CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Here's everything the Amazon Echo can do

The online mega-retailer's smart speaker seems to get smarter every day. Here's a rundown of the many tricks up "Alexa's" sleeve.

David Priest
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
David Priest
Ry Crist
Stream songs from Amazon Prime Music
Stream songs from Amazon Prime Music
1 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Stream songs from Amazon Prime Music

The Echo's most obvious function is streaming music. Ask Alexa, the Echo's voice assistant, to play some jazz, or tell her you want to hear "Bohemian Rhapsody," and she'll get right to it, streaming music from the Amazon Prime library of tracks.

2 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Stream Spotify, too

If you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, you'll be able to use the service on an Echo, and ask Alexa to play your favorite tracks and playlists.

3 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Stream anything, really

Along with Prime Music and Spotify, the Amazon Echo can stream Pandora, or whatever you've got playing on your phone, tablet or laptop via Bluetooth.

4 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Tune in to the radio

More of a radio fan? No problem -- just tell Alexa to play your favorite station, and she'll use the service TuneIn to, well, tune in. That includes local channels as well as nationally syndicated programming from sources like ESPN and NPR. Ask her for the news of the day, and she'll play a "flash briefing" of the day's important headlines (you can customize the specific categories and sources you'd like her to focus on -- including CNET!) She can also use iHeartRadio to stream your favorite podcast.

5 of 49 Sarah Tew/CNET

Read your audiobooks

It isn't just for music playback -- Amazon Echo can read audiobooks from Audible, too, many of them read by the author.

6 of 49 Sarah Tew/CNET

Listen to Alexa read

You can also ask Alexa to read you any books you own on Kindle. She will recite the words using the same technology she uses when reading a Wikipedia article.

7 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Host a trivia night

Got a question for Alexa? In many cases, though not all of them, she'll have an answer. If you'd rather be the one answering, you can turn on Alexa's "Jeopardy" Skill by saying, "Enable Jeopardy." She'll gladly rattle off trivia questions for you -- just make sure you answer in the form of a question.

8 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Set a timer

Here's one I use in my own home almost every day: Alexa-powered kitchen timers. Just tell her to set one for however long you need, and Alexa will start the silent countdown. You can have multiple timers running simultaneously, and it's always a handy, hands-free way to manage the clock while you're cooking.

9 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Cook a feast...

If you need more than just a timer to make you a good cook, try out one of Alexa's many cooking Skills. They will walk you through recipes -- and you can always ask Alexa for measurement conversions if you need some help.

10 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

...Or order pizza

If you'd rather order in than cook for yourself, Alexa can help with that, too. Thanks to an integration with Domino's, fresh pepperoni pizza is never more than a voice command away.

11 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Pour the perfect cocktail

Want a drink with that pizza? Use one of Alexa's mixology skills to pour yourself the perfect Manhattan.

12 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Call an Uber

Have too many drinks to drive? Ask Alexa to call an Uber to come and pick you up. If it's a busy time of day and surge pricing is in effect, Alexa will let you know before you confirm.

13 of 49 Lyft

Order a Lyft

You can also schedule a Lyft. Just enable the Lyft skill and say, "Alexa, ask Lyft for a ride."

14 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Quarterback your connected home

It wasn't long after the Amazon Echo's debut that Alexa started showing off her smart home chops. The first trick Amazon unveiled was compatibility with Belkin WeMo smart switches and Philips Hue connected LED lights. You can sync all of them up with your Echo, then tell Alexa to turn things on and off.

15 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Change the color of your lights

Like the Philips Hue, the Lifx is a color-changing smart LED that works with the Echo system. Activate the Lifx Skill in the Alexa app, and you'll be able to tell Alexa to turn your bulbs on or off, dim them up and down or change them to a specific color.

16 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Add more gadgets

It seems like everyone wants to get in on what Echo is doing. Even the otherwise HomeKit-exclusive iDevices gadgets like the Switch, Socket and Thermostat have an iDevices Skill for Alexa.

17 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Control your garage

If you're looking to get a little more creative with your smart home gadgetry, try out something like Garageio. Echo can connect with this device to tell you if you've left your garage door open. You can even say, "Alexa, tell Garageio to close my garage door," and she will.

18 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

See who's knocking

You can also go for a smart doorbell, like Skybell. Using the Skybell skill, you can record video when someone approaches the door, take a snapshot or set the away mode.

19 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Lock the doors

Want an extra measure of security? Alexa can lock your August Smart Lock for you. Right now, she still can't unlock it for security reasons. But if you're just locking up your home for the night, it's nice to be able to say, "Alexa, ask August to lock all my doors."

20 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Help secure your home

Sync up an Amazon Echo with the Scout Security System and you'll be able to use Alexa to arm and monitor your home security setup.

21 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Control your climate

Once you're in your house, you want the atmosphere to be perfect. The first step is climate control. Alexa can adjust the temperature on Ecobee thermostats, the Honeywell Lyric and Nest. Just say, "Alexa, set the temperature to 71."

22 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Keep it breezy

Want a little more air circulation? Alexa can also control your Haiku fans. You can say, "Turn on the living room fan," or, "Turn the speed of the living room fan to 50 percent."

23 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Control your Insteon smart home gear

Amazon Echo features native connected home support for Insteon smart home gear. That includes connected lights, outlets and smart switches -- you can turn all of it on and off by telling Alexa to do it.

24 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Manage your SmartThings setup

SmartThings is another connected home platform that works with the Echo. Make the connection, and Alexa will be able to manage a veritable plethora of SmartThings-compatible gadgets.

25 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Work with Wink

The Wink platform works with Echo, too -- that's three major smart-home platforms that all claim compatibility with the Echo.

26 of 49 Control4

Integrate with Control4

If you have a higher-end Control4 setup, Amazon Echo can integrate with that, too. At the CNET Smart Home, that partnership lets us turn on the fireplace with a voice command.

27 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Trigger your IFTTT recipes...

Alexa also has her own channel on the free online automation service IFTTT. Activate it, and you'll be able to link up Echo with any of the hundreds of products and services that work with IFTTT. You'll even be able to craft your own custom voice commands.

28 of 49 Taylor Martin/CNET

...Or try Yonomi

For even more integrations, check out the IFTTT-like app Yonomi. Alexa can now control even more apps and gadgets without an official Skill in place for it.

29 of 49 Ry Crist/CNET

Make phone calls

Then there's the smart-home phone system Ooma. With a new Amazon Echo integration, you'll be able to make calls straight from the speaker. Here's a handy Ooma how-to post in case you want to try it out.

30 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Explore all the skills

Part of what makes Alexa such a compelling platform is its open approach to content creation. This means a ton of developers have made great Skills you can take advantage of.

31 of 49 Amazon

Check out showtimes

Say you want to see a movie. You can ask Alexa for showtimes at theaters nearby. You can even get her to describe some of the movies showing if you don't recognize the titles.

32 of 49 CNET

Prepare for a date

If you're going on a date, you can prep by getting a few pickup lines from Alexa.

33 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Get some flowers

If you want to go a classier route, you can order flowers using a 1-800-FLOWERS account.

34 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Keep tabs on your car

So you find out there's a movie showing in 10 minutes, and you're ready to call your date, but you can't remember if you filled up the gas in the car or not. One of Alexa's many Skills syncs it up with the Automatic car-tracking gadget, which plugs into your vehicle's diagnostic port to keep track of gas mileage, engine trouble and your car's location. Just ask Alexa, and she'll let you know how much gas is in the tank.

35 of 49 Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Check your accounts

The last step is, you need to check your bank account. Using a pin code for security reasons, you can check your balances anytime via Amazon Echo. Maybe that date isn't such a good idea after all.

36 of 49 Taylor Martin/CNET

Take stock

If you're discouraged by your bank account, you can always take hope by checking in on your stocks with the Stock Exchange Skill.

37 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Get help...

The Therapy Skill is a fun way to unwind after Alexa has reminded you of your financial state. Tell Alexa you're feeling sad, and she'll give you insightful nuggets like, "Don't be sad. Turn that frown upside down!"

38 of 49 CNET

... Or "get burned"

Or if you're feeling a little too confident, you can use a skill to deliver sick burns to moderate your self esteem. But you still need to figure out what to do for the evening...

39 of 49 Sarah Tew

A TV critic on call

Just because you're staying in for the night doesn't mean you can't watch a movie. Alexa can tell you what's showing on TV with various Skills. You can even see what Redbox has to offer.

40 of 49 Chris Monroe/CNET

Better gaming

If you're in the mood for a game instead, Alexa can be a helpful assistant. She will remind you of recipes for Minecraft, or tell you what armor is for sale in Destiny.

41 of 49 Warner Bros. Animation

More games

If you'd rather play a game with Alexa, you also have a few options. Some choose-your-own-adventure-style games are available anytime -- like The Wayne Investigation.

42 of 49 CNET

Suspense without the effort

If you want something that requires a little less thought, Alexa can broadcast old radio suspense stories. Just turn down the lights to get into the mood.

43 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Get some exercise

If you decide to do something a little more active, Alexa can help, too. The Seven-Minute Workout Skill will guide you through a quick exercise routine to burn those calories from the pizza.

44 of 49 Sarah Tew/CNET

Track your progress

You can also connect Alexa to your Fitbit for updates on your exercise progress. Just ask how many steps you've taken today, or how you slept last night.

45 of 49 CNET

Go on a (digital) walk

If you just want to pretend to exercise, you can use the Digital Pet skill to take your dog on a walk or play fetch. Fair warning: Your digital dog Dazzle often feels chastised when you say the wrong thing.

46 of 49 James Martin/CNET

Learn new things

If you want a little exercise for your brain, you can find games including Spelling Bee, Movie Trivia and 20 Questions on the Skills store.

47 of 49 CNET

Quiz yourself

If you want to learn about something more specific, you can enable skills that deliver trivia about everything from Christmas to puppies to Zimbabwe.

48 of 49 James Martin/CNET

Settle in for the night

Once you're ready to sleep, just put on your favorite music, podcast or book, and tell Alexa to go to sleep after reading for 30 minutes.

49 of 49 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And a whole lot more

There's a whole host of other smart home gadgets that'll work with the Echo -- including several that showed off their integrations at CES this year.

As of publishing this, Alexa has well over 3,000 Skills -- too many to list here. They range from surprisingly helpful to undeniably absurd, and the list is growing all the time. For more, check out our full review of the Amazon Echo.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos