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Best Alexa skills 2021: Make the most of your Echo Show, Plus, Spot or Dot

Victoria Woollaston Tom Bruce Nathan Spendelow
4 Jun 2021
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Whether you're ordering a cab to a party or whacking up the central heating, Alexa's got your back - but which Alexa skills are best?

Whether you're ordering a cab to a party or whacking up the central heating, Alexa's got your back - but which Alexa skills are best?

A recent Amazon upgrade means Alexa can now send SMS messages – an eminently handy feature. If you have an Android phone, that is. Users simply head to the Conversations tab in the Alexa app, then Contact, then My profile, and then select the Send SMS option.

All you need to do is bark an order at Alexa to “Send a text” and she’ll be firing them off at your command. As for iOS users among you, we’re awaiting word as to when (and indeed if) the service will be extended beyond Android.

READ NEXT: Which Echo should I buy?

Meanwhile, you can now control and synchronise music across a range of Amazon Echo products in your home. You can target a specific group (think “downstairs”) of devices, or a single one. You know what this means: if you’re trying to unwind after work – glass of red wine in hand – to the dulcet tones of John Coltrane, but your teenager is amping up the Wu-Tang Clan upstairs, the twain never need meet. Bliss. Multiple-listening households rejoice.

Texting and music are just two of Alexa’s savvy skills – a drop in the 7,500-strong ocean. To prevent you wading through that unwieldy ocean, we’ve collated our pick of the best Amazon Alexa skills to try.

Best Alexa skills: Skill of the day

Can't wait for us to update this page with more skills? We forgive you. Fortunately, Amazon has set it up so that your Echo can highlight a new skill each day. Simply add the Skill Finder skill, and then say "Alexa, tell Skill Finder to give me the Skill of the Day." Then you can either accept or reject its suggestions.

Best Alexa skills: Most practical

The Echo works wonders as a standalone device, but if you have other smart devices in your home it can also make it easier for you to control them. For example, the Hue skill allows you to turn your Philips Hue lights on or off and change the room’s “mood.” You can also regulate the space's ambience, with commands like Relax, Concentrate, Energise and Dimmed.

Similarly, you can use voice commands to change the temperature with the specially made skill for Hive smart thermostats. After a list of compatible smart home devices? Read our Echo device compatibility list for more details.

Alexa also lets you talk to the wider world, right from the cosiest corners of your home. Skills such as Mastermind can be used to send text messages hands-free. Or, communicate with a group of people at once using a skill such as Starfish dico. To use this skill, your entire family, or the group you want to reach, will need to download the corresponding app; once that’s done, you can tell Alexa to send a message like “Dinner is ready” or “Stop drinking all of my Pimm’s” and the people you’ve defined as family members will get an instant notification on their phones.

Other skills can make Alexa your best friend in the morning when you seem to be perpetually running late and in a bad mood. Alexa allows you to get news briefings from publications such as The Guardian, updates on public transportation’s status with London Travel and hear what’s on your schedule for the day with Google Calendar. Select Hyundai cars can even be started, locked and unlocked via Alexa’s Hyundai Blue Link skill — so when the colder months’ chill sets in, you can warm up the car before even leaving your house.

If you really want to use your Echo for self-improvement though, then you can't beat the 7-Minute Workout skill, which guides you through each bit of exercise, telling you when it's time to move on to the next layer of pain.

Best Alexa skills: Fun and useful

Some of Alexa’s capabilities are cool but not exactly necessary. That’s the essence of technology, though, and it can make life easier even when it comes to basic everyday decisions. Though, it is quite funny to imagine adults looking to an inanimate object for guidance.

For example, Alexa has skills that can answer your most pressing questions like “Should I go out tonight?" - so in the future, you can save your mental capacity for loftier issues.

The voice assistant can also educate you about all sorts of fascinating topics, with skills such as Panda Facts, Scottish Mountain Facts, and Sausage Facts — which is humorously listed as a skill with “dynamic content” on Amazon’s website.

Lastly, we have Uber. I almost plonked this one in the essential's section, given how many times I've been forced to use this in conjunction with public transport woes, but Uber is certainly one of the best skills you need to use. Just say the right words, and your chariot will be at your home in a matter of minutes. Handy.

Best Alexa Skills: Echo Show

Given the Echo Show is the only Echo device with a screen plonked on the front, there are a number of different apps exclusively available on Amazon's latest. The first, and certainly the most fun, is Jeopardy! One of the first set of skills on the Alexa platform, this visual-style Jeopardy! is even more like the TV show.

Another great addition is, so long as you own one, the Ring doorbell skill. Someone at the door? You can check who it is on your Show, and talk to them through the microphone. Begone, insurance salesman!

Meanwhile, if you're a news junkie (although if you're not, I frankly don't blame you, given our pitiable political climate), you can get get a daily briefing on current affairs, thanks to BBC News, which gives you a quickfire roundup of the news. In what's dubbed a "Flash Briefing Skill", Alexa keeps you clued-up on the world around you. "This skill contains dynamic content," Amazon warns. I'll say.

On the topic of video platforms, YouTube was omitted from such a roster in September, when Google stopped allowing the Amazon Echo Show access to the site. A shame, for sure, but there's nothing preventing a future partnership from transpiring.

And that concludes our roundup. In short, with Alexa, your daily tasks will grow simpler - and your days will probably get lazier. But we humans love our convenience, so why not give it and some skills a try?

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