The Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and the shiny new Echo Plus are so much more than just speakers. As Amazon’s Alexa enters more homes, it’s becoming increasingly smarter and useful with a variety of so-called Skills or commands.
These Skills and commands are all found in the Amazon Alexa app you’ll need to install when you set up your speaker and can be enabled, and disabled, at the touch of a button.
If you’re just getting started or looking for inspiration, here is our pick of the best Alexa Skills to install in the UK and you can learn how to set up your Amazon Echo, and solve any problems.
Best Alexa Skills UK
Grandpa Rick Wisdom
One for Rick and Morty fans, you can now get Rick Sanchez to give some of his best one-liners and and soundbites via your Amazon Echo. Just simply ask: “Alexa, ask Grandpa Rick to say something.” It should be noted that this command is made by a fan (so much so, it’s spelt incorrectly on the app store) but it works pretty well nonetheless. Be warned though, the soundbites are often unsuitable for young ears…
A simple, yet highly effective Skills, this lets you find the cheapest price for petrol and diesel in your local area. You will need to enable access to your location services to run this command but it’s worth it.
As the name suggests, Amazon Storytime plays a collection of stories and can entertain children during the day, or could even read them bedtime stories. Some stories are even narrated by Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants. You can ask Alexa to read you a story via the Storytime app and stop the story at anytime. Next time you speak to Alexa, it will ask you if you want to resume where you left off or start a new story.
Eharmony has become the first dating site to build an Alexa Skill in the UK. You have to be an eharmony member to use the Skill but once you’ve signed up you can ask Alexa about your matches, or say: “Alexa, open eharmony and give me a summary”. Alexa will then brief you on your latest matches, share messages, summarise daily activity, and send profile pictures to your phone, on demand. Singles can additionally find out who has viewed their profile and send ‘smiles’.
United Airlines became the first US airline to launch an Alexa Skill. It lets Amazon Echo and Echo Dot ask the status of their flight or find out about entertainment options, Wi-Fi, food, and drinks.
Alexa Skills and commands, on your desktop
You can use an, albeit paired down, version of Amazon Alexa via your browser. Developed by iQuarius Media, the Alexa Skill Testing Tool adds the AI assistant to desktops. It was designed as a test environment for developed and can only be used for simple queries but could be a useful tool if you can’t type for any reason.
Alternatively, you can access your account, see your voice command history, view cards, enable apps and more via the Alexa webpage.
It’s easy (possibly a little too easy) to buy shopping via your Amazon account, but Amazon doesn’t always offer all the items you may want to buy during your weekly shop, for example. At the end of August, Ocado became the first supermarket in the UK to launch an Alexa Skill and use its commands.
You need an Ocado account to use the Skill, but once set up and enabled via the Alexa app, Ocado’s Skill lets you add products to your basket, ask which products are currently in season and get help using these items in recipes. You can additionally ask “where’s my order?” and confirm a delivery time.
If all that exercise is a bit too exerting, there’s always the Breathe skill, which helps you do exactly that. It’s a breathing coach for Alexa, guiding you through a quick five-minute breathing exercise that you can do multiple times a day to help calm your mental state and relax.
Just shout: “Alexa, start deep breathing”, “Alexa, ask deep breathing for the breathing exercise”, or “Alexa, ask deep breathing to breathe with me”, and she’ll guide you through the exercise.
Alexa Skills for Children
Amazon recently started rolling out Alexa Skills for children under the age of 13. It is opening up its platform to allow developers to build child-friendly apps and games and, at launch, the Alexa Kid Skills include The SpongeBob Challenge from Nickelodeon, Sesame Street from Sesame Workshop, and Amazon Storytime. They are only available in the US at the moment, but UK versions are expected to launch in the coming months.
The first time you add a child-friendly Alexa Skill, you’ll need to enable it in the Alexa app. To give permission, parents will need to verify their identity using an SMS code sent to the phone number linked to their Amazon account, or by entering the security code of the credit card in their Amazon account. Alexa will then save the parental consent.
Dyson: Keep cool without lifting a finger
Speaking of air, Dyson’s next-generation air purifier is compatible with Alexa. The Wi-Fi connected Pure Hot + Cool Link Air Purifier works with Alexa commands so it can be switched on and off, as well as alternate between its two functions – a fan and an air purifier. After installing the Skill, just ask Alexa to “start purifying” and your air will be clean in a matter of minutes.
The Guardian: Hands-free news
If you prefer a more hands-off approach to receiving your daily news, Alexa can give you news briefings from publications such as The Guardian thanks to the Skill of the same name, as well as updates on the status of public transport. Just ask Alexa to “open the guardian” and she’ll guide you through the latest news.
Met Office: Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like today?
The Met Office Alexa Skill lets you get more specific and accurate weather forecasts than those previously provided by Alexa. Similar to getting a Flash briefing for your news, you can ask Alexa for a flash weather briefing for your current location or another region.
Hue: Lights on, lights off
If you’re an Echo user lucky enough to have Philips’ Hue connected light bulbs in your abode, then look no further than the Hue Skill, which lets you turn your Philips Hue lights on or off and change the room’s “mood.” You can also regulate the space’s ambience, with commands like Relax, Concentrate, Energise and Dimmed. The future the 1980s saw is finally here!
Alexa takes on Sonos
The Amazon Echo speaker might be able to perform any command you shout at it thanks to the built-in virtual assistant Alexa, but those with more than one speaker in the home have been frustrated to find that they don’t work in unison for multi-room playback. Until now, that is.
In August, Amazon announced a feature that lets you control and synchronise music across multiple Amazon Echo devices, meaning users can target music to a specific Echo device, or a group of devices simply by asking Alexa.
While you can synchronise your music playback across Echo devices to play songs from Amazon Music, and TuneIn, Amazon said support for Spotify will be “coming soon”.
To use the feature, use the Alexa App to create groups with two or more Echo devices by naming the group, such as “downstairs.” Once you’ve created the group, simply say “Alexa, play pop music downstairs”, for example. Customers in the US, UK, Germany and Austria can start using multi-room music today on their Echo and Echo Dot devices, and, also on the Echo Show in the US.
“Soon, this ability will be extended to control multi-room music on other connected speakers using simply your voice,” Amazon said.
Of course, this multiroom update isn’t the only useful feature available to Echo users. Playing music is just one of thousands of Alexa’s capabilities. In fact, there are more than 7,500 Skills that can enhance the Echo in all sorts of useful, fun and surprising ways. So with that, here’s our pick of the best Alexa skills available in the UK.
7-Minute Workout: A much more affordable personal trainer
The 7-Minute Workout Skill is based on a scientifically proven set of exercises designed to increase metabolism, improve energy, lower stress and remove fat. It also turns Alexa into a virtual personal trainer. To get started, you just need to say “Start 7-Minute Workout,” and you will be guided through the entire routine. Take breaks as you need them, and then simply let Alexa know when you are ready to begin the next exercise.
Plex: Better control of your media
This is probably one of our favourite Alexa Skills as it lets you control your media library without moving a muscle.
If you use Plex Media Server and have an Echo device in your living room, you can ask Alexa to play films, tell you what’s next on your Plex deck, and even suggest things you might want to watch.
Mastermind: Hands-free text-to-speech
If you want to give your digits a rest from all that incessant typing, the Mastermind Skill lets you talk to the wider world by reciting your desirable text message. Hands-free texting at its best.
Starfish dico: Communicate to everyone at once
If there are various Alexa devices in your home, you can communicate with a group of people at once using the skill Starfish dico. To use this Skill, you and your entire family, or the group you want to reach, will need to download the corresponding app. However, once that’s done, you can tell Alexa to send a message like “please keep the noise down”, and they’ll get an instant notification on their phones.
TrackR: Find your phone when you’re being forgetful
If you sign up for a TrackR account, and install the corresponding Skill, you can shout “Alexa! Find my phone!” and your handset will immediately ring at full volume, making the hunt a much easier one.
Uber: Be even more lazy by asking a robot to call you a cab
Feel uber lazy? Just say the right words and you can be in a taxi in a matter of minutes thanks to the Uber Alexa Skill.
It might take some time setting up, but once you’re used to it, it feels pretty magic. After you’ve got the knack though, just say the necessary incantation and a ride will roll up outside your location.