When I first started using Alexa out of the box, she didn’t give me the information I wanted. She couldn’t do some of the things I could easily do with a few taps on my phone. Asking for a sports update yielded a minutes-long laundry list of sports scores for teams I don’t follow. The Phoenix Radio Pandora station I had painstakingly curated over the past 5 years and liked to listen to in the mornings wasn’t accessible with a voice command. This was frustrating.
I learned over a period of a few weeks that 5 simple updates to my Alexa settings would vastly improve my experience. I also learned how fast and easy updating these settings is. Thankfully, Phoenix Radio in the mornings is back!
Let’s update some settings!
Start by opening your Alexa app and tapping the hamburger (three horizontal lines) icon on the upper left to pull up the main menu. Then tap Settings at the bottom of the menu.
The Echo is a speaker after all, so let’s start by setting Alexa up with your existing preferred music service.
As an FYI, if you don’t do this, Alexa will default to Amazon Music. Ad-free access to 2 million songs on Amazon Music is free for Amazon Prime members. Not such a bad option.
First, link your preferred music service account.
Go to Settings > Music. If you see your preferred music service listed under Manage Services, tap it and and then tap Link Account for the account linking page where you can finish up. Otherwise, go to Link New Service > the service name (Apple Music, SiriusXM, etc.) > Enable To Use, which will bring you to the account linking page.
Here are short set-up guides for a few common music services: Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora.
Second, make it the default music service.
It’s super helpful to make your preferred music service the default. That way if you want to play Cardi B on Spotify, you can just say “Alexa, play Cardi B,” and Alexa will automatically play it from Spotify. With Spotify selected as the default, you don’t need to say “Alexa, play Cardi B on Spotify.”
Back in the main Music settings, scroll to the bottom to Account Settings > Default Services and set your preferred music service as the Default Music Library and, if relevant, Default Station.
2. Brief Mode
If you are like me, you’ll want Alexa to be as unobtrusive as possible. In brief mode, Alexa gives shorter replies and sometimes just plays a sound to signal she heard your request. For example, if you say “Alexa, turn the lights on” instead of Alexa saying “okay,” she will make a sound. I love brief mode.
Go to Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Voice Responses and toggle Brief Mode on.
It’s super helpful to be able to ask “Alexa, what’s on my calendar tomorrow.” Plus, if you have an Echo with a display, it will show your upcoming calendar items.
Go to Settings > (scroll down to) Email & Calendar > Add Account > the calendar service name (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) > toggle Calendar on (and Email on too if you’d like) > Connect Account > follow simple linking instructions.
I learned the hard way that “Alexa, what’s my sports update?” will tell you the latest news and scores on your favorite sports teams… but only if you tell Alexa who they are!
Go to Settings > (scroll down to) Sports > Add a Team. Add your teams. Now try “Alexa, what’s my sports update?”
5. Flash Briefing
Flash briefings are 2 -3 minute news updates. Like the sports update, “Alexa, play my flash briefing” works well only if you customize it with news sources you actually want to hear from.
Go to Settings > Flash Briefing > Add Content. Amazon shows you a bunch of categories and options to choose from, and you can also search by tapping the magnifying glass in the upper left corner. Once you find the flash briefing of your choice, tap on it and then tap Enable To Use. You can add as many flash briefings as you’d like!
When you go back to the main Flash Briefings tab, your selections will be there. It’s easy to toggle them off on the main Flash Briefing settings tab in case you end up adding too many or don’t like one. Next time you say “Alexa, play my flash briefing,”she will play the flash briefings you selected in the order they are shown.