Alexa Reminders: It’s A Thing!

No Fast Tips today, because there’s big news: an Alexa software update that was rolled out in the US this week (and will be released in the UK and Germany in the coming weeks) adds Alexa reminders functionality, and the ability to name your Alexa timers! Premium subscribers will receive their weekly bonus Fast Tips via email as per usual.

The information provided here is accurate as of this writing, on 6/1/17, but is subject to change at Amazon’s discretion.

 

Email Reminder

 

I’ll open by letting you know that some Alexa device owners have already discovered the new functionality and have some criticisms of it. You may agree with those criticisms and if you do, please let Amazon know via the Help & Feedback form in the Alexa app.

 

Setting Alexa Reminders
You’ll find the Alarms & Timers area in the Alexa app has changed. A new Reminders tab has been added, and the menu item is now called Reminders & Alarms. The new Reminders & Alarms area looks like this:

 

Alexa Reminders Alarms Tab

As you can see above, it’s possible to create a reminder by entering it in the app. For reminders up to a year in advance you can also use a voice command like this:

“{wake word}, remind me to {thing you want to be reminded of, like ‘make the car payment’} on {month} {day} at {time}{am/pm}.”

A variation that also works is:

“{wake word}, set a reminder for {month} {day} at {time}{am/pm}.”

When you use that command, Alexa will prompt you to tell her what the reminder is for and will store whatever your response is as the reminder name (e.g., “pay water bill”, “give the cat her pill”, “call Dad”, etc.). The name is how Alexa will track the reminder in the Alexa app, and announce it when its alarm goes off.

I tested, “{wake word}, set a reminder,” to see if Alexa would prompt me for all the different parts (month, day, time, name) and she did, but the reminder that was set was incorrect so I don’t recommend that method.

 

Setting Reminders More Than A Year In The Future
To set a reminder for a future date that’s more than a year off, create the reminder in the Alexa app. When you click or tap the Add Reminder link on the main Reminders tab, it opens a form that looks like this:

 

Alexa Reminder Form

 

The “Remind me to…” box is where you enter the name for your reminder.

When you drop down the arrow next to Date, a text entry box is revealed with today’s date entered into it by default. You can edit the date in the default format, or overwrite it by entering a new date in either US or non-US format. Note that as of this writing the default date value is shown in non-US format (which means 6/1/2017 is shown as 2017-06-01). After you close the box the date will display in US format (probably only in the US, when this functionality goes to the UK and Germany the non-US format will most likely be preserved).

Next, open the Time drop down and enter the desired time for the reminder alarm to go off. Here again, as of this writing the box defaults to non-US, 24 hour time. As with the Date box though, you can edit or overwrite the default time shown as you wish. For example, to set your reminder for 3pm, you can enter either of the following:

3:00 pm
15:00

As with the date box, after you’ve made your changes the time will display in US format. In the screenshot below, I’ve illustrated this by opening the date box, then opening the time box. I made no changes in the date box so its default value of 2017-06-01 stayed the same, but its format changed to US.

 

Alexa Date Select

There does not seem to be a limit on how many reminders you can set.

 

When Your Reminder Alarm Goes Off…
The light ring will spin, a gentle alarm tone will sound and Alexa will announce, “I’m reminding you {name of reminder}.” The tone and announcement will repeat once, then the light ring turns off and Alexa goes back to sleep.

The alarm tone for reminders is softer than for regular alarms and you can’t change it, either in terms of volume or selected alarm tone. This is one of the early user complaints. Some users also don’t like that the reminder alarm only sounds twice, and after that there’s no indication on the Alexa device itself that the reminder alarm went off. In other words, if you don’t happen to be near your Alexa device when the reminder alarm goes off, you will miss it. You can view past reminder history in the Alexa app, but that defeats the purpose of setting reminders in the first place.

 

Click here for Amazon’s Using Reminders With Alexa page. Note that the information has not yet been added the Help area on Amazon’s UK site.

 

Named Timers: It’s A Thing!
Alexa device owners have wanted this one for a long time, and it’s finally here! Now you can easily distinguish between multiple timers by naming them at the time you set them!

The pre-existing, “{wake word}, set a timer for {number}{hours/minutes},” command for non-named timers still works, but so does this new command:

{wake word}, set a {timer name} timer for {number}{hours/minutes}.

For example:

Alexa, set an egg timer for three minutes.
Alexa, set a tea timer for five minutes.
Alexa, set a roast timer for one hour twenty-five minutes.

If you’d set all of those timers and then asked Alexa to “check timers,” she’d read all of them back to you by name! You would also be able to check on them or cancel them individually by name (e.g., “Alexa, check roast timer,” “Alexa, cancel tea timer.”).

Timers must be set using voice commands on your Alexa device, but you can check the status of any timers you’ve set in the Alexa app.

 

Click here for Amazon’s Using Timers With Alexa page. Note that the information has not yet been added the Help area on Amazon’s UK site.

 

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