17 hidden secrets of the Amazon Echo

Amazon’s voice assistant can do a lot more than just play music and tell you the weather.

Enable new skills by voice

Much of Alexa's power lies in her ability to gain new skills. Trawling through the Skills store is tiresome, though. If you know the name of a skill you want to use, you can activate it by simply saying "Alexa, enable Train Times" - swapping Train Times for the name of the skill you want to use as appropriate. If you no longer need a particular skill, you can remove it with "Alexa, disable Train Times".

Use Alexa as a home intercom

You might well have seen Amazon's saturation advertising for Alexa recently - some of which focuses on its ability to act as an intercom or a hands-free speakerphone. This may sound like complicated stuff, but it's easy to set up.

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To enable Alexa's intercom capabilities, first open the Alexa app and make sure that all your devices have logical names (we suggest you name them after the rooms they're located in). If you need to change a name, just click through Settings, select the one you want to adjust, and then tap Edit on the "Device name" line.

Once you've done this you can easily open a channel between two Echo devices using the "drop in" command. For example, to call from the bedroom to an Echo speaker in the kitchen, just say "Alexa, drop in on the kitchen".

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A word of warning: as soon as you activate this feature your microphone will go live - so don't make any snarky comments while you're waiting for whoever's in the kitchen to reply.

We'll explain how to set up phone calls on Alexa in the next section...

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