What should I do with my Echo that I'm not?

Got my first ‘smart speaker’, an Echo, a year or so ago. I felt like I never really had much use case for it, but it was free, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I use it to set timers and play music. And it is terrible at playing music. I mean, it sounds fine, but whenever I ask for a song, it’ll inevitably play one with a similar name, or the most bizarre version of the song. When I say, “Alexa, play ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’”, and you play some live version by a Bon Jovi cover band, you’re doing it wrong. I end up doing 80% of my song selection on my phone and just direct it to the Echo.

It’s garbage at answering factual questions (I think the Google Home may be better at this.) Its jokes fail to amuse. I can’t imagine actually ordering a pizza with it. But people love these things, right? What else should I be using it for?

Here is a previous thread asking for and getting suggestions:

It’s better if you have smart devices to work with it. I use mine to turn the lights on and off. I can also set the lights to different themes like “movie setting” or “Sunrise” setting.

Or start the coffee maker, or set the thermostat, etc…

You can use it as a simple security system. Set it to “away mode” when you’re gone, and it will alert you if it detects sounds like breaking glass or smoke alarms.

Cool. I like that the first response in that thread was a link to a similar, earlier thread. Guess this question comes up a lot!

I’m not enthused about home automation. But the security mode seems cool. Maybe I’ll give that a try (and then break a window and see what happens. We’re scheduled to get them replaced anyway!)

I won’t embarrass myself by reporting how many Echos I own, but 95% of my use of them is for playing music from Spotify.

Pretty much anything else I’ve tried to do with them has led to a “meh” reaction and me going back to accomplishing the task old-school.

I do love them for music, though.


Do you have the problem that I reported in the OP, though, where if you ask for a song via voice command, Alexa’s ability to correctly identify and play the right song is … limited, to be nice about it?

I’ve got an Apple Music subscription linked to my Alexa account, it’s pretty good with specific songs.

On the other hand, I can only get it to play NPR Now from Sirius XM about 50% of the time. I usually get fed up and have it play WBFO with TuneIn instead.

We use them for drop in - waking the kids, calling for dinner, etc. I also have home automation, mostly lights, setup with it and a Fire TV cube in the bedroom that I can control the TV with.

My Wife and I have the Alexa with out and extra satellite units hooked up to it.

We only use it for music.

It generally does pretty well, but sometimes cuts out for 5 or 10 seconds, but I think that’s my internet connection.

It seems to work best for us to say “Alexa, play album X by Y” and it will play the entire album.

We have also dropped DirecTV and now use the plug-in Chromcast device to the TV. And we live north enough to get Starlink. So I put that dish up. YMMV. We also play music over the Chromecast and TV system about half the time for music.

A disclaimer - the ONLY way I can get TV or internet where I live is over satellite dishes. Right now, things are working great and speed is plenty good that allows me to work from home

My Wife and I are still sorting all this out.

Yeah, I have fiber to the house, and our internet is highly reliable. The music playing problems I have are 100% Alexa’s ability to understand the words I’m saying, parse them into meaning, and translate that meaning into a sane action.

We are generally no farther away from 10 feet when we make a music request.

It does seem to work best to say “Alexa play album Rubber Soul by the Beatles” For instance.

My wife actually gave Alexa a nick name - Henry - so if we are talking about the system and don’t want to issue a command, we call it ‘Henry’.

I don’t know Jack about the system, but perhaps a problem with acoustics in the room when you make a request?

We call ours Allegra from the SNL sketch

Yes. I know if I ask Alexa to play a song, it’s hit or miss whether I’m going to get the tune I want.

I almost always just go to the laptop and fire up Spotify from there.


My Wife and I ask for a particular band or album. Never a certain song. Don’t know if I’ve ever tried that.

I have three Echoes in my 1,200 sq ft house. The one thing I rarely use them for is to play music. I sometimes play a music playlist that I have created.

I have most of my lamps on smart plugs, and have set up routines to turn on and off various configurations. When I give the order to turn everything on in the morning, Alexa gives me a weather forecast. I use her to set reminders. “Alexa, remind me to turn off the lawn sprinkler in two hours.”

The best thing is to add items to my shopping list. Standing pretty much anywhere in my small house I can say, “Alexa, add butter and dog food (and whatever) to my shopping list.” Then at the grocery store, the cumulative shopping list is in the Alexa app on my phone, and I can check the items off.

I have an “Intruder Alert” routine that plays some loud recordings and dogs barking. I like that if I’m lying in bed and hear something suspicious, I can give a command that immediately turns on all the lights on the house.

Explore the routines in the Alexa app for ideas.

Yes, Alexa has trained us well. We give as much information as we have when asking for a song. Band and preferably what album if we know it.

Although, there are plenty of times where just asking for the song title has worked fine too.

Besides music and cooking timers, this is what I use Alexa for the most. I add things to the shopping list as I run out of them; my wife does the same; when I get to the grocery store to do shopping, I could check the list with both of our (and occasionally one of our children’s) items.

I will also use it occasionally for reminders, for quick translations, to double check my mental math, and random stuff like that.

What I CANNOT STAND though is when Alexa fulfils my request and adds some random bullshit I didn’t ask for at the end, usually of the form “Did you know that I could …” blahblahblah blah. I tried turning off all the auto suggestion settings on the app and looked, but she still wants to add extraneous crap at the end.

“By the way, you might be running low on personal lubricant from the Health, Home, and Kitchen department. If you want to order more, just say ‘Order more personal lubricant’”

Uh…Alexa’s just kidding mom…

We also have the Ring doorbell. So, we can see the doorway from the Alexa show with screen. If someone rings the Ring doorbell, then all the Alexas announce “Someone is at the front door”

I know you’re not in to home automation, but buying Alexa-connected smart bulbs and having Alexa turn my lamps/bulbs on and off is the best thing to happen to me in 2021.

I’m about to connect my mom’s garage door to her Alexa, with a gadget I bought on Amazon. We’ll see how it goes!