means there's likely a lot your Alexa speaker can do that you haven't even thought of yet.

Whether you're an Alexa veteran or just unwrapped one for the holidays, below is a collection of the best Alexa tips of 2016.

Customize your daily news briefing

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The Flash Briefing is how Alexa delivers the news to you via short audio snippets from your favorite sources. By default, your Flash Briefing will give you the weather forecast for your location, a traffic update for your commute to work and some news. But you can cater your Flash Briefing to your needs by customizing which feeds play and in which order.

Alexa, make some coffee, stat

Can't function without a cup (or three) of coffee in the morning? Trust us, we get it. But if you've got an Alexa speaker, you can stop fiddling with making coffee in the morning and just tell Alexa to do it for you.

Find your lost phone

If you're prone to misplacing your phone, Alexa can help in more ways than one. If you sign up for TrackR, you can simply ask Alexa to make your phone ring so you can locate it. You can also use the online service IFTTT to call yourself using Alexa. And if you have an Android phone, you can tell Alexa to have IFTTT set the volume to max and call or play music to help you find your phone.

Stream any audio with the Amazon Echo

Out of the box, Alexa can stream audio from Audible, iHeartRadio, Pandora , Prime Music, Spotify and TuneIn. Plus you can pair your phone, tablet or computer using Bluetooth and stream any audio you'd like. Here's how it's done.

Make Spotify the default music player on your

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Out of the box, if you ask Alexa to play music, it will default to Prime Music for both specific songs or radio stations. If you dig around in the settings, however, you can change the default music service to Spotify and the default station to Pandora or iHeartRadio.

Make a Spotify alarm

Setting an alarm with Alexa is easy -- just say "Alexa, set an alarm" and follow the voice prompts. Unfortunately, alarm sounds are limited to a list of generic tones and a handful of celebrity sounds, such as recordings of Alec Baldwin or Jason Schwartzman. With a simple workaround, however, you can create an alarm that plays any song from Spotify.

Monitor your fantasy teams

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football officially jumped on the Alexa bandwagon back in October, making it possible for your to track your fantasy football team using only your voice.

Make a real to-do list

Out of the box, Alexa is capable of making simple to-do and shopping lists. Sadly, those lists are only accessible via voice or within the Amazon Alexa apps and web client. They're arguably too simple and lacking necessary features.

However, official Any.do and Todoist support was added back in October, making it possible to do two-way sync with a more accessible to-do list manager. Tasks created with Alexa will be synced to Any.do or Todoist, and tasks created with those services will be visible from within the Alexa app or listed when you ask what tasks you have due today.

Place the easiest pizza order ever

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You can order millions of items from Amazon using the Alexa speakers. But one of the best uses of voice ordering has to be pizza. With the Domino's skill, you can order your favorite Domino's pizza by saying, "Alexa, open Domino's and place my Easy Order."

Earlier this month, Pizza Hut rolled out an Alexa skill too.

Best uses for Alexa in the kitchen

Alexa speakers are helpful in any room around the house, but especially in the kitchen. Alexa can help you with recipe suggestions, wine or beer pairings, unit conversations, timers, calorie counts and much more. Check out the 10 best ways to use Alexa in the kitchen.