Whether you're next to the device or across the room, once you've woken up your Echo, you can ask it for the time, weather, traffic, sports scores and schedules, news, restaurant and other establishments' info from Yelp, entries from Wikipedia and lots of other information. You just have to learn and use the accepted commands. Your Echo will also send text information to the Alexa app on your phone or tablet, and it can cast further information to a Fire OS tablet.
Echo can play music from your Amazon Music library (containing any digital music purchases from Amazon or music imported from your computer), Amazon Prime Music (accessible by Amazon Prime members), Amazon Music Unlimited (a subscription music service — there is even an Amazon Music Unlimited for Echo subscription available for use on a single Echo), Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify and TuneIn, in addition to streaming music from your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth.
You can even control the music streaming from your phone with voice commands including pause, stop and restart. You can request specific songs or bands, or say more general things, like, "Alexa, play jazz." And you can create new stations in Pandora. The device can play audiobooks via Audible and take advantage of Whispersync to keep your place, and it has the ability to set sleep timers to stop the audio playback after a set amount of time.
Echo gives users the ability to order digital music, Amazon Choice products and Prime-eligible products, or reorder previously placed Amazon Prime-eligible orders. Since anyone in the vicinity can talk to Echo, for added security, you can set a confirmation code that you have to say to place an order, or you can simply turn off purchasing via Settings in the Alexa app.
Echo can be used as part of your connected home to make compatible lights, appliances and smart-home hubs voice activated. Some Echo-compatible connected home brands include Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, ecobee, Samsung, Nest, SmartThings and Wink.
You can make Echo execute more complex sets of actions by setting up an Alexa channel on the third-party site IFTTT ("If This, Then That"), which sets up triggers for certain actions. This means you can use Echo to turn on appliances when alarms go off, control a Nest thermostat, find your phone or add things to your Evernote to-do list via voice command.
As of early November 2016, the device understands North American and UK English and German.