Whether you have an Echo, Echo Dot, or some other Amazon Alexa-enabled device, it's easy to get started with Amazon's virtual assistant: Turn it on, and it walks you through the setup process. But to get the most out of it, you'll want to dig into the Alexa app settings so you can customize what it does — and what it doesn't do. For example, did you know you could have Alec Baldwin wake you?
To access Alexa settings, open the free iOS or Android Alexa app, or log in with your Amazon account information to the web interface at alexa.amazon.com. Select Settings in the menu. You'll see a list of all of your devices that offer Alexa; some settings are specific to a device, while others apply to all of your devices that use Alexa.
By default, a device is set up with your first name and the product name, such as Michael's Echo or Michael's Fire TV. You can change it to whatever you'd like — if you have multiple Echos, you can name each by the room it's in, for example. This will help you when managing device-specific settings.
Many Alexa services, such as weather and traffic, depend on knowing your location. If you bought your Alexa-equipped device from Amazon, it likely has your ZIP code already entered. But you can set your street address for even more focused local information. You do this through each device's location setting.
If you have an Echo and you don't like the name Alexa, or you have someone else in the house with that name, you can choose Amazon or Echo as the wake word. This doesn't apply to the Fire tablet or TV, though, because you wake Alexa with the home button or through the remote.
I found my Echo's alarm to be too quiet on the default setting. But there's a way to fix that: To change the default volume for alarms, timers and notifications, go to the Sounds & Notifications setting. You can also pick the sound for an alarm, or use a Celebrity sound, such as Missy Elliott shouting "Wake up!" or Alec Baldwin saying "Wake up, sunshine." You can also set Alexa to make a sound when it is listening and another sound when it is done with a command, which is particularly useful if you have an Echo placed in a location where you can't always see the LED ring around the top.
It's convenient to order products through Alexa, but that can lead to some unexpected purchases. Just imagine your child saying, "Alexa, order me a dollhouse," or a news broadcaster repeating that phrase on air. This is easy to prevent: Create a passcode you'll use to confirm any voice purchases. You can set that up in the Voice Purchases setting. Here, you can also turn off voice purchasing completely, too.
Alexa records every interaction you have with it. If you're concerned about privacy, you can delete single interactions by going into History. Select the recording; then tap "Delete voice recordings." However, if you want to delete all recordings, you have to go through your Amazon account online. Go to Manage Your Content and Devices; then select Devices. Click Actions, and select "Manage your recordings." This will allow you to delete all recordings at once.
Alexa's Drop-In feature lets you start an impromptu audio or video chat with another Alexa-enabled device (such as the Echo Show, Echo, and Echo Dot). If enabled on a contact's device, you can instantly start watching and/or listening to what's happening on their end. This could be helpful if, say, you're using the Echo Show as a baby monitor or household intercom, but it could be creepy for all others. Here's our guide to enabling and disabling Drop-In.