How to disable Alexa’s new Brief Mode in order to bring back “Okay” responses

Amazon is starting to roll out a new Brief Mode for Alexa that reduces how much the voice assistant speaks in response to requests. The new mode appeared from some customers and then disappeared shortly after, but now it seems as if it’s here for good. While many customers love the new setting because it replaces Alexa’s verbal “OK” response with a quicker non-verbal confirmation chime, Brief Mode is catching a few people off guard because Alexa is offering to turn the mode on for you, instead of it simply being an option in the Alexa app. If you accepted Alexa’s request to enable Brief Mode but want to revert back to Alexa giving more verbal responses, here’s how to turn off Brief Mode. Read more ›

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Amazon Echo devices will now read any Audible book for free

Amazon Echo devices will now read your first full audiobook for free from Audible by just asking, according to Engadget. If you’re new to Audible, just ask for any book and you’ll be able to listen to it in its entirety with no need to sign up for anything. I assume the free first book is available from any Alexa-capable device, like a Fire TV, but I’m unable to test it myself since I’m already an Audible subscriber. If you’re wondering which book to hear as your free book, take a look at Amazon’s best seller list or browse best sellers by year. Once a book is playing, there are several custom commands to give Alexa to control playback.

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Ecobee’s light switch with Alexa built into it is now available to pre-order for $99.99

The Ecobee Switch+ smart light switch, first announced 10 months ago, is now available to pre-order for $99.99. Not only can this light switch be controlled by Alexa, but it essentially has an Amazon Echo Dot built-in giving you full access to Alexa through the switch itself. You can make hands-free requests to Alexa through the switch, thanks to its built-in speaker and far-field microphones. Read more ›

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Amazon appears to be testing a new ‘Brief Mode’ which reduces Alexa’s superfluous verbal responses

It seems as though Amazon is trying out a new “Brief Mode” for Alexa. The new mode results in Alexa talking less by replacing some of Alexa’s verbal confirmations with beeps. Instead of replying “Okay” after being asked to change the state of a smart home device, with Brief Mode enabled, Alexa performs the requested action and responds with a confirmation chime. Read more ›

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Amazon now allows Calling and Messaging through Alexa on Fire, Android, and iPad tablets

Ever since Amazon first introduced calling and messaging capabilities for Alexa, you’ve been able to use the Alexa app on a smartphone to send and receive calls and messages in place of an Echo device. Now Amazon has extended that capability to tablets as well. Amazon Fire tablets, Apple iPads, and generic Android tablets can now all use the Alexa app to join the conversation with Echo devices and smartphones. The new capabilities are not yet available on my latest generation Fire HD 10, so it seems like the update is still rolling out. Read more ›

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Amazon Alexa’s new ‘Follow-Up’ mode lets you string together multiple requests

Amazon has added a new feature to Alexa called Follow-up Mode that makes it easier to make multiple back-to-back requests. With follow-up mode enabled, Alexa will continue listening for additional commands after completing a request so that you don’t have to repeatedly say the wake word before each request. Read more ›

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Amazon Echo Spot and Echo Show now display a keypad to navigate menu prompts during phone calls

When Amazon added the ability to make phone calls using Echo devices, one issue was that you couldn’t really use the feature to call a phone number that had a navigation menu because there was no way to enter keypad presses with your voice or otherwise. Amazon has now addressed the shortcoming on Alexa devices with a screen, like the Echo Spot and Echo Show, by providing the option to bring up a keypad on the touchscreen. There’s still no way to ask Alexa to submit a key press using your voice, so the limitation remains present on the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus, but this update to the Echo Spot and Echo Show at least indicates that Amazon is aware of the issue, so we may get keypad input by voice in the future.

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Amazon disables the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh’ due to false triggers

Amazon Alexa devices have reportedly been randomly laughing during the past couple of weeks. Apparently, the phrase “Alexa, laugh” is being too easily triggered by conversations and background noise from televisions. Amazon has decided to remedy the issue by changing the command to “Alexa, can you laugh?” because it is “less likely to have false positives.” Amazon is also changing it so that Alexa responds “Sure, I can laugh” instead of simply responding with just a laugh.

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Deezer is the latest streaming music service to be natively compatible with Amazon’s Alexa

Right on the heels of Gimme Radio recently gaining Alexa support, Deezer is now the latest streaming music service to work natively with Alexa. While Deezer does offer a very limited free streaming option, you’ll need to subscribe to one of their paid plans to listen through Alexa. Deezer is mostly equivalent to other music services, like Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify, so you’ll be able to request songs/artists/playlists directly through Alexa. The service also offers a feature called Flow which is a never-ending mix of your favorite songs and recommended music. Alexa’s stable of compatible music services consists of Amazon Music Unlimited, Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, Gimme Radio, and Deezer.

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Use your Amazon Echo to make it seem like someone is home while you’re away with this new Burglar Deterrent skill

A new Alexa skill called Burglar Deterrent has just been released that might interest you if you’re worried about home security while you’re away. Once activated, the skill makes it seem like someone is home by playing a clever assortment of realistic audio that mimics common activities. Launch the skill by saying “Alexa, open Burglar Deterrent” and select the environment that best suits your smart speaker’s location. You can choose from a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and home office. Each option plays varied audio tailored for the location, like vacuuming for the living room, clanging pots for the kitchen, running water for the bathroom, and a printer for the office. Those examples are just one of many sounds heard in each location. You can also select a barking dog as a general deterrent. Start the skill before you leave and it will play sounds until you say “Alexa, stop” when you return or you can say “Alexa, set a sleep timer for [time]” after the deterrent audio starts for it to turn off after a set period. The audio played is quite convincing and should be enough to make a would-be burglar pick a different target.

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