Echo Show Tips, Tricks and Gotchas

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play around with it, I’ve got some Echo Show tips, tricks and gotchas to share. Much of the ‘gotcha’ stuff is likely to be resolved in future software updates, but it’s probably stuff Show owners and potential owners want to know about in the meantime.

Apologies to those who couldn’t care less about the Show, and those outside the US who can’t even buy them yet. The Show is what most people are talking about on Alexa device discussion boards and social media pages right now, and I’m hoping to answer questions and clear up confusion for them.

 

Echo Show

 

Note: Amazon’s made the Echo Show available on an interest-free payment plan (5 x $46) for customers in good standing – see the buy box on the linked Echo Show product page.

 

Echo Show Tips and Tricks

1. It may not be obvious (if you didn’t read the inserts that came with your Show), but the Show has an on-screen menu.
Swipe down from the top of the screen to access it.

 

2. Put the Show on a lazy Susan / turntable.
The show doesn’t rotate, which can be annoying if you often want to change the direction it’s facing. An 8″ turntable like this one is an inexpensive solution to the problem.

 

3. Display a slide show to make the Echo like a digital photo frame.
Create an album on Prime Photos, then ask, “Alexa, show my [album name] album” for a slideshow. Adjust slideshow speed under Settings > Display.

 

4. Use an album or individual photo as the Home screen background.
Go to Settings > Home Screen > Background to specify the Prime Photos image or album you want to use. You can also select an image from within the Alexa app on your mobile device (meaning that you’ll be selecting an image that’s stored on that device, or its memory card). The Background screen explains how to do this.

 

5. Watch movie trailers instantly.
And I mean instantly! I’ll often be browsing movies or videos on cable and wondering if they’re any good, and up till now in order to view a trailer I needed to fire up a device and go to YouTube or IMDB. Not anymore. Just say the wake word followed by, “Show me the trailer for the movie {movie name},” and if a trailer is available it will start immediately. I recommend trying, “Show me the trailer for the movie Thor: Ragnarok.”

 

6. If you’re concerned about privacy, cover the web cam lens with something that won’t leave a sticky residue.
The challenge with covering up the lens is that it’s located very close to the microphone array, and you definitely don’t want to cover up any microphones. You also don’t want to put anything sticky directly on the lens since its adhesive residue may not clean off later, if you decide to use the camera at any point. Here’s how I’m doing it.

Cut out an approximately 3/4″ x 1/2″ rectangle from a Post-It note or index card and put a small piece of clear adhesive tape on it (the width of the tape should match the width of your rectangle), overhanging one edge by about 3/4″. Fold the top of the overhanging edge down, sticky side to sticky side, to create a non-sticky tab you can use to remove the cover later if you want to. About 1/4″ of sticky tape should be exposed between the fold over tab and the rectangle of paper or index card. Stick the sticky section onto the Show’s frame directly above the lens. The fold over tab should be sticking up at the top and the rectangle should be covering the lens.

 

7. Yes, you can dim the screen at will.
There’s been a lot of talk about the bright screen being a reason not to put this on a bedroom nightstand, but it doesn’t have to be a problem.

First, the screen automatically dims itself and reverts to the clock-only display after a period of touchscreen activity (unless you’re watching a video), and the dimmed screen is pretty dim in my opinion.

Second, the screen automatically dims when your Do Not Disturb settings kick in. So since I have Do Not Disturb turned on for my household starting at 10:30pm and running until 5:30am, between those hours the screen automatically goes to, and stays in, its dimmed setting. I can change it back to normal brightness by waking the Show, either by touching the screen or talking to Alexa. Note that there’s a Do Not Disturb toggle icon on the Show’s menu, and you can turn it on and off with voice commands too.

Third, you can force the screen to dim at any time by saying the wake word followed by the command, “Turn the screen off,” or just, “Screen off.”

Finally, there’s a manual dimmer switch on the Show’s main menu. Swipe down from the top of the screen to access it.

I have the Show in my bedroom and have it turned to face my bed at night so I can see the clock, and I don’t find the dimmed screen distracting, or even noticeable.

 

8. You can get back to the Home screen in one step when you’re down the Show rabbit hole.
Sometimes you can find yourself a few screens deep while using the Show. For example, you can be listening to music, then ask Alexa for a weather report, then swipe the screen to view the full forecast.

Not to worry. Just say the wake word followed by, “Home,” to return to the home screen at any time. To get back to the ‘now playing’ information you were viewing after the music started but before the weather forecast loaded, say the wake word followed by, “What song is this?”

 

9. Movie listings and weather reports are MUCH improved on the Show.
The usual queries of, “Is {movie title} playing nearby?”, “What time is [movie title] playing?” and “What movies are playing nearby?” work, but when Alexa answers she also populates the Show’s screen with menu options that allow you to drill down for more information. This is a lot less clunky than using the voice commands for these features.

For example, when I asked, “Alexa, what time is Baby Driver playing nearby?” the Show’s screen displayed the movie poster and title along with a list of local theaters where the movie is playing, and the first few showtimes for each theater were also shown. Touching one of the theater rows drilled me down to a complete listing of showtimes for that theater.

Weather reports benefit from the added visuals, too. A weather report request loads a swipe-able forecast screen that allows you to look ahead to the coming 10 days by swiping left.

 

10. Yes, you can watch entire videos on the Show, you get the usual touchscreen playback controls plus voice playback controls, and the display is not bad.
The Show doesn’t offer a high-res display that can compete with a quality tablet or TV screen, but if you’re already okay with watching videos on a relatively small tablet screen this experience is comparable. Touch the screen at any time to bring up touchscreen playback controls, or use voice commands to change volume level, restart the movie, pause, stop, or skip forward or back.

The voice playback controls in particular are very convenient when you’re multitasking and don’t have a hand free for the touchscreen, or to pick up a remote control like you’d have to do with a TV.

 

Echo Show Glitches and Gotchas

1. As of this writing, song lyrics do not display as they’re supposed to when you’re listening to music on the Show.
You can turn the Lyrics option on using voice commands or an on-screen touch prompt, but it doesn’t have any effect. I called Amazon to confirm this wasn’t just an issue with my Show, and they’ve reported the issue to the software engineering team. It’s a shame this doesn’t work yet, because it’s one of my favorite features when listening to music on my Fire TV stick.

 

2. Speaking of music…you can’t specify “shuffle” mode until after music has started playing.
The “Shuffle my {name} playlist,” command doesn’t work, Alexa will tell you she can’t change mode until after music has started playing. So you have to use “Play my {name} playlist,” wait for the music to start, then say, “{wake word}, shuffle,” or swipe up on the screen to view options and toggle shuffle on by touching the shuffle icon.

 

3. Your Alexa Contacts may have two listings, and if they do, one is for “Home”.
When my parents first got their Show set up and called me we had a few minutes of confusion because the incoming caller was identified on my Show as “Dad Cell’s Home”. It’s a bit of a mouthful so I wanted to change it to “Mom and Dad’s Show” or something similar for times when I want to call them, and we went back and forth a bit before I figured out what was going on and why that’s not possible—or necessary.

Recall that Alexa populates your Alexa Contacts list from your mobile device Contacts list. In the Contacts list of the cell phone where I’ve got the Alexa app installed, my dad’s listed as “Dad Cell”. So when he installed the Alexa app on his cell to set up his Show, he was added to my Alexa Contacts as “Dad Cell”.

Now also recall that once Alexa communications are set up, participants can communicate with one another through their Alexa devices or through the Alexa app on their mobile devices.

In order for users to be able to specify which device they want to communicate with, Amazon automatically sets up two Alexa Contact entries in cases where an Alexa Contact has both the Alexa app and one or more Alexa devices. The Alexa Contact entry for the other person’s mobile device is named the same as whatever you have them listed as in your mobile device’s Contacts list. The entry for the other person’s Alexa devices is that same name, followed by an apostrophe “s” and the word Home.

So for my dad, there’s both “Dad Cell” (for his actual cell phone) and “Dad Cell’s Home” (for all of my parents’ Alexa devices, because they all ring when you place an Alexa device call).

Bear this naming convention in mind when setting up your cell phone Contacts. In my case I elected to leave it alone. It’s awkward, but I couldn’t think of a better naming convention that would work for both my cell phone Contact entry for Dad and my Alexa Contact ‘Home’ entry for his and Mom’s Show + Echo + Dots.

 

4. Glare is a factor in brightly-lit rooms and with dark content.
When the Show’s in a brightly lit area and the screen has dimmed or is displaying anything dark, the glare is both noticeable and annoying. Try to place your Show in a location where it won’t catch a lot of reflected light. There are glare shields available, but Amazon doesn’t recommend them since as of this writing they are all manufactured by third parties who didn’t have access to the Show when designing or manufacturing the shields. They may interfere with the Show’s touchscreen sensitivity or leave behind a residue, and they won’t fit the screen precisely.

I was told by Amazon customer service that Amazon may come out with glare shields of its own.

 

5. The screen collects fingerprints like it’s a core feature.
Keep a microfiber cloth nearby, because you’ll be using it A LOT.

 

6. There’s no way to manually dismiss the “Recent Interactions” icon on the screen.
When someone calls you or you call someone through the Show, a little Contact icon with a number over it appears in the upper right hand corner of the Home screen. The number is a count of how many different Alexa Contacts you’ve had recent interaction with via Alexa communications, and touching it will take you to a screen with the full Alexa Contact name(s). It’s there to provide a quick way to reply.

After video chatting with my parents I saw this icon on my Show’s Home screen, but I couldn’t find any way to dismiss it. A call to Amazon customer support confirmed there’s not currently any way to manually clear this alert, but it’s down as an item to be addressed in a future software update. However, the icon cleared from my Home screen after I called my parents from my Show again, so it seems like the ‘do you want to reply’ reminder this icon represents is cleared once you reply to a listed contact—but not until you reply to that contact.

 

I’ll share more about the Show in future posts, as updates occur and as I discover new tips, tricks and gotchas. Click here for the Echo Show main help page.

 

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The Echo Show started shipping last week, and Amazon’s made it available with an interest-free payment plan (5 x $46) for customers in good standing. It’s got all that great Alexa functionality together with some terrific new features. If past Alexa device releases are any indication the Show may sell out quickly once people start using and talking about it, so if you’ve decided to pull the trigger on the Show there’s no reason to wait.

 

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