Last week I shared the news that Alexa Routines are on the way, and Amazon caught me off guard by releasing the new feature much sooner than I expected.
The good news is that you can now pre-program a series of Alexa commands and kick the series off at a scheduled time or with a single, spoken command you choose. The bad news is that the one feature most people were hoping for in Alexa Routines is not there: as of this writing, you can’t include music player commands in your Routines.
In this initial release of Routines at least, commands are limited to News/Flash Briefing, Weather, Smart Home and Traffic. Right now, Routines is kind of a souped-up version of Flash Briefing, with the ability to add some new information sources and turn smart home devices on or off when the Routine runs. However, I do expect the feature to be expanded in the future with software updates. Please use the Help & Feedback form in the Alexa app (as the screenshot below indicates, the link is back in the mobile app and it’s also available in the web app) to let Amazon know if the addition of music commands to Alexa Routines is important to you. Amazon prioritizes software and hardware changes based on customer feedback.
Note that as of this writing, Alexa Routines setup is only available in the Alexa mobile app, not in the web version of the app.
Setting Up Alexa Routines
Begin by opening the Main Menu in the Alexa app. It’s accessed via the “hamburger” icon at the top of the screen, which looks like three short, horizontal lines. In the screenshot below, the Main Menu is open. Tap on Routines.
One Routine (“Alexa, Start my day”) is already set up as a default option, but it is not enabled. You can tap the icon next to that default routine to review, edit and enable it, or you can tap the plus sign at the upper right of the screen to create a new Routine from scratch.
The screen that loads after you tap the plus sign to add a new Routine is pictured below. There are two steps. First you set the “trigger” for when your Routine should kick off. There are currently only two available triggers: either a spoken command you specify, or a scheduled time you specify. Tap the plus sign to the right of ‘When this happens’ to enter your trigger phrase or time. Second, tap the plus sign to the right of ‘Add action’ to add functions to your Routine. Finally, tap the Create button.
This is the screen that loads after you tap ‘Add action’ in the screen shown above. As you can see, there are only four options here: News, Smart Home, Traffic and Weather. Tap on each one you want to add in turn, and you will be prompted to set options for each.
And there you have it: the first release of Alexa routines. It’s a good start, but I suspect many Alexa device owners will be dissatisfied with Routines until Music commands are added to the Actions screen. I can’t think of any technical or software limitation that would make this impossible, and given that the Echo Spot is being promoted as a bedside alarm clock it seems likely to me that Music actions could be added at the time Spot is released.