Why Look At The Best Alexa Skills?
39 million — or one in six Americans — own a smart speaker, NPR and Edison Research recently found. While there are a variety of smart speakers on the market, including Google Home and Sonos Beam, the majority of smart speakers are Amazon’s Echo devices. Although Amazon’s smart speakers can do a number of things straight out of the box, third-party skills truly allow you to get the most out of your Alexa. We know that some skills are spotty, but you can also enable tons of helpful and cool Alexa skills. We’ve done the legwork and come up with the 18 best Alexa skills.
“Alexa” is the name of the artificial intelligence that “inhabits” Amazon Echo devices, Echo Dots, and Echo Show devices. “Alexa” is also the wake word that users must utter to get the attention of their smart speaker.
You can ask Alexa anything: the weather, the score of a football game, or even a recipe. But oftentimes (and too often, if you ask me) you’ve asked Alexa a question and her response was, “Sorry. I don’t know that one,” or “Hmm, I’m not sure.” Come on, Alexa.
But before getting angry with little Alexa, it may be that you haven’t enabled a necessary Alexa skill. Out of the box, Alexa comes with more than a handful of impressive capabilities. She can stream music from Spotify or Amazon Music, give you news briefings, and control anything connected to a SmartThings hub. But the real fun begins when you start accessing third-party skills.
What Are Alexa Skills?
Alexa skills are apps that give Alexa additional abilities, and there are over 33,000 Alexa skills that users can enable on their devices. Some are super random, like skills that meow, purr, and chirp on command. But others are quite useful and can help you get stuff done. Check out some of the best Alexa skills currently on the market, and start making the most out of your smart speaker.
Before you start using these cool Alexa skills, you first need to know how to enable them. One way is to enable the skill directly on Amazon’s website. Search for the skill using the search bar, and once you find it, click the yellow button that says “enable.” If you’re uncertain about which cool Alexa skills to enable, click here for Amazon’s collection of best Alexa skills. Alexa skills can also be enabled using the Alexa app. Just go to the menu and select “skills.” Finally, some skills can be enabled using your voice. Just say, “Alexa, enable ‘name of skill,’” and she will do so (usually).
17 Best Alexa Skills Out Today
Best Alexa Skills for Productivity
Alexa skills can be quite valuable, but how do you find out about her useful capabilities? Amazon created a skill called “Alexa Things to Try.” Enable the skill, and Alexa will provide a useful daily tip as part of your Flash Briefing. Just say, “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?” Unlike other similar skills, “Alexa Things to Try” doesn’t go overboard.
Each day, she gives you a different small and practical tip that can help you operate your Amazon Echo more seamlessly. It’s a simple and easily accessible way to stay up to date about what’s going on in the news without slowing down your day. The order in which your briefings play can be adjusted using the Alexa app.
It’s called Mastermind for a reason; when it comes to communication, it’s one of the best Alexa skills out there. Mastermind can send and read text messages, make and answer phone calls, and find your phone. With this skill, you can also launch apps on your cell phone and Smart TV through Alexa’s voice-enabled services. You never have to touch your phone when you enable “Mastermind.”
Ask Alexa to read your notifications, and she will read and manage all app notifications including those from Facebook, WhatsApp, your email, and more. And in a day and age where telemarketing is off the chain, Mastermind can also find out who is calling. Just say, “Alexa, Ask Mastermind who’s calling,” and she will provide caller ID information. If you don’t want to answer, ask Mastermind to reject the call. “Mastermind” works with Google Chrome, Amazon Echos, Google Chromecast TV, and any Alexa voice-enabled device. iOS support is coming in August of 2018.
I don’t know if it’s age or what, but I’m always losing my phone. And for some reason, my iPad is hardly ever signed in to Apple ID, and since I have a horrible habit of forgetting all of my passwords, apps like “Find My iPhone” never seem to work for me. With “Find My Phone,” you can call your lost phone from Alexa. Just say, “Alexa, find my phone,” and she’ll give you a buzz.
Be sure to add “Find My Phone’s” toll-free number(s) to your contacts as Alexa. Enable bypass for that contact so that it will ring even if your phone is on silent or do not disturb. If your whole household tends to lose their phones, add a family member by saying, “Alexa, ask Find My Phone to add another phone number.” Then, ask Alexa to ask “Find My Phone” to call that family member. Pretty cool.
People think that being a housekeeper is all freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin spice air freshener, but looking after a house is serious business. The Good Housekeeping skill is here to help you, well, be a good housekeeper. This neat Alexa skill provides you with everything from stain removal advice to dinner ideas. We all know that when it comes to stains, the quicker you act, the better.
Act fast when you enable “Good Housekeeping.” What makes this one of the best Alexa skills is that you can tell her what type of stain you’re dealing with, and she’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions to make it disappear. Working with your Amazon Echo, the experts at Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab can help you remove stains from fabric, carpet, cotton, upholstery, and more. Just say something like, “Alexa, ask Good Housekeeping how do I get ink out of fabric?”
Best Alexa Skills for Entertainment and Humor
Sure, Alexa can help you be more productive, but did you know that she knows how to have fun, too? The “Would You Rather?” Alexa skill asks seemingly limitless “this-or-that” questions. It’s addicting and fun for everyone. Plus, the questions are excellent conversation starters. Just say, “Alexa, play Would You Rather?” and decide between two lighthearted and silly situations. Some of the questions are funny like “Would you rather sneeze cheese or cry chocolate tears?” Others like “Would you rather eat a rotten burger or drink spoiled milk?” are a little nasty.
After you respond, Alexa will tell you the percentage of people who picked the same answer as you. New questions are added on a regular basis, so be sure to play often. The game is now available in multiplayer mode and will keep people of all ages entertained for hours. You can pick from the standard edition, Harry Potter edition, or Disney edition. And with this Alexa skill, you don’t have to worry about a ton of annoying ads at startup.
Okay, so Alexa’s voice is monotone and not so soothing, but the fact that she can read your little ones — or you — a bedtime story is pretty impressive. What’s super neat about this Alexa skill is that you can personalize the story with your name. The list of stories is expansive, and more stories are being added all the time.
You can disable any stories you don’t want to hear via the “Short Bedtime Story” website. You can also use the website to correct any mispronunciation of your kids’ names and write your own bedtime stories. Just be sure to be precise. Say, “Alexa, tell Bedtime Story to tell a story to ‘your name.’ Otherwise, she will open up your other reading apps and read something random from that. Though the idea of creepy-sounding Alexa reading a bedtime story to your little one may seem kind of weird, your kid will (probably) love it.
Best Alexa Skills for News, Traffic, and Weather
#7 Big Sky
While Alexa does come with a built-in weather skill, some might find it to be insufficient. One of the best Alexa skills for weather, “Big Sky” gives you hyper-local hour-by-hour weather forecasts using your street address. Hourly weather includes detailed information such as humidity, wind speed, and U.V. index, and you can access this information for up to 48 hours out. Daily weather reports are less detailed and can be obtained for one week out. Daily reports include temperature lows and highs, sunrise and sunset times, and precipitation probabilities.
“Big Sky” will notify you if the National Weather Service issues an alert for your area and can also send you other notifications, just “manage permissions” in your Alexa app under the “Big Sky” skill. For a small fee, users can upgrade to “Big Sky” Premium. The premium version gives you access to the standard features as well as forecasts for locations nearby and around the world.
Best Alexa Skills for Health and Wellness
#8 Ask My Buddy
The commercial with the little old lady crying, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up,” has been a laughingstock for many years, but medical emergencies are real. Suppose you find yourself in need of assistance but can’t get to your phone. “Ask My Buddy” lets you contact loved ones using only your voice. Simply say, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to alert ‘name of your contact.’ Alexa will then send an alert to your contact via SMS, email, or even voice telephone call. You can also say, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to send help.”
While this feature is not a replacement for 911, it is comforting to know that you have a safety net should a medical emergency arise and is, in my opinion, one of the best Alexa skills you could enable on your device. “Ask My Buddy” has also released a check-in feature where you can let your loved ones know that you’re okay. Just say, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to check in with ‘name of your contact.’ Click here to create an account and get started.
Gym memberships and personal trainers don’t come cheap. And even if you are paying for those services, getting the motivation to get up and go to the gym can sometimes be difficult to muster. But don’t neglect your health. Just twenty minutes of moderate exercise each day can lower your risk of disease and improve overall health. “Five Minute Workout” is for those lazy days (weeks, months, or years).
Get off your posterior part, and let Alexa narrate a workout for you. Just say, “Alexa, open Five Minute Workout.” You can also ask her to pause and resume the workout. Get set as your Amazon Echo coaches your through bicep curls, push-ups, and other fat burning exercises that will tone your core into shape and have you feeling sore the next morning. The workouts can get a little redundant since it’s the same one every time, but feel free to modify moves until more exercises get added to the skill.
#10 Meal Idea
Eating meals from a restaurant on a regular basis is both expensive and unhealthy. Cooking at home is the way to go. But what to make? Of course, there is Pinterest, but it seems as if those recipes always call for some off the wall ingredients. Sorry. No ostrich eggs in my fridge. Try again next week.
For simple meal ideas, check out “Meal Idea.” This ingenious Alexa skill gives you meal ideas based on the ingredients you already have at home. No more stressful meal times. Enable the skill on your Alexa app, and say, “Alexa, open Meal Idea,” to get the ideas rolling. You can also say, “Alexa, ask Meal Idea to tell me something.” In addition to hearing the audio, Alexa will also send the meal idea to the home screen of the Alexa app so that you can refer to it while preparing the meal.
Best Alexa Skills for Music, Books, and Podcasts
#11 Ambient Noise
There’s just something relaxing about the sound of waves breaking against the shore or the harmonious sound of birds singing in the rainforest. “Ambient Noise” plays soothing sound loops to help you meditate, drown out distractions, and fall asleep faster. If you have a baby that has trouble sleeping through the night, the “Ambient Noise” Alexa skill might be the answer you’ve been seeking.
Get started by asking Alexa to open “Ambient Noise.” You can then ask for a specific sound — like an oscillating fan, ocean waves, fireplace, thunderstorms, or rain on a tent. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask Alexa for a random sound. You can access the entire list of sounds by saying, “Alexa, ask Ambient Noise for a list.” By default, “Ambient Noise” will loop until you say, “Alexa, stop,” but you can also set custom timers while the sound is playing by saying “Alexa, stop in five hours.” Premium members can play two sounds at a time for over 800 unique combinations.
Setting the mood for a steamy massage, relaxing after a long day of work, or just taking a few minutes to put your mind at ease? The “Zen Sounds” Alexa skill can help. Ask Alexa to play one of the skill’s many sounds including Celtic sounds, thunder sounds, and spirit sounds, whatever spirit sounds are. By default, the sound will loop until you say “Alexa, stop.” You can also set timers by saying, “Alexa, set a sleep timer for five hours,” while within the “Zen Sounds” skill.
These peace-inducing sounds can help lull you off to sleep, meditate, or simply relax. The sound loops for an hour, unlike many other relaxing sounds skills, which play short, choppy-sounding two-minute loops. Seriously, this is one of the best Alexa skills out there. At the time of this post, “Zen Sounds” had 2,562 reviews. 98 percent of those reviewers gave the skill five stars, and the other 2 percent rated it four stars. With reviews so rave, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Best Alexa Skills for Education and Reference
#13 TED Talks
Intelligence is attractive, but in our busy world, sitting down with a book doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. Learn something new with TED Talks on Amazon Echo. You can ask Alexa to play the most recent TED talk or play a random TED talk. You can also browse talks by topic or speaker name. Whether you’re in the mood for something inspiring, persuasive, awe-inspiring, or humorous, you can ask Alexa to find it through the TED Talks skill. Just say, “Alexa, ask TED Talks to find talks about space,” for example. You can pause and resume talks. Just say, “Alexa, pause” or “Alexa, resume” while in the TED Talks skill.
Whether you’re a multi-tasker seeking to learn about artificial intelligence while washing dishes or just a curious person who wants to stay inspired, Alexa can inspire you with ease. A new TED Talk is added every weekday, and anyone can listen for free, so enable it today.
Assimilate new utterances into your lexicon with this advantageous Alexa skill by Magoosh — did I sound smart? Learn new words every day with this enlightening Alexa skill. Each word that “appears” in this Alexa skill was hand-picked by professionals who help students prepare for the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and GRE, so this skill is especially useful if you plan on taking one of those tests in the near future.
Each user will start at the apprentice level and work their way to a vocabulary master. To start, simply say, “Alexa, launch Vocabulary Builder.” Though some say the words on this skill are rather elementary, Magoosh adds new words on a regular basis. This Alexa skill is an excellent way to build your vocabulary. Play on your own or with friends.
Sharpen your trivia skills with the “Question of the Day” skill. Each day say, “Alexa, play Question of the Day,” or “Alexa, start Question of the Day.” Alexa will then ask you trivia questions from various categories, including entertainment, arts, culture, literature, and science. After answering, you collect points for correct answers and hear how others have answered as well. The app could be a little more challenging if multiple choice options were not provided, but “Question of the Day” continues to be a fun and interesting skill nonetheless.
Be sure to link the skill in your Alexa app to keep track of your points and other statistics. Sharpen your philosophy skills with questions like, “Which philosopher declared, ‘I think, therefore I am?’ — it was Rene Descartes — or learn about Greek Mythology when “Question of the Day” asks you for the name of the messenger to the Olympian gods, which is Iris, by the way.
Best Alexa Skills for your Smart Home
#16 iRobot Home
If a decade ago, someone would have suggested that you would be able to talk to a speaker which would then tell your robot vacuum to start cleaning, people would have called you loony. But that’s exactly what you can do with the iRobot Home Alexa skill. Now your iRobot Roomba can digest your voice commands and crumbs all over your kitchen floor.
Owners of Wi-Fi connected iRobot Roomba vacuums can enable the iRobot Home skill to help you keep your home clean. Just say something like, “Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning,” or “Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning in 20 minutes.” You can also ask for the location of your Roomba, schedule cleanings, send Roomba back home, and more. As if a robot vacuum that zips around cleaning your house isn’t futuristic enough, now you can command your iRobot Roomba with just your voice.
No one likes fumbling for the light switch when walking into a dark house at night. And what’s worse than lying in bed after a long day only to realize that you forgot to lock the back door? With “Wink,” you can adjust outlets, thermostats, locks, lights, and switches using just your voice. Ask Alexa to lock the front door, turn on the downstairs lamp, or set the bedroom light to warm white. Just say something like, “Alexa, turn on the porch light” or ask, “Alexa, is the front door locked?” You can even ask your helpful little A.I. to unlock the door. But safety first: you’ll have to create a four-digit PIN in your Alexa app before she does that.
“Wink” is super useful and allows you to control most of your smart devices with just your voice. If that’s not living in the future, I don’t know what is. To get started, you will need to create a “Wink” account, and some products require that you purchase the Wink Hub to connect.
Alexa is quite useful. But unfortunately, many of us don’t get to experience her true goodness because we don’t know what we’re missing. With more than 33,000 Alexa skills and more being created on a regular basis, soon there will be an Alexa skill for practically everything. Until then, we hope that these cool Alexa skills will set you on the path to Alexa discovery.
Are you part of the one in six Americans that own a smart speaker? Do you have an Amazon Echo or are you #TeamGoogle? What are the best Alexa skills in your opinion? Comment below.