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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
...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.
Pour the perfect cocktail
Want a drink with that pizza? Use one of Alexa's mixology skills to pour yourself the perfect Manhattan.
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.
Order a Lyft
You can also schedule a Lyft. Just enable the Lyft skill and say, "Alexa, ask Lyft for a ride."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
Work with Wink
The Wink platform works with Echo, too -- that's three major smart-home platforms that all claim compatibility with the Echo.
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.
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.
...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.
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.
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.
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.
Prepare for a date
If you're going on a date, you can prep by getting a few pickup lines from Alexa.
Get some flowers
If you want to go a classier route, you can order flowers using a 1-800-FLOWERS account.
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.
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.
If you're discouraged by your bank account, you can always take hope by checking in on your stocks with the Stock Exchange Skill.
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!"
... 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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to learn about something more specific, you can enable skills that deliver trivia about everything from Christmas to puppies to Zimbabwe.
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.
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.