7/21/17 Alexa Fast Tips Friday

Welcome to LME’s 7/21/17 Alexa Fast Tips Friday. You may have heard some of these before, but I hope you learn at least one new thing here each week.

Please note: not being in the UK myself I can’t test any of these tips for UK Alexa users. If the functionality isn’t there yet, it should be coming to you soon.

 

TGIF Smile

 

1. Pre-program alarms so you can enable them remotely.
Ever needed to set an alarm to wake up a kid, housemate or guest after you’ve left the house? That would be a great time to be able to set an Alexa alarm for the device nearest that person remotely. I seem to recall being able to set alarms remotely for any of my Alexa devices via the Alexa app in the past, but when I went to do it today the ‘add alarm’ function in the app was gone. Now—or always? Am I misremembering?–it seems you have to use voice commands on the target device to create an alarm.

However, all pre-existing / past alarms you’ve set for the device do show up in the Alexa app and you can toggle them off and on there. Problem solved! Use voice commands to pre-program a few alarms at the most likely times you would need them, and after setting each one tell Alexa to “Cancel alarm”. The alarm will be turned off, but it will show up in the list of available alarms in the Alexa app.

 

2. Managing Alexa’s data usage.
Alexa is now being rolled out to the Amazon Shopping app in addition to the actual, standalone Alexa app, and lots of people are using Taps and Dots in their cars, tethered to their cell phones, to bring Alexa along for the ride. No problem if you’ve got an unlimited data plan, stream audio and gab with Alexa all you want! But if data usage is a concern, you need to keep on top of things.

Alexa interactions, like asking for a joke or currency conversion, don’t eat up much data at all. It’s streaming audio from Amazon and Audible that gets you, because Amazon always downloads a certain amount of audio to ensure uninterrupted playback during connectivity hiccups and to enable skip functionality. It’s kind of like how your DVR is constantly recording up to an hour of live TV while you’re watching, so you will be able to “rewind live TV”. In order to rewind, the digital video has to be stored on your DVR.

Amazon Music downloads the file you’ve requested plus the next one in the playlist, at a data cost of approximately 5MB each for songs of average length (5 minutes or less – a good rule of thumb is to assume 1MB per minute of audio). After the first song is over, the third song downloads while the second one is playing.

Two songs are going to be downloaded every time you change the station or skip tracks in the playlist too, so if you tend to do those things a lot you can burn through a lot of data very quickly. Audible audiobooks are worse, since the “track” length for each chapter will generally be longer than for a song—remember, Alexa allows chapter skips during Audible playback.

 

3. Remember: friends and family don’t have to own an Alexa device in order for you to use Alexa messaging features with them, all they need is the free Alexa app.
This one is especially great for people who’ve bought a Show and want to use it for video chat, but don’t know anyone else who owns a Show.

If there’s someone in your mobile device Contacts list you’d like to give permission to communicate with you via Alexa messaging (voice calls, video chat, messaging on your Alexa device(s)), tell that person to download and install the latest version of the Alexa app and grant the necessary permissions to enable Alexa messaging. Presto! that person will now show up in your Alexa Contacts list in your copy of the Alexa app, and you can communicate with one another via Alexa communication services.

If you change your mind at any point in the future, you can block that contact from Alexa communications in the Alexa app. Note that as of this writing, the rule is that one of the two people in the conversation or messaging exchange must have an Alexa device, it doesn’t work for Alexa app – to – Alexa app communications. .

 

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