There’s a whole lot the Amazon Echo can do, including waking you up with handy alarms and reminding you to do things with easy to set timers. Read along as we show you how to create and manage both.
Why Do I Want To Do This?
There’s no shortage of ways for a tech-forward consumer to set alarms and timers. You can set them the old fashioned way with alarm clocks and the timer on your microwave or oven. You can use your smartphone. You can use your smartwatch. There are even fitness trackers that have alarm and reminder functionality.
But the strong suite of the Amazon Echo, driven by the Alexa voice-assistant system, is that you can use natural language to set your alarms and timers without so much as lifting your finger (which is great when you realize, wrist deep in mixing up messy dinner ingredients, that you need to set a timer for the item already in the oven).
If yo’re worried about using a connected device to set something as important as the alarm that gets you up and moving for work in the morning, don’t worry. Even though the Echo is a networked device the timers and alarms you set are all stored and triggered locally on the Echo itself so even if, in the early morning or during dinner prep, your Wi-Fi goes offline or you lose general Internet connectivity the already set timers and alarms will go off without a hitch.
Let’s take a look at how to set timers, how to set alarms, and how you can manage both of them with your voice (and when you need to call in the Amazon Alexa companion smartphone app to do some fine tuning or tweaking).
Setting and Managing Timers
For both timers and alarms there are two elements to the process: the settings you manipulate with your voice and the settings you manipulate with the app. Let’s look at what you can do with your voice and then when you need to open up the app.
To set a timer you can use the following voice commands:
“Alexa, set a timer for [amount of time as defined by hours:minutes:seconds].”
“Alexa, set a timer for [absolute time, like 9:00PM].”
You may be curious about the last one, because it looks a whole lot like setting an alarm. When you set an alarm, which we’ll get to in a moment, you’re setting a recurring alert. When you set a timer with an absolute time it’s more like a reminder: it will go off once within the next 24 hours (depending on when you set it) and then delete itself, no further action necessary. So, for example, if you need a nudge to stop working and go pick something (or someone) up at 4:00PM you could set a one-off timer reminder for that time.
Once a timer is set you can both check in on it and manipulate it via voice command.
“Alexa, stop the timer.” (This shuts timer currently sounding off.)
“Cancel the timer for [amount of time as defined by hours:minutes:seconds]” (This mutes upcoming timers during the specified window of time).
For all other timer-related functions you need to open up the Amazon Alexa app.
Navigate to the timers by tapping on the menu icon and then selecting “Timers” from the slide out list, as seen above.
Select your device; even if you don’t have multiple Alexa-enabled devices in your household you’ll still need to pick.
Once you select your device you can both manage timers (canceling them out or pausing them) as well as adjust the timer volume to your liking. The nice thing about the adjustment here is that it is not global. Whatever you have the regular volume set at for Alexa’s speaking voice and music playback will be totally unchanged by any adjustments you make to the volume of the timer alert.
Setting and Managing Alarms
Just like timers you can use your voice to set up alarms and, also like timers, you’ll need the Alexa app for certain functions. You can set an alarm using the following voice commands:
“Alexa, wake me up at [time].”
“Alexa, Set an alarm for [time].”
Additionally there is another command you can trigger with the keyword alarm “Set and alarm for [amount of time as defined by hours:minutes:seconds] from now” but we’re not very big fans of that command. The issue we have with the command is that it doesn’t create a single-use alarm you can find under the Alarms in the Alexa App, it creates a timer as if you had created a single-use timer. Thus if you get in the habit of setting an “alarm” that way, you’ll always be annoyed that it appears under the Timers section and not the Alarm section. It’s a minor quibble but we’d just as soon have them not allow the word “alarm” to be used for that function just to keep the commands nice and clear.
In addition to setting an alarm you can use the following commands to check in on and manipulate it, just like with the timers:
“Alexa, what time is my alarm set for?”
“Alexa, stop the alarm.” (This command only works when the alarm is sounding.)
“Alexa, snooze.” (Will snooze the current alarm for 9 minutes.)
“Alexa, cancel alarm for [previously set time].” (Disables but does not delete the alarm.)
For that last command it’s important to note that you will need to turn that particular alarm back on if you wish to use it again. Speaking of such matters, let’s take a look at the in-app options for managing your alarms just as we did with the timers.
To get to the Alarm settings you open up the Amazon Alexa app, select the menu icon, select “Alarms” from the side menu, and then select your device. Because we’re repeating the exact same steps as we did in the previous section, save for select “Alarms” instead of “Timers, we’ve omitted the accompanying screenshots.
Once you’ve selected your device you can toggle the alarms on and off as well as adjust the alarm volume and alarm sound.
A Minor (But Pressing) Complaint
Speaking of alarm sounds there’s on complain we have about the whole process. We desperately hope somebody in the Echo development team finds this article and reads it, if but for one reason: the marriage of alarms and playlists. We can’t believe this some how got overlooked considering we’ve had clock-radio alarms for 40+ years and people clearly enjoy waking up to music.
The alarm feature on the Echo works flawlessly. The music/playlist feature, as we highlight in our article How to Set Up and Configure Your Amazon Echo, works awesome and if you’re a Prime subscriber you can issue simple natural language commands to Alexa like”Alexa, play classic rock” and away you go listening to Spirit of the Radio. But there’s no way to combine the alarm and playlist function like “Alexa, set an alarm for 6 AM. Playlist, classic rock.”
We’re holding our breath here Amazon; add alarm playlist functionality into the Alexa system!