Finding the Right Device

Smart assistants are a great way to stay organized, shop and make lists, play games, call friends and family, listen to music and audiobooks and control smart home devices. People find new ways to use Alexa every day, and it can be hard to learn the basics because the applications are so flexible. Read on to learn the lingo and understand how to use your Alexa:

Alexa Built-In/Enabled vs. Works With Alexa: In order to get the most capabilities out of your Alexa smart speaker, it’s important to understand if your device has Alexa Built-In/Enabled or simply Works with Alexa (WWA). 

If a speaker has Alexa Built-In/Enabled, it has speakers and a microphone. It is connected to Wi-Fi, and you can talk to Alexa and hear her response. Most Alexa Built-In devices can be muted or deafened. Some of these examples include Echo, Fire, Facebook Portal, some Bose and Sonos speakers and some smart TVs. 

A WWA speaker is a device that is connected to Wi-Fi and is considered a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). It can respond to requests from an Alexa Built-In device; however, they do not have microphones. A few examples are “Smart” plugs and light bulbs, Alexa Gadgets and some security cameras and doorbells (e.g., Ring and Blink).

Setting up your Alexa App

The Alexa smartphone app is free and can be used instead of a separate device to talk to and use Alexa. If you are just getting started and want to learn how Alexa can work, this is the best place to begin. Some skills and games to play with Alexa have visual aspects as well as audio, so using a device with a screen is a better experience.

  1. Open the app store on your mobile device
  2. Search for Amazon Alexa
  3. Select Install
  4. Select open and sign in with your Amazon Account
  5. Install Alexa widgets (optional)

Setting up your Alexa Devices & Smart Home Connection

Most Alexa Built-In and Alexa Enabled devices will connect to the Wi-Fi network in your home or office when they are turned on for the first time. If this network is associated with your Amazon account, your device will connect with your account automatically. If you are setting up your first Alexa Built-In device, follow the prompts in your Alexa app and log into the Amazon account you want connected. Once your Alexa device is connect to Wi-Fi, you can begin downloading useful apps and fun, interactive skills, like The Price Is Right home game.

Talking to Alexa

Set alarms and reminders using the Alexa app or by asking an enabled device. Use your normal, “inside voice” and speak clearly when asking Alexa to remember something or to return certain information. Alexa can look up shopping information or add things to your Amazon cart, and she can respond to general knowledge questions like “how much does a blue whale weigh?” You can also ask Alexa to launch fun games for group or solo play; Popcorn Tycoon is a fun option to play individually and compare scores and levels with friends.

If Alexa takes too long to respond or has trouble understanding, use the app or say “Alexa, learn my voice.” This process will set up voice profiles, and the more you say and confirm to her, the better she will be at understanding your commands and requests. Voice assistants are still fairly new technology, but engineers, linguists, marketing managers and researchers work every day to improve language comprehension and better “hear” accents and even comprehend more than one language at once. 

Lights on Devices

When your Alexa-enabled device shows a colored light ring or bar, you can ask, “Alexa, what does your light mean?”

  • Yellow - There is a notification or missed reminder
  • Blue - Alexa is starting up, listening or processing your request
  • Red - Alexa’s microphone and/or the device’s camera is disabled
  • Orange - This device is in setup mode or trying to reconnect to the internet
  • Green - There is an incoming Alexa call on the device
  • Purple - This device is in Do Not Disturb mode
  • White - Device volume percentage

Disconnecting, Muting, Do Not Disturb & Changing Registered Device Owners

All Echo & Fire devices (from Amazon) have Alexa built-in, and many of them have ‘hard’ mute options as well as physical camera covers and other privacy features. Find the product’s detail page on Amazon to learn specific ways to restrict Alexa on each device. The Alexa app uses your phone’s microphone and speaker, so to restrict access for the app, use your phone’s permission settings or uninstall the app. The Amazon shopping app has similar capabilities, and it will need to be restricted separately.