There's no lack of digital assistants to talk with—Siri, Cortana, Bixby, the Google Assistant—but the audio assistant of choice is Alexa, the technology inside Amazon's Echo and Fire TV devices, not to mention other third-party speakers and gadgets.
It's the Echo line of speakers that really showcase Alexa's capabilities. Echo is a standalone speaker that needs nothing more than a power connection. There's the squat Echo Dot, which stands alone but rocks with an external speaker, the high-end Echo Studio for real acoustic snobs, and now an entire line of touch-screen Echo devices. They all have their differences, but setup is essentially identical.
1. Download the Amazon Alexa App
2. Pick a Device to Set Up
You need an Amazon account to use Alexa, but you don't need Amazon Prime. Sign in on the app. Then click the hamburger menu on the top-left and select Add Device. Here you can add any number of Alexa-supported devices to your account, from smart lights to smart plugs. But we're focused on Echo devices, so tap Amazon Echo; at the next screen, tap the Echo device you want to set up. You'll get a list of every type of Echo that ever existed since 2014, even the discontinued devices, like Echo Tap and Echo Input.
3. Enter Setup Mode
For setup, the Echo's light ring will be flash blue and then orange for setup mode. If you don't see orange, press and hold the Action button for five seconds. Eventually, Alexa will perk up and tell you she's "Now in setup mode."
4. Connect Smartphone or PC
You'll be directed to close the Alexa app and open your phone's Wi-Fi settings. Look for an Amazon-named network (like "Amazon-L39") and connect your phone or tablet to it. Return to the Alexa app to continue setup.
5. Set Up Home Wi-Fi
Back in the Alexa app, you'll see a list of available Wi-Fi networks as seen by your phone or tablet; pick your home Wi-Fi. Enter the Wi-Fi password when asked, if you have one. (You should really put a password on the Wi-Fi.) Once all the info has been sent to the device, Alexa will say "Your Echo is ready," and the orange lights go out.
Note, if you set up an Amazon device at home, you may have already saved the Wi-Fi password. Wi-Fi password-saving works across tablets and Kindle ebook readers as well. If you change the password on your router, you'll have to change the stored Wi-Fi password at least once.
6. Say 'Alexa'
You can now ask your Alexa device to do your bidding. You can change the wake word from Alexa to Echo, Amazon, or Computer via Settings > Device Settings > [Your Echo] > Wake Word. Or connect your Echo to music apps external speakers, and other Echos around the house.
Special Note for Amazon Echo Show Devices
Because the Echo Show line of devices have a screen, the setup is easier—no phone or table required. Plug it in, select a language, connect to the Wi-Fi (including entering the Wi-Fi password on the screen), log in to your Amazon account, and you're ready to go.