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Your new Echo Dot is a gateway to a world of smart home automation and fun with your virtual assistant. While Amazon offers several Echo devices, the Dot is a great choice due to its low price tag and slim profile.
If you’re stuck during the setup of your Echo Dot or need help figuring out the basics, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started with your Echo Dot and utilize its power. We’ll cover some common problem areas too. Let’s get started!
Note: Amazon revamped the Echo Dot in fall 2016. The two generations are nearly identical. While this guide is written with the second generation model in mind, we’ll note the few places where the older model differs.
Here’s everything you can expect from this guide:
1. Echo Dot Unboxing and First Time Setup
First things first, you’ll need to open the box that your Echo Dot arrived in. Inside, you’ll find a few items:
- The Echo Dot unit — we’ll refer to it as the Echo or Dot from here on out.
- A standard microUSB cable for powering the unit.
- A power adapter to plug into the wall.
- Quick Start Guide with the basic setup instructions that we’ll cover in a moment.
- Things to Try card with some sample Alexa commands.
Start by plugging the microUSB cable into the back of your Dot. Then plug the standard USB end into the adapter, then into a wall plug. Ideally, you want to place your Dot in a central location in a room so it can hear you from anywhere. Its microphones are solid, so you shouldn’t have to play around with it too much.
Your Echo will start up and show a blue light. Give it a few minutes to run through its initialization process. When you see an orange ring of light, Alexa will tell you that you’re ready to get online.
Grab the Alexa App
Since the Echo Dot doesn’t have a screen, you’ll continue the setup on your phone. Install the Alexa app for your device from the appropriate app store:
- Amazon Alexa on iOS
- Amazon Alexa on Android
- Use the Alexa web portal if you don’t have a smartphone.
Open the Alexa app, and sign into your Amazon account (or create an account if you don’t have one already). If you already use the Amazon app on your phone, it might pick up your account automatically.
Your phone will then attempt to connect to your Echo Dot automatically. If this doesn’t work, the app will ask you to press and hold the Dot’s action button (the one with a bump) for a few seconds. Once it finds the device, tap the Continue button again.
Now you need to add the Echo to your WiFi network. Tap the name of your network here, then enter the password. A moment after you press Connect, your Echo will go online.
The final step is deciding how you want to hear your Echo. You have three options: Bluetooth, Audio Cable, and No speakers. The Dot allows you to connect your device to a speaker using Bluetooth or an audio cable for better audio. If you don’t want to use either of these, the last option will play all audio through the Dot’s basic speakers.
Select No speakers for now and we’ll discuss the other options later.
After this, you’ve completed the setup! The app will offer to show you a quick video on using Alexa, and throw a couple of sample commands at you. You can review these now if you like; we’ll discuss using Alexa below. Accept or decline the free trials for Amazon Prime and Prime Music and you’ve completed the setup process!
2. Basic Alexa Commands and Adding Skills
Now that your Echo is ready, you can talk to it any time by saying the wake word Alexa followed by a command. For example, say Alexa, what time is it? and your Echo will let you know. We’ll cover some commands, but don’t be afraid to experiment. At worst, Alexa will tell you that she doesn’t know.
Covering every command would take far too long, so we’ll hit some highlights and leave the rest up to you.
Built-in Alexa Commands
Your Echo can do a lot right out of the box. Here’s a sampling.
- What’s the date? If you ever wake up after being frozen for decades or just forget what day it is, Alexa can help.
- Set an alarm for 7am. Set an alarm on your Echo without fiddling with your clock or phone’s buttons. You can also set up a schedule by saying Set a repeating alarm for 7am weekdays.
- Set a timer for five minutes. Perfect when you’re cooking something with dirty hands.
- Give me my Flash Briefing. Your Echo will bring you the latest news headlines. You can customize your sources, which we’ll discuss later.
- How is traffic? Once you set up your work address in the Settings (see below), Alexa can give you a heads-up about your commute time.
- What restaurants are nearby? Find the closest places to grab a bite to eat.
- What’s the extended forecast for McMurdo Station Antarctica? If you ask about the weather without specifying a place, your Echo uses your current location.
- Turn on the lights. With the proper smart home devices, Alexa can act as a one-stop hub for controlling your house.
- Play the Kenny G station on Pandora. See below for more information on music.
- Order laundry detergent. Your Echo lets you conveniently order from Amazon using your voice. Say the name of the product you want to buy (Alexa will list popular options if you don’t specify it exactly). You can send products to your Amazon cart instead if you’re not sure.
- Track my order. Want to know when your latest Amazon package will arrive? Alexa will tell you.
- Add pencils to my shopping list. Your Echo can create a shopping list to make it easier to remember what you want to buy.
- Put finish building my PC on my to-do list. Like the shopping list, you can create a list of tasks using Alexa.
- Stop. Use this universal command to end audio playback, or just shut Alexa up if she’s babbling too long.
With most commands, you’ll find additional information in the Alexa app. Tap the Home button at the bottom of the screen to see a feed of everything you’ve asked your Echo recently. For instance, when I asked Alexa about nearby Chinese restaurants, she listed off a few names. But visiting the app lets you see reviews, addresses, and business hours.
If you’re looking for something new to try with Alexa, there’s an entire section of the app to check. Slide open the left menu and select Things to Try for a host of options.
Amazon Echo Skills
Thanks to talented developers, you aren’t limited to the default Alexa skills. There’s a world of skills that you can browse and add to your Echo in seconds that expand its functionality. To view them, open your Alexa app and select the Skills tab from the left menu.
You’ll see the skills storefront. There’s a lot going on here, but finding new skills isn’t hard. Browse through the front page and you’ll see some of the most popular options, along with the newest additions. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see categories like Health & Fitness, Local, and Productivity. You can also search for a skill using the top bar.
Select a skill to read more about it. Each one lists the phrases you need to ask Alexa in order to open the skill. You can also read the developer’s description and check reviews. Just press the Enable Skill button at the top to add it to your Echo. After a few moments, you can ask Alexa to launch it. You can also ask Alexa to add skills, but that’s not as useful, as you can’t browse a visual list.
3. Important Echo Dot Functions
You can start asking Alexa questions as soon as you complete the setup. But to get the full experience, you should know about some of the other functions of your Dot.
Echo Dot Buttons and Lights
We haven’t discussed the buttons on your Echo Dot unit yet. Take a look at the top, and you’ll see a few:
- The Plus and Minus buttons control the volume. When you tap one, you’ll notice the white light ring around your Echo grows or shrinks to display the current volume. You can also say Alexa, volume five to set a volume level — any number between 1 and 10 inclusive will work.
- Tap the Microphone Off button to disable your Echo’s microphones. The device will light up red to let you know it’s disabled and won’t respond to the wake word. Press it again to enable the microphones.
- The button with a dot is the Action Button. Tap it to wake up your Echo just like saying the wake word. Pressing this button also ends a ringing timer or alarm.
Note that if you have a first generation Echo Dot, you control the volume by twisting the outside ring. The earlier model doesn’t have volume buttons.
Your Echo Dot will often light up with different colors and patterns to communicate with you. Keep an eye out for these common ones:
- Solid blue with spinning cyan lights: The device is starting up. If you see this regularly, you may be accidentally unplugging your device.
- Solid blue with a cyan sliver: The Echo is processing what you said.
- Solid red: You’ve disabled the microphone using the button.
- Waves of violet: The device encountered an error when setting up WiFi. See the troubleshooting section below if you’re getting this often.
- Flash of purple light: When you see this after Alexa processes a request, it means your device is in Do Not Disturb mode.
- Pulsing yellow light: You have a message. Say Alexa, play my messages to hear it.
- Pulsing green light: You’ve received a call or message. See below for more info on Alexa calling.
- All lights off: Your Echo is in standby and listening for your requests.
Adding Music Accounts
One of the most useful functions of an Echo is playing music. With just one command, you can set the mood for a party or get your favorite workout music going. It’s a lot faster than hunting through menus on your phone for the right tunes.
Unless you’re streaming music through your Amazon account, you’ll need to connect your accounts to access your libraries. Open the Alexa app on your phone and slide out the left menu. Choose Settings, then scroll down and tap Music & Media. Here, you’ll see the available music services including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio. Tap the link next to the service you want to connect and follow the steps to sign in and link it to your Echo.
Once you’re signed in, it’s worth tapping the Choose Default Music Service button. This lets you specify what service is primary. For instance, if you say Alexa, play some jazz music and have Spotify set as default, Alexa will always play from Spotify. If you would like to use a different service as your primary, you’ll need to add “from Spotify” every time you ask to play music.
We’ve discussed all the ways to stream music on your Echo, so check that out for full details.
Video and Books
Slide out the left menu and tap the Music, Video, & Books option, and you’ll see lots of services. We’ve already discussed music, but Alexa has a few more tricks up her sleeve.
Under the Video section, you can connect your Echo to a Fire TV or Dish Hopper Smart DVR. These let you control playback using your voice, which is pretty slick.
If you’re more of a bookworm, scroll down and you can access your Audible and Kindle libraries on your Echo. Alexa can read your Audible audiobooks as well as any Kindle eBooks you own. These must come from the Kindle Store, and Alexa can’t read comics or graphic novels. You also can’t adjust the reading speed. Still, it’s a good way to catch up on reading while you’re working.
Connecting Your Echo Dot to External Speakers
Your Dot contains basic speakers that work just fine for talking to Alexa. While they won’t fill the room with sound, they get the job done for basic requests. However, they’re noticeably sub-par when it comes to playing music. Thus, you might want to connect your Dot to a speaker via Bluetooth or an audio cable for better sound quality.
To use a 3.5mm audio cable, simply plug one end of the cable into your Echo and the other end into the speakers you wish to use. Then, whenever Alexa plays any audio, you’ll hear it through the superior speakers. Make sure the volume level of both devices is at an acceptable level if you don’t seem to hear anything. Note that you can’t do the reverse and use the cable to play music on your Dot from another device. The low-quality speakers mean this wouldn’t be a good idea anyway.
Connecting a Bluetooth speaker just takes a few taps under the Settings menu. Open the Alexa app, slide out the left menu, and select Settings. You should see your device under the Devices heading at the top of the list. Select it, then choose Bluetooth.
On the resulting menu, hit the Pair a New Device button and put your speaker in pairing mode. Select the right device and your Echo will play all audio through that speaker. If you want to break the connection, say Alexa, disconnect Bluetooth and it will play audio solely through your Dot. To reconnect later, say Alexa, connect Bluetooth. Make sure your speaker is on when you do so!
Voice Calling and Messaging
One of Alexa’s newest features is free calling and messaging to other Echo devices. You can use this feature to leave a message for a friend, or even call them and chat live at no extra cost. Tap the Messaging tab at the bottom of the app screen to view your recent messages and even send one from the app.
Check out our guide to Echo calling for everything you need to know.
Smart Home Functionality
The Echo is a great cornerstone to a smart home setup. Slide open the menu and select the Smart Home option, and you’ll see the Echo’s hub for adding new devices and tweaking them. Diving into creating a smart home is beyond the scope of this article — review our smart gadgets that are easy to set up and our $400 smart home starter kit if you’re itching to tap into this side of your Echo.
4. Amazon Alexa App Settings
We’ve gone through the basics of using your Echo Dot, along with using Alexa and adding skills. As an Echo owner, you should also know about the useful options hanging out in the Alexa app on your phone. To access it, slide out the left menu and select Settings. Let’s take a tour of what you can do in there.
Change Your Echo’s Wake Word
By default, the wake word for every Echo device is Alexa. But if you don’t like that or have someone in your home with the same name, you can change it. Go to Settings, tap on your device’s name, and scroll down to Wake Word. You can choose from four options: Alexa, Amazon, Echo, and Computer.
The last one should appeal to Star Trek fans. But even if you don’t mind Alexa, changing your wake word can help keep your devices from getting hijacked.
Pair a Remote with Your Echo
It’s not included in the box to keep costs down, but Amazon makes a remote for the Echo Dot. If you purchase one, head to Settings > [Device] > Pair device remote and follow the steps to sync it.
Enable Do Not Disturb on Your Echo
If you have lots of friends who also have an Echo device, you probably don’t want them sending you messages all the time. Go into Settings > [Device] > and turn on Do Not Disturb and Alexa won’t notify you if someone calls or sends you a message. You can also schedule a time for Do Not Disturb to automatically activate every day.
Say Alexa, turn on/off Do Not Disturb to change this without digging in the menus.
Adjust Your Echo’s Sound Options
Your Dot doesn’t play sounds super often, but you should tweak the options it offers to your liking. After tapping your device’s name in Settings, tap Sounds.
Try out a new alarm sound by tapping the Alarm entry. Then make sure your Alarm, Timer and Notification Volume is high enough that you hear it. You don’t want to miss an alarm! You can also disable the Audio option under Notifications if you don’t want to know when a new message arrives.
We recommend that every Echo owner turns on both the Start of Request and End of Request sounds. Whenever you say Alexa, your Echo will play a little tone so you know that it heard you. You’ll also hear the same tone whenever your Echo recognizes that you’re done speaking.
Change Your Echo’s Device Location
Your Echo should set this automatically. But just in case, head to Settings > [Device] > Device location and set your address. This ensures you get the most accurate information when asking about local details.
Get Shipping Notifications on Your Echo
If you like, Alexa can tell you when your Amazon packages are close to delivery. Visit Settings > Notifications > Shopping Notifications and turn on the Shipment Notifications. Whenever you see a yellow ring, ask Alexa to read your notifications to see when your item will arrive.
Edit Your Echo’s News Sources
Head to the Flash Briefing section of Settings to change where you get your news from. By default it’s set to NPR’s hourly news summary and the weather. To add sources, tap Get more Flash Briefing content and add any you like. May we suggest MakeUseOf’s Tech News skill?
Add Your Favorite Sports Teams to Your Echo
Say Alexa, sports update and she’ll tell you how your favorite teams are doing and what their next game is. But you need to specify which teams you care about first. You can do that in the Settings > Sports Update menu. Just search for a team name and tap it to add it to your list.
Specify Your Commute on Your Echo
Remember when we mentioned Alexa’s traffic-finding ability? Head to Settings > Traffic to specify your daily commute. Start with your home address, then specify your work destination. You can even add a stop in between if you always get a morning coffee, or drop your children off at school.
Connect Calendars to Your Echo
Alexa can add items to your calendar or let you know what’s coming up in your day. To enable this, you need to connect a calendar service. Go to Settings > Calendar and you can choose to connect your Google, Outlook, or iCloud calendars. Tap your preference and sign into your account to link them.
Sync To-Do Lists with Your Echo
The Alexa app includes a basic to-do list. But if you already use another service, you’d probably prefer to integrate it into your existing workflow. Visit Settings > Lists to do this. Select from several popular services, including Any.do and Todoist, and you can sign into your accounts to link your lists.
If Alexa isn’t hearing you right, you can run through a quick training session. Go to Settings > Voice Training to teach Alexa how you speak. You’ll have to read 25 phrases in your normal voice from a typical distance. Use this and Alexa will have a better idea of how you sound.
Disable Voice Purchasing on Your Echo or Add a PIN
Spending money on Amazon using only your voice might be too tempting for some people. If you don’t want the ability to buy with Alexa, navigate to Settings > Voice Purchasing and disable the slider for Purchase by voice. You can instead specify a four-digit code that’s required when making voice purchases. This prevents guests from goofing off and buying a bunch of junk.
Enable Multiple Household Members on Your Echo
In the Settings > Household Profile section, you can add another adult to your Amazon Household. This lets both people access the other’s content and lets you share lists, among other features. Amazon’s Household feature has uses outside of Alexa, so it’s worth a look.
5. Troubleshooting Echo Dot Issues
Now that you know almost everything about your Echo Dot, let’s wrap up by discussing a few common issues. If one pops up for you, you’ll know how to troubleshoot it.
Note: Just as rebooting your computer fixes lots of issues, the first troubleshooting step you should always take with your Echo is rebooting it. To power cycle your Dot, simply unplug it, wait a few seconds, then plug it back in and let it boot back up.
Alexa Can’t Hear You
If it seems like Alexa can’t hear you, try moving your Dot away from any obstructions. Move it at least eight inches from any walls if possible.
Also, consider what other noise might block Alexa from hearing you clearly. An air conditioner running all the time near your Echo will make it hard to pick up your voice. Music playing in the room could also hinder Alexa’s hearing.
WiFi Connection Problems
The Echo Dot refusing to connect to WiFi when you’re setting it up, or having it drop the connection randomly, is a common problem. If this is affecting you, first power cycle all of your networking gear, including the Dot, your router, and modem.
Should problems continue after this, try moving your Echo closer to your router. You should also try to keep the Dot away from other devices, like microwaves, that might interfere with it. Disconnect other devices on your network that you aren’t using to avoid wasting bandwidth. Review our tips for making your wireless network faster and how to troubleshoot network issues for further help.
Alexa Misunderstands You Often
Sick of asking Alexa what the weather looks like and getting a fun fact instead? If she isn’t hearing you right, you’ll get all kinds of weird output. The best way to remedy this is running through the voice training feature mentioned above.
Go to Settings > Voice Training and your Echo will ask you to speak 25 phrases from a normal distance. This will train the device to better understand how you speak.
If this doesn’t seem to help, you can check what Alexa thinks you’re saying. Go to Settings > History and you’ll find a list of everything you’ve said to Alexa. Tap an entry and you can play the live audio back, as well as confirming that Alexa did what you wanted. Identifying problem words can help you speak more clearly when addressing your Echo.
Totally Frozen? Factory Reset Your Echo
If you’ve tried all the above steps and your device is still unresponsive, you might need to take the nuclear solution. You can perform a factory reset on your device to send it back to default settings. Note that this will erase all preferences and skills, so you’ll have to set it up again from scratch.
For the second generation Echo Dot, press and hold the Microphone off and Volume down buttons together for about 20 seconds. You’ll see the light ring turn orange, then blue. After this, your Echo is ready to set up again.
The first generation Dot has a dedicated reset button. Find the small Reset button on the base of your device and use a paper clip to press and hold it. The light ring will turn orange, then blue and it’s back to factory defaults.
Alexa, You’re Awesome
There you have it — the complete guide to setting up and using your new Echo Dot. You’re in for a world of fun with this device. Whether you just want to use it for weather and games or are building an entire smart home around it, you can’t beat what the Dot offers for the price.