Did you find an Amazon Echo under the Christmas tree this year? If so, or if you've had one for a while, you're probably wondering how to make it more useful. Amazon Alexa is already handy without any additional apps, but why limit yourself?
Alexa apps, called skills, can do a number of things. Some are purely for entertainment and don't add much practical value to Alexa, but plenty do. Here are 10 of them that you'll probably find pretty useful.
Are you constantly misplacing your phone? We all do it from time to time, and if there isn't someone else around to call it you might be searching for a while. That problem is a thing of the past with Where'sMyPhone.
See: Amazon Alexa: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
The first time you run Where'sMyPhone you'll be prompted to dictate your phone number. The skill will send you a test call to verify the number was correct. From then on you can just ask Alexa to find your phone and it will call you up: A perfect solution unless you always keep yours on silent like I do.
2. Food Finder
Looking for a good place to eat? Food Finder just requires you to give it what you want and where you are and Alexa will suggest a place. It reads back the name, gives you a rating, and recites the first listed review.
You've found your restaurant—now what? Make a reservation with OpenTable! When you activate the OpenTable skill you have to provide your name, email address, zip code, and phone number but that's it. Just request a reservation and you're all set!
OpenTable will send you a confirmation email as well.
4. Web Analytics
If you are responsible for a web domain you probably spend plenty of time looking at Google Analytics. Now you can just ask Alexa to read back statistics instead of having to sit down at the computer to look at them.
Web Analytics isn't a Google product, so use it at your own risk.
Both Uber and Lyft have Alexa skills that you can use to book a ride, get rates and prices from one place to another, and even select different services like UberX or UberSelect. Lyft and Uber will also tell you where your ride is if you've been waiting too long.
See: Gallery: Amazon Alexa dominates CES 2017 with dozens of third-party integrations (TechRepublic)
Both skills use the addresses you have set in your Lyft or Uber accounts, so be sure everything is set up correctly before trying to use these Alexa skills.
Fitbit users typically have to pull out their phones or sync their device with a computer to get feedback, but not if they own an Alexa unit.
Fitbit's Alexa skill will answer all sorts of questions pertaining to your Fitbit data. Ask it how you slept, how many steps you've taken, or anything else Fitbit is measuring about your life.
7. Census Stats
You don't have to install Census Stats to get feedback from Alexa about geographic locations, but you do need it if you want to dig down into specifics. If you've ever needed demographic information about somewhere in the United States, Census Stats is a must-have.
It can answer a multitude of questions, and it even tells you where it pulls the data from if you need to cite a source.
If you've used an Alexa unit for long you're probably familiar with the Flash Briefing. This morning roundup of news, weather, and traffic is one of the best things about having an Amazon Echo, especially since it's so customizable.
Our sister site CNET has its own Alexa skill, so if you're looking for the latest tech news in your Flash Briefing be sure to install it. TechRepublic doesn't have a skill yet, but who knows what the future may hold?
9. Alexa Things To Try
One of the most daunting things about Alexa is how much it can do. It's hard to remember all the commands that activate its different useful abilities, which is why Amazon released Alexa Things To Try.
This skill simply adds an Alexa tip to your Flash Briefing, allowing you to learn what it's capable of skill by skill.
10. Ask My Buddy
Accidents happen and when they do you don't always have the time—or ability—to get to the phone. Ask My Buddy is an essential Alexa skill for those living alone. After adding contact information for one or more emergency contacts you can tell Ask My Buddy to alert a particular person or the whole list that something is wrong.
Ask My Buddy definitely isn't a replacement for calling 911, but it is great for peace of mind or getting ahold of someone in an emergency situation.
What Alexa skills do you love?
Ten is hardly an exhaustive list, so if we missed one of your favorites add it to the comments below!
- Amazon Echo teardown: A smart speaker powered by Amazon's cloud (TechRepublic)
- Amazon Echo: 6 interesting Alexa skills to try with your new speaker (ZDNet)
- What was Amazon's Alexa up to on Thanksgiving Day? (TechRepublic)
- Amazon's Alexa won the CES battle, but faces a tough war (ZDNet)
- Can Amazon Echo data be used as evidence in murder case? (CBS News)
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.