Get to know some of the smart assistant's cooler features.

By Debbie Wolfe
April 01, 2021
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Amazon's virtual assistant persona, Alexa, arrived in our homes alongside the Amazon Echo smart speakers in 2014. Many Echo owners ask the pleasantly voiced personal assistant to do little for them, like checking the weather, playing music, or setting reminders. Alexa, however, is capable of thousands of tasks, known as skills. Moreover, Alexa constantly learns and picks up new skills. If you're ready to use your smart device as more than just an alarm clock, check out this list of Alexa skills to try.

1
Entertain Your Pets

If you have a lonely cat, Alexa is the perfect pet sitter. Enable the Meow feature on the app, and Alexa will talk to your cat while you are away.

For dogs, there's the Dog Teaser. The free skill plays a loop of sounds that will make your dog turn their head from side to side. Some of the sounds include dogs yelping, cats meowing, a doorbell ringing, and more.

2
Remotely Check on Loved Ones

The Alexa app allows you to remotely check-in with loved ones with Care Hub. She will let you know when your loved one is at home, up, and active, and it will also notify you if they ask Alexa for help. This feature allows you to assist an older parent remotely. Of course, get your loved one's permission first.

3
Ask for Emergency Help

Alexa has a premium feature called Guard. This feature gives you hands-free access to an emergency helpline and alerts on suspicious activity around your home and other potential emergencies while you're away. It also works with many other intelligent devices. While you are away, Alexa can turn on features to make it appear like you are still home. Some of these features include turning smart lights on and off, playing the sound of a dog barking, and other tasks to deter potential intruders.

4
Find Your Phone

Everyone misplaces their phone on occasion, and it's frustrating when it happens in their own home. To use this handy feature, you will first need to verify your phone number via the Alexa app. If your phone goes missing while at home, ask Alexa to find your phone. It will call your device, showing up as a private number, revealing its location in your home. However, this feature is only helpful if your phone isn't set on vibration or silence.

5
Hands-Free Speakerphone

Alexa has intercom capabilities, and it can communicate between two Echo devices as long as they are connected in the app. Just name the devices by location to help you distinguish them from one another. When you are ready to open a channel between two Echo devices, say "Alexa, drop-in," plus the name of the room/device.

6
Call a Ride

Sure, you can request an Uber or Lyft ride via the respective apps, but why do it the old-fashioned way? Thanks to Alexa, you can continue getting ready, packing, or cleaning up while a car is on its way. You do have to link your Uber or Lyft account to Alexa first. Once it's connected, say, "Alexa, ask Uber [or Lyft] to request a ride." It's a perfect function, especially if you are running late.

7
Order Dinner

Like requesting a ride, Alexa can also order your dinner once you connect your restaurant accounts. She cannot access every restaurant with online ordering, but the current list is comprehensive. Takeout giants like Grubhub, Dominos, Starbucks, Panera, and Chipotle are available and ready to take your order.

8
Meal Prep

If you prefer to cook your meals, Alexa can help here, too. Use her to add items to your grocery list and share it digitally while at the grocery store.

Even better, ask Alexa to order the item via Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market in select areas. If you need inspiration for what to cook for dinner, ask her. Alexa will recommend a recipe for ingredients you have on hand and your preferred cooking method. She'll walk you through the recipe, or if you prefer, send the recipe to your mobile number.

9
Get a Daily Briefing

Alexa can prepare a daily brief of information specially curated for you. She draws content from multiple sources to bring you the news you are looking for without having to sift through dozens of headlines. The skill is called Flash Briefing. Once activated, you can choose the elements you would like to add, like the BBC World Service, The Guardian, MTV, Joke of the Day, and more.

10
Create Custom Skills

Thanks to Amazon's Alexa Skill Blueprints, you don't need to know how to code to create a new skill. Blueprints allows Alexa owners to develop their voice apps, trivia games, or flashcards or teach Alexa to respond to custom questions with answers—like, "Who's the best cook in the world?" Best of all, it presents a learning opportunity for kids and offers blueprints specifically designed for kids to use.