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Best Alexa Skills: 10 incredibly useful things to do with your Amazon Echo speaker

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Best Amazon Alexa Skills: Your complete guide to all the useful things you can do with Amazon's digital personal assistant, Alexa, on your Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Tap smart home speaker – including all the new Alexa integrations announced at CES 2017.

When it first launched for Prime members in the US way back in November 2014, the Amazon Echo boasted a paltry 13 Alexa skills – and we'd have to wait another two years to try it for ourselves here in the UK.

In the meantime, though, Alexa has seriously boosted its smarts and Amazon now says the intelligent helper has more than 3,000 talents.

Yes, Alexa and Echo can do plenty these days, but if you're wondering where to get started, here are the absolute best Alexa skills to install first based on our tests – and a few you might want to avoid.

Note that a handful of skills, such as National Rail and Sky Sports, may be UK-only, while some of the more recently announced integrations and products may not have launched in all regions yet.

Read on for all the latest Alexa news, or scroll down for our round-up of the best Alexa skills.

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Alexa at CES 2017 – 7 things you need to know

Along with the slew of fancy new TVs and high-performance laptops, Alexa was one of the stars of the show at this year's CES, with Amazon's smart helper making her to a bunch of new products.

Here's a quick look at the most notable Alexa news from the annual Vegas tech shindig.

1) LG's new Smart InstaView Fridge comes with Alexa functionality as well as its 29-inch touchscreen and interior cameras

2) Ford's Sync 3 infotainment platform now supports certain Alexa voice controls

3) Former Featured Kickstarter Bixi unveiled a new remote featuring Alexa

4) Lenovo's Smart Assistant speaker bakes in full Alexa smarts

5) The latest 4K TVs from affordable brands Seiki, Westinghouse and Element run Amazon's Fire TV OS and offer native Alexa support

6) Nabi unveiled a kid-friendly smart speaker called Aristotle, which is powered by Alexa

7) Whirlpool promised its full line-up of connected wares will sync with Alexa this year

WATCH: Amazon Echo video review

10 Awesome Alexa Skills to try first – and some to avoid

Having tried and tested some of the most popular Alexa skills, here are the ones you'll want to get right away, and a few worth avoiding for the time being.

1) TrackR: Find your phone

If you sign up for a TrackR account, you can shout ‘Alexa, find my phone’ and your handset will immediately ring at full volume. It’s properly useful for forgetful people and works a treat.

2) Hive: Control your heating

Hive Active Heating 2 29

The Hive skill lets you control the temperature of your house using Alexa – and there's a bit of banter for good measure.

If you turn the heating off when your house is warm, Alexa might comment; and by comment, we mean she’ll say something that comes off as slightly sarcastic.

Still, it saves you the effort of actually having to get up to adjust the temperature.

3) Hue: Control your lights

Your Echo assistant has known how to play nice with Hue lights for a while, but these days you have more mood control options than ever.

Want to make things all sexy? Set up a 'romantic' profile and Alexa will make your bedroom redder than downtown Amsterdam before you can so much as say, "Giggity."

4) Uber: Call for a ride

uber

Uber is a little fiddly to set up with Alexa, but once you've got it sorted, it does feel a little bit like magic.

It took us a couple of attempts to link an Uber account to our Echo, and If you try to just ask for an Uber, Alexa will tell you to ask for it in a specific way.

After you've got the knack though, just say the necessary incantation and a ride will roll up outside your location. Neat.

5) 7-Minute Workout: Get a guide workout

Just say, "Alexa, start 7-minute workout," and shock of all horrors, Alexa will take your candy ass through a 7-minute workout!

If you're unsure of any of the exercises, the app on your phone will show you little pictures of what you should do.

It'd be nice if Alexa was a bit more encouraging, or played some music to help motivate you, but it's pretty good all the same.

6) Spotify: The best for music streaming

Spotify

Spotify is the best music streaming service around, and with Echo, Premium subscribers can simply shout out what they want to be played, be it a specific artist, mood, playlist and even decade.

It's a no-brainer to enable as soon as you fire up your new smart speaker and, better still, it comes pre-loaded – just enable it as your default music player and you're away.

7) The Guardian: All the latest news

Ask Alexa for the latest news, headlines, podcasts and more with this skill – she'll even read you entire articles if you want.

It's well useful for all those times you want to meditate on how horrible the world is whilst doing the washing up...

8) Sky Sports: Never miss a goal

Sky Sports

Getting mad when your team concedes a last minute equaliser has never been easier, as Alexa will feed you back all the latest scores and sport news.

It's available on your snazzzy right out of the box, so all you have to do is ask.

9) National Rail: Get train updates

Gone are the days of having to fiddle with an app to find out Southern's fecked up your commute again.

With Echo, all you'll need to do is chat to Alexa for a breakdown of the latest morning misery. Crying into your porridge? That bit will likely remain a constant.

10) Google Calendar: Never miss a meeting again

Google Logo

Habitually late to – or forget – pretty much everything? Alexa might just be your saviour, as you can ask your Echo to remind you about meetings and other important events

Neglected an anniversary, for example? Combine your reminder with begging Alexa to order some last minute flowers for the ultimate in time-efficient getting out of jail.

Related: CES 2017

And some Alexa Skills to avoid...

Just eat robot

Acoustic Tuner: This Alexa 'skill' doesn't even listen to your strumming, it just spits out a generic tone for you to aspire to.

It's worse than even the cheapest digital tuner you could buy, so just avoid.

Just Eat: Alexa claims to be able to repeat any Just Eat order you’ve placed before but, alas, it doesn't work.

According to the instructions, all you have to do is order something via the delivery service, and then you can re-order simply by uttering the correct phrase.

Related: Amazon Echo Setup Guide

We tried it out, ordering a pizza using a computer like some fossil from the 90s, and then tried to repeat the order with Alexa, who refused to acknowledge we'd ever had a cheesy, greasy 3,000 calorie disc of joy shipped to the front door.

If you look at the user reviews, everyone is having this problem, so while this could be useful one day, it's best left on the backburner for now.

Daily Cat Facts: Just what we all need. Random, poorly researched facts to share on Instagram. Stick to following Kim Kardashian.

Best Deals for Amazon Echo

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WATCH: Amazon Echo Dot review

What are you favourite Alexa skills? Let us know in the comments below.

Jack Smith

December 25, 2016, 10:18 am

Purchased the Echo when it launched and now had the Google Home for five weeks.

Basically the Echo you use commands where you talk to the Google Home naturally. The Echo will handle some fuzziness but fundamentally they are variations to commands instead of fundamentally understanding what you are saying.

So with the Echo you might do a quick Google search with a lyric to get a song name and then ask the Echo to play. With the Google Home you skip the Google search step.

I am starting to learn a shorter english as the inference is so incredible with the Google Home. So say "hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv". Google figures out that I want to watch a video of Gwen Stefani and Sting singing message in a bottle on my TV. It then turns the TV on, sets the proper input, and the video starts playing.

Our brains inference capabilities allow us to communicate with one another in a compressed manner. Information can be inferred versus being said. This is what Google is doing and for some (many?) things they can do better than a human.
Maybe it is because I have an engineering background but the Google Home from a technology standpoint and what Google is doing just blows me away.

The demo that most blows people away is the Google Photos with the Google Home. A bunch of people over for the holiday and someone asks how was your trip? You just say would you like to see a few pics? You just say "hey google show my photos of kenny in Maui". The TV turns itself on, input set, and photos of my son Kenny playing on the beach in Maui displays". Someone asks did you guys snorkel?

I simply ask Google to show photos of Molokini and then photos of us snorkeling at Molokini and unfortunately pics of where I forced the kids to Kayak to Molokini from the hotel. Wind changed, almost died, fantastic Coast Guard picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we were yelled at because suppose to check in once an hour. Just what happens when wife does not join me and the kids on vacation.

Then my oldest said I remember snorkeling there. Then you just say show Tommy snorkeling at Molokini. My wife had scanned and loaded 1000s of photos into Google Photos and to the shock of my oldest son photos both above and underwater display of him at Molokini.

This is simply off the charts incredible from a technology standpoint. Might be a bias for me but simply wow!
Basically one shutter click and nothing else and three months later you are in your family room without touching a single thing showing the photos. There is no more friction that can be removed.

LeeTronix

December 26, 2016, 9:59 am

I appreciate your comparative comments on Echo vs Google Home and can see totally where you are coming from.

However for me the downside to Google Home is that its teaching everyone and especially the younger generation to use sloppy speech and text type speaking.

This is just awful its more tech this time by Google making people not only lazy but less intelligent with the use of our brains and a grasp on what should be proper English and use of the language/spelling etc.

At least with Echo or so far at least its no where near as dire as that. While short text type speech seems quicker it is mentally conditioning our everyday abilities.

For example you quoted " hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv " for the sake of speaking properly which is not a chore what is wrong with just saying " hey google play video of Sting and Gwen Steffano message in a bottle on tv " (or whatever the full name is called).

Just a thought :))

Shteve

December 26, 2016, 5:12 pm

So to clarify, you're suggesting that rather than see what are the best apps on the device available in the UK (and to be fair this list just reads like the inbuilt smart skills so is fairly worthless anyway), we should buy the device that isn't out here yet?

Personally I found the Hive skill worthless - but then I don't have Hive heating. The Hue skill would have also been pretty crap but for me having Hue bulbs. So, err, nice list.

Rob Gallop

January 9, 2017, 4:41 pm

National Rail a best skill ? Really ? Have you read the reviews of it. It's almost impossible to get it working properly as it doesn't recognise Station Names. I even tried recording Alexa saying my local station, and then playing it back and it still failed.

BrenUK

January 11, 2017, 12:01 pm

So you hadn't had to label the photos in any way - Google Assistant just scanned all your photos and was able to tell from that which images were ones showing people snorkelling? Is that what you're saying? If so, that is pretty amazingly impressive!

sinc

January 13, 2017, 6:02 pm

works ok for me, what accent are you using?

Rob Gallop

January 14, 2017, 9:13 pm

No accent at all. It just doesn't recognise my local station, despite other skills having no problems with it.

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