With Echo, you can talk to almost anyone hands-free—no tapping or searching required. Use Drop In to instantly connect to another compatible Echo at home or send an announcement across Echo devices, like calling the family for dinner or reminding the kids to go to bed. Plus, now with Skype calling stay in touch with friends and family in over 150 countries.
By default, Echo devices use “Alexa” as their wake word. While the device is constantly listening, it only starts tracking and analyzing what you say next after it hears “Alexa.” It then pulls up the relevant results. However, if, say, someone in your house is already named Alexa, you can change the wake word to something else: Amazon, Echo, or Computer. 

When Alexa recognizes your voice, stories and news items you’ve already heard will be skipped. To set up voice recognition, say “Alexa, learn my voice.” This is feature is especially useful if you listen to flash briefings on weekends when many flash briefings don’t post new content. With Alexa voice recognition enabled, you won’t hear the flash briefing episodes you already listened to.
From that point on, simply plug in the Echo device into a regular 110V. wall outlet, it comes with a plug in adapter. There are no batteries in this device, although some have them. A NOTE HERE" YES, YOU CAN UNPLUG IT WITHOUT IT LOSING ITS BRAINS AND REQUIRING REPEAT SET UP. So though not specified anywhere I read it evidently has some on board nonvolatile memory built in that will allow this. ( i spent several research sessions attempting to find this out, and finally had to bite the bullet and just try it. ) I moved it from one room location to another and within a few seconds it greeted me and said it was operational. NOW I AM ONLY AN OLD GUY WITH PRETTY GOOD HEARING ABILITIES YET, (NOT EXACTLY AN AUDIOPHILE ) BUT WITH DOLBY DIGITAL SOUND, THIS IS ONE NICE SOUNDING SPEAKER SYSTEM,

While Amazon has integrated a ton of useful features into the Alexa experience, you can expand that even further by installing third-party skills. You can search and download these under the Skills submenu of the app, which you can access in that upper left-hand side menu button. Here, you can download some of those third-party capabilities we mentioned earlier: adding NPR to your Flash Briefing, downloading ambient rainforest sounds (apparently that’s a customer favorite), or add a game such as Jeopardy! or Word Reverse. There are a number of skills targeted at kids and families, such as Amazon Storytime and Animal Sounds, and there are even skills for helping you get more fit, like 30 Day Pushup Challenge and 7-Minute Workout.  
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In the actual Settings section of this menu, you can customize your Alexa experience further. You can manage Amazon Shopping notifications, adjust what content you want in your daily flash briefing of the day’s headlines, and choose what sports teams you care about for your sports update. You can also enter in your home or work address to get traffic updates for your daily commute, and sync with your calendar (Gmail, Outlook, or iCloud) to know what’s up next on the day’s schedule.

If you think you’d like a briefing in the future, but not now, just toggle it off. If you want to permanently disable a Flash Briefing skill, you’ll need to head over to the Skills section in the app and then tap Your Skills.  Find the skill you want to disable and then tap Disable Skill. You don’t delete the skill, which makes sense since nothing installs on your Alexa device.

Google Assistant doesn’t have flash briefings in the Alexa sense — instead, you’ll be publishing your audio content as a podcast. This is a little more technical than Alexa’s process. First, your briefing will need its own homepage. Second, you’ll need to edit the briefing’s RSS feed to include snippets of code that are required for Google Assistant to recognize it in its directory — check out all the requirements here. Google doesn’t require setting up an Assistant action. Once you’ve included the necessary code in your RSS feed, your podcast will show up automatically within search results.
Now I am still learning about this product. Every new thing I try I am pleasantly surprised. I plan to get at least a smart home door lock and thermostat to use with it in the future, and several light switches. I am no great fan of the "RING DOORBELL" (due to frequently needed battery recharging) at this point, but I understand Amazon has purchased that company and will soon have an interface app available to use with the "Ring System" If you want to keep up with the march of technology, this device is probably your best doorway to that end, since Amazon is committed to pursuing it. Others may drop out along the way. (NEW) I made a hands free phone call to my son this moring as a test of the phone capabilities. Sound on my end was like he was in the room. The Alexa app and it's capabilities are evolving technologies. Features will be added. (Mine did an update download while playing music) Don't be disappointed. It is attractively packed, and very capable, but the "instructions" are not detailed and are sketchy. Lean about it online as I did before you purchase it. Read as many reviews as your eyes and attention span will allow, and take the plunge! An education awaits you!
Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers are great for a lot of things beyond playing music or changing the color of your smart bulbs. Alexa can play audiobooks or read your Kindle books to you, if you don't have the audiobook version. It can give you the forecast, the latest tech news (with CNET!) or tell you if you should expect traffic on your way to work. And it can, of course, tell you a few jokes.
^ Green, Penelope (11 July 2017). "'Alexa, Where Have You Been All My Life?'". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2017. When Toni Reid and her colleagues at Amazon set out to build the device that is now known as Alexa, they were inspired by the computer that drove the Enterprise on Star Trek (voiced by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel on the series and was married to the show's creator). Focusing on cadence and an accent that would suggest 'smart, humble, helpful,' the team tested voices that a diverse population would respond to. 'Our goal was to have Alexa be humanlike,' Ms. Reid said, but why end there?

I have 3 Echo's and each one is now unplugged. If you go to the Alexa app and choose your device ---> settings and then history you'll find a long list of recordings the echo has made while secretly listening into your home. I had no idea this was happening and I find it very creepy. Nobody was using the wake word, etc. It just listened in and then recorded bits of conversation. I'm getting rid of them.
While Amazon has integrated a ton of useful features into the Alexa experience, you can expand that even further by installing third-party skills. You can search and download these under the Skills submenu of the app, which you can access in that upper left-hand side menu button. Here, you can download some of those third-party capabilities we mentioned earlier: adding NPR to your Flash Briefing, downloading ambient rainforest sounds (apparently that’s a customer favorite), or add a game such as Jeopardy! or Word Reverse. There are a number of skills targeted at kids and families, such as Amazon Storytime and Animal Sounds, and there are even skills for helping you get more fit, like 30 Day Pushup Challenge and 7-Minute Workout.  
Note: Your Flash Briefing settings apply to all Alexa devices registered to your Amazon account, and all users in your home get access to the same Flash Briefing content. However, if you or anyone in your home has a voice profile, Flash Briefing automatically skips stories and news items you've already heard. To learn more, go to About Alexa Voice Profiles.
Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as Alexa); other devices (such as the Amazon mobile app on iOS or Android and Amazon Dash Wand) require the user to push a button to activate Alexa's listening mode. Currently, interaction and communication with Alexa are available only in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish,[4] Portuguese, Japanese, and Hindi.[5] In Canada, Alexa is available in English and in French (with the Québec accent).[6][7]

Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as Alexa); other devices (such as the Amazon mobile app on iOS or Android and Amazon Dash Wand) require the user to push a button to activate Alexa's listening mode. Currently, interaction and communication with Alexa are available only in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish,[4] Portuguese, Japanese, and Hindi.[5] In Canada, Alexa is available in English and in French (with the Québec accent).[6][7]
Until recently, Siri’s only been available on an iOS device, Mac, or (in limited form) through your Apple TV. However, in June, Apple debuted its true Amazon Echo home competitor: the HomePod. Unfortunately, if you want one now you’ll have to wait—it’s not shipping until December. Still, we can make some comparisons about the two lines of products, as well as how Alexa and Siri compare as disembodied virtual assistants.
As of this writing, Amazon has thousands of sources for flash briefings.  The sources they include can be hyper-local like your local news station. Amazon also has specific topics like tech or business, or general info.  Many of these sources, like NPR, are podcasts provided by Tune-In.  These briefings are audio files Alexa plays for you.  Other sources like the AP news stories are read in Alexa’s voice.  I wish Amazon told you which ones were audio files because her voice drones on after a while.  I hope I get to change her voice like I can with Siri.  Right now, you can just change the language to the English (UK) or German.
Alexa is the name of Amazon’s voice-based smart home assistant. While some folks will use the names interchangeably, Alexa is actually the name of just the AI—not the product. You can use Alexa in Amazon’s Echo products. These now include the original Amazon Echo, the smaller Echo Dot, the Amazon Tap, the Echo Look, and the newest addition to the lineup, the Echo Show.
If you have a handful of Alexa-capable smart home products, you can now set up commands known as routines. Routines let Alexa perform multiple actions with a single voice command. For example, you could say “Alexa, start my day” for her to start playing your daily Flash Briefing, give you an update on the weather, and turn on the lights in the living room.
With Echo, you can talk to almost anyone hands-free—no tapping or searching required. Use Drop In to instantly connect to another compatible Echo at home or send an announcement across Echo devices, like calling the family for dinner or reminding the kids to go to bed. Plus, now with Skype calling stay in touch with friends and family in over 150 countries.
The 2nd generation Echo has a 2.5” downward-firing woofer and 0.6” tweeter powered by Dolby to deliver crisp vocals and dynamic bass throughout the room. You can play music from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and more. With Amazon Music, you can search by lyrics, time-period, or let Alexa pick the music for you. Set a music alarm to wake up to your favorite song or playlist. You can also listen to audiobooks from Audible, podcasts, radio stations, news briefs, and more.
Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers are great for a lot of things beyond playing music or changing the color of your smart bulbs. Alexa can play audiobooks or read your Kindle books to you, if you don't have the audiobook version. It can give you the forecast, the latest tech news (with CNET!) or tell you if you should expect traffic on your way to work. And it can, of course, tell you a few jokes.

Now, just because Alexa understands what I’m saying better doesn’t mean she always has a response to my questions, though. Both AI’s gave me the current weather report, Alexa said she didn’t have information for the Sharks query, and Alexa also didn’t have a response for the movie question. Siri, however, gave me information about the Sharks’ next game (October 4, against the Flyers, if you’re curious), and for the movie question, while she didn’t hear it quite right, she still got the gist: She suggested seeing War for the Planet of the Apes on Friday, along with movie times at a handful of nearby theaters. Is Siri smarter? She may know a wee bit more than Alexa, but largely, their question-and-answer base is comparable.
The first of the Alexa flash briefing options to include is an error message. Alexa will read this to your audience if your briefing is unavailable. Next, you’ll be asked to paste the RSS feed provided by your audio host. The “preamble” field is a short, introductory cue that Alexa will read before delivering your briefing. Finally, fill out any remaining Alexa flash briefing options — frequency, briefing name, category/genre and more — and soon you’ll be ready to launch.
As of this writing, Amazon has thousands of sources for flash briefings.  The sources they include can be hyper-local like your local news station. Amazon also has specific topics like tech or business, or general info.  Many of these sources, like NPR, are podcasts provided by Tune-In.  These briefings are audio files Alexa plays for you.  Other sources like the AP news stories are read in Alexa’s voice.  I wish Amazon told you which ones were audio files because her voice drones on after a while.  I hope I get to change her voice like I can with Siri.  Right now, you can just change the language to the English (UK) or German.
In the actual Settings section of this menu, you can customize your Alexa experience further. You can manage Amazon Shopping notifications, adjust what content you want in your daily flash briefing of the day’s headlines, and choose what sports teams you care about for your sports update. You can also enter in your home or work address to get traffic updates for your daily commute, and sync with your calendar (Gmail, Outlook, or iCloud) to know what’s up next on the day’s schedule.

Both devices work with a variety of smart home lights, thermostats, plugs, and more, but Amazon’s Echo definitely works with a greater range of brands and products. The key difference is that with Apple’s HomePod, the compatible devices need to be HomeKit-enabled, where Echo-compatible smart home products don’t (necessarily). If you’ve already got some connected home products installed, you can check and see which platform it’s compatible with.
There are concerns about the access Amazon has to private conversations in the home and other non-verbal indications that can identify who is present in the home with non-stop audio pick-up from Alexa-enabled devices.[69][70] Amazon responds to these concerns by stating that the devices only stream recordings from the user's home when the 'wake word' activates the device.
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