The Amazon Echo is a powerful device. While it may be small enough to fit in a coat pocket, it contains all kinds of technological wizardry which will make it the centre of your smart home.
Its main power? Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated, artificial-intelligence-powered personal assistant. This can answer your questions, search the internet and connect to other smart devices so that you can control them just by speaking.
This is all possible thanks to your wi-fi network. When your smart devices are all connected to the same network, they communicate with each other to put you in control without having to lift a finger.
But how do you get started? Here's how you get your Echo up and running.
What’s in the box?
The Alexa box is pretty small, but it packs in a lot. As well as the Echo speaker, there’s a power cable, a safety and warranty booklet and an instruction booklet. You also get an Ask Alexa booklet – this is a basic introduction to what Alexa can do, broken down by category (Smart Home, Help Around the House, Voice Shopping, Fun Stuff etc.).
What ports does the Amazon Echo have?
The Amazon Echo is a very simple device, with only two ports on the back. One is for the power cable, and the other is an auxiliary audio output, for plugging in a music source like a phone or MP3 player. But you can also connected to it wirelessly over Bluetooth – more on this later.
What do the Echo’s buttons do?
You can control the Echo using your voice or the buttons on its top panel.
The Mute button stops Alexa listening to your conversations - its default mode is to listen in for when you say “Alexa”, when it will prick up its virtual ears and act on your command. There are volume up and down buttons, and an action button for alerting Alexa, if you prefer not to say its name.
What does the Echo’s light ring do?
This lights around the edge of the top of the Echo speaker change colour to show what mode the Echo is in. By default it’s turned off, but wake Alexa and it’ll light up blue. It also lights up orange during the set-up process.
How do I set up the Amazon Echo?
So that’s the basic functions. Now we’ll show you how to get started using your Echo.
Step 1: Plug it in
Plug the power adaptor that comes bundled in the box into the Echo’s power port. Then plug the plug into a power socket. (Use the power cable that came with the Echo for optimum performance.)
The ring around the top of the Echo will light up and start to spin. In about a minute, it will change to orange and Alexa will greet you by saying: “Hello. Your Amazon Echo is ready for set-up. Just follow the instructions on your Alexa app.” Which brings us on to…
Step 2: Download the app
The Amazon Alexa app is available for both Android and iOS devices. Download it from either Google Play or iTunes, then sign in to your Amazon account. If you don’t already have an Amazon account, you can create one here.
Forgotten your password? No problem, Amazon can send you a link to reset it.
You’ll now be asked to agree to Amazon’s terms and conditions of use. If you’re happy with these, tap Continue. If you’re not, tap Sign out.
Step 3: Set up Alexa
Now it’s time to start familiarising yourself with Alexa. It can recognise your voice and those of other family members, so first of all, you want it to know who you are. If you’re the person the Amazon account belongs to, tap your name when prompted. If you’re a family member, tap I’m someone else.
Next you’ll be asked to confirm your name. If you prefer to be known by a shorter name, or nickname, now’s your chance to tell Alexa - we shortened Joseph to Joe, for example.
This section crashed for us a few times, so don’t worry if it does the same for you. If it does, try restarting the app, uninstalling and reinstalling it, or restarting your phone. It also wouldn’t let us change our surname – we’ve told Amazon of the issue and are waiting for a response.
Step 4: Set permissions
Next it’ll ask you to give Amazon permissions. If you want Alexa to let you call, message and contact friends and family in other ways, Alexa will have to have access to your contacts. Alexa can also send you notifications when you receive calls, messages and alerts.
To enable these functions, tap Allow. If you would rather not use these options, you can tap Later.
Step 5: Set up Amazon Echo
Now you just have to get your Echo up and running. On the Welcome screen – the next screen you’ll see – tap Customise Alexa (just below the welcome message), then the big blue Set up a new device button at the top of the screen. This takes you to the Echo set up page.
Tap the device you’d like to set up – the choices are Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus or Tap. Below, you can also set up Alexa-enabled headphones.
By proceeding, you also agree to more of Amazon’s terms and conditions - tap the link if you want to read them first.
Choose your language next, then connect to your wi-fi. To do this, you’ll need the light ring to be orange, which it should be by now. If it isn’t, unplug the Echo and plug it back in. If you still don’t see it, tap the help link titled Don’t see the orange light ring?
Step 6: Connect to wi-fi
Duck out of the Alexa app and go to your phone’s wi-fi settings. You’ll need to disconnect from your wi-fi network – if you’re on one – and connect to the one named Amazon-XXX (it will have other letters and numbers in place of XXX – ours was called Amazon-2B0). Select it in the wi-fi menu as you would when joining a normal wi-fi network.
It may take up to a minute to appear, so be patient. When you’re connected, Alexa will tell you through the Echo. Now reopen the Alexa app.
Congratulations – you’re connected to your Amazon Echo!
Step 7: Connect your Echo to your wi-fi
You’re now taken to a list of available wi-fi networks. Select yours from the list and enter your password. Tap Continue, and you’re taken to a page that says Preparing your Echo. It should take about a minute or so for it to be all set up.
Now you’re good to go. Say “Alexa”, and start barking commands at your new personal assistant!
Step 8: Update
If some new software is available, Alexa will update. It will restart in a few minutes, so don’t unplug it while it's updating.
Step 9: Music
Your Echo now gives you some options for how to play music through it. You can connect a device to it wirelessly over Bluetooth, or with an audio cable. If you don’t want to connect to it to a music player, tap No speakers.
To connect your smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth, just pair it as you would any other Bluetooth device such as a wireless speaker or pair of headphones. The Echo will appear in the menu as the same Amazon-XXX wi-fi network that you connected to earlier (Amazon-2B0 in our case).
Once you’re paired, you can just say “Alexa, connect to [name of your phone]” in future to connect over Bluetooth.
Step 10: Contacts
You can dictate text messages for Alexa to send, but first you’ll have to give it your mobile number. Then it will text you a code to enter into the app to verify that it is your number.
Note: calling and messaging emergency services aren’t supported on Alexa, so it won't be able to help you in an emergency.
You should now be all set up and ready to enjoy your new digital assistant.