Update Dec. 31: Amazon has released its list of the top 25 Alexa skills of the year.
Enabling Skills for Amazon's Alexa is easier than ever. Now, all you have to do is say, "Alexa, enable Lyft," and poof — you've given your Echo speaker or other Alexa-enabled device the ability to order you a ride.
Alexa skills are third-party apps you can add to your Alexa account based on your needs and preferences. But there are now more than 70,000 skills, so how do you decide or know which Skills to enable? Well, you can search the Alexa app by category, such as Smart Home, Food and Drink or Lifestyle. You can ask "Alexa, what are your new skills?" to be the first to try new features. Or, you can just check out our list.
Currently, Alexa is found primarily in the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Echo Show, Fire TV, Echo Spot, Echo Plus, Fire Tablets and the upcoming Echo Input. But you can also find the virtual assistant in a number of third-party devices, such as the Ecobee4 Thermostat as well as speakers like the Sonos One. The virtual AI is popping up in new places all of the time, so you might as well make it as smart as possible. Here are some of the best skills to enable on Alexa.
If you ask "Alexa, what are your deals?" you'll hear a series of Prime member-exclusive deals that you need an Alexa-enabled device to order. You can also visit Amazon's Voice Shopping page to get the sentences you'll need to say to trigger them.
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Instead of leaving your lights or TV on when you leave your house, you can now use Alexa to trick burglars into thinking people are home. Say "Alexa, run Away Mode," and Alexa will play a recorded, insufferable conversation. Potential crooks will hear from an eclectic cast of characters including an overly technical space-pirate roleplay game, a mother attempting to assemble Ikea furniture and a would-be podcaster.
Rather than waking up to a simple beep-beep-beep, you can tell Alexa to play a specific song, radio station, music genre, or more at a specific time. This works with Amazon's music services as well as Spotify, Pandora, Pandora Premium, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Vevo.
Here are some examples of things you can say:
If you have a Kayak account, you can enable Alexa to help you plan a trip. This skill can track flights and check prices. You can even tell it your budget, and Kayak Explore will tell you where in the world you can go. To activate it, say "Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $500."
Android smartphone users can send SMS messages hands-free through the Alexa app; here's how to set it up. iPhone owners, however, will need to use a third-party skill such as the Mastermind skill, which not only lets you send and receive SMS messages, but will help you find your phone, gets its battery life, turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, start Google Maps, send articles from your phone to Alexa, and much more.
Through Alexa, you can donate to a charity or organization. Just say "Alexa, donate $20 to the American Cancer Society," or even more simply, "Alexa, make a donation," and then you will be prompted to choose an organization and a dollar amount. Currently, there are over 175 charities with which this feature works, including the American Heart Association, ASPCA, Doctors Without Borders, One Laptop Per Child, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the Wikimedia Foundation. Here is a complete list of organizations that accept voice donations via Alexa. In order to use this service, you need to have set up an Amazon Pay account, and have voice purchasing enabled.
With Microsoft's Xbox skill, you can control your Xbox One console with voice commands. Alexa can toggle your device on and off, adjust the volume, launch games, and capture screenshots and clips. Just turn on your Xbox and enable the skill, then follow Alexa's instructions to pair the device to your console.