Skills are no longer exclusive to Alexa, but they are still something that largely differentiates it from other voice assistants. There are around 80,000 skills in Alexa store, and now that Amazon has allowed everyone to publish skills on public Amazon Skill store (in the US), you can expect many more to be added to the list.
But what are Amazon Skills?
Amazon Skills are voice-based skills that you can use to add extra or personalized features to your Alexa interaction. For instance, you could teach Alexa to respond to a particular question or commands in a specific way. You could enable existing skills and use voice commands to interact with other connected smart home devices. Or you could use skills to teach Alexa to deal with other popular apps that you use. Before we proceed to discuss skills with examples, here are a few things you should know.
5 things to know about Amazon Alexa Skills:
- Just like app stores, there is an Amazon Skill store. You can directly search for skills, know more about them, check reviews, and enable them.
- The skills in the Amazon Global store are not the same as the ones in Amazon India skills store. You will have to change your account to global (Amazon.com instead of Amazon.in) to access them. And yes, the global store has more variety and more exciting skills.
- These skills reside on Amazon cloud and you can download as many as you like without slowing down your Alexa device. So, don’t worry about enabling too many of these.
- Users can also create their custom Alexa skills in a few simple steps, we have detailed the process in a separate article.
1. Find my phone
This is a command I use most on my smart home assistants. While Google has a native service that works awesome for Android phones, Alexa has a workaround that helps too.
There are many “Find my phone” apps on Alexa store, but Phone Genie is by far the most popular one. Once you have enabled the skill, you can simply ask Alexa to find your phone, and you Phone Genie will route a cellular call to your phone. The Skill won’t be as helpful when your phone is in silent mode, but still beats dialing yourself from another phone.
2. Relaxing Sounds
Setting soothing background music to my living room is another skill (or set of skills) that I use very often. You can Ask Alexa to play rain sounds, Indian flute, or just relaxing spa music.
You can also add skills that enable Alexa to chant sounds for positive energy like Om mantra or feng shui music. Here are a few such skills that you must try.
- Enable relaxing spa music skill
- Enable feng shui music skill
- Enable Om mantra skill
- Enable rain sounds skill
- Enable Indian flute skill
3. Manage your news flash briefing
Requests like ‘what’s in the news’ or anything regarding flash briefing triggers news feed and headlines and this is another important part of Alexa experience.
You can enable multiple skills from different media sources for flash briefing and its better you manage your flash briefing directly from Alexa dashboard. Just tap on “Get more flash briefing content” and select audio and video skills that you are interested in (organized in different categories).
- Go to alexa.amazon.in >> Settings>> Flash briefing
4. Check your phone bill or balance
If you are Vodafone or Idea user, you get to ask “Alexa, ask Vodafone what is my current bill”. You can also check your prepaid balance or initiate a payment (completed via payment link and not Amazon Pay).
This is indeed helpful and it would be great if other telecom operators could launch similar skills as well.
If you expect Alexa to be smart enough to guide you through basic tutorials when needed, you can also enable the Wiki How Skill. Once enabled, you need to phrase your question as “Ask Wiki How how to …..” and Alexa will read you a step-by-step tutorial detailing the process.
The list of WiKi How “how to” articles is extremely diverse and includes basic like how to give CPR, how to tie a tie, etc.
6. Cab aggregators
Alexa can also hail cabs for you, but only if you teach her to. You can do that by enabling Ola or Uber skills and by linking your Ola and Uber account in the next step.
Once set up, you will be able to hail a cab with simple commands like “Alexa, Ask Ola to book a prime to work” or “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride.”
Radio is not what youngsters take to these days, but it was reported as the second most accessed media in India, surpassing even social media. Anyways, if at times you feel the need to outsource your music playback to a Radio station or to listen to some RJ chitter chatter, Alexa has a few options.
You can listen to retro music using All India radio or access current mix via Radio City. You may also enable Gaana skill to stream Mirchi top 20 radio tracks
- Enable All India Radio FM Gold
- Enable All India Radio Vividh Bharati
- Enable Gaana (Ask Alexa to play Radio Mirchi Top 20 or Purani jeans on Gaana)
There are quite a few skills for guided meditations that you could try. The one we’d recommend you to try is Cure.fit meditation. The app walks you through different types of meditation processes and the explanation is pretty elaborate.
You may also choose from many other available options like Headspace and Art of living meditation.
It’s no surprise that most people primarily use smart speakers to stream music. Apart from Amazon music, Alexa can fetch music and videos from apps like Hungama music, Saavn, and Gaana, but only if you have enabled the skills for these particular apps.
So, if you own an Echo speaker or an Echo device with a screen, we’d recommend you enable these skills, just to source different top 20 playlist from different apps for variety.
10. Stream bedtime stories
Alexa can read your Kindle and Audible books for you, but if you don’t use these platforms, there are a few other good skills that in the Skill store that can help.
Story stream, for instance, has a good collection of stories for adults. Headspace bedtime story has some decent content too. We are yet to run into a decent bedtime stories option for kids, though.
Here are some other Random Alexa skills that you might find useful:
- Round of applause – triggers a round of applause
- Daily Quotes – a decent skill if you wish to listen to popular quotes
- Games and quizzes – Amazon’s India app store has a tonne of games and quizzes, but most of the ones we tried turned out underwhelming. And none stuck. Perhaps your experience will be different.
- Blueprints – You can also create your own Alexa skills using Blueprints.
10 best Amazon skills to try in 2019
Apart from the options that we have mentioned above, you can also enable skills related to business and finance, Devotional books and sermons, shopping, Smart homes and more depending on your individual needs. You can manage the skills you have enabled from your Alexa app or from the Alexa dashboard. But yes, without experimenting with these skills you won’t be able to make the most of your Echo device.
If a particular Amazon skill that you love isn’t mentioned here, share with us in the comment section below.