The Amazon Echo just got 2 incredibly useful features thanks to a new update

I’ve owned an Amazon Echo for more than a year now, and it’s completely changed the way I live in my apartment.

Lots of people ask what I love so much about the Echo, and I always respond with the same answer: It handles simple tasks exceedingly well.

I usually ask the Echo for the weather, or to play music, or to set timers and alarms, and it does those things quickly and effectively — it’s a huge time saver, and I never have to reach for my phone. Recent data from ComScore supports this idea, that most people tend to use smart speakers like the Echo for basic tasks.

And that’s why the newest update to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa is such a big deal: The update, which rolls out Thursday in the US and is coming to the UK and Germany in the coming weeks, gives Amazon Echo owners the ability to schedule reminders for the first time, as well as the ability to name any timers you set.

These features might sound simple, but they are a big deal.

When I first got my Echo, asking it to set a reminder was one of the first things I tried, and I was disappointed when it didn’t work. So I’m thrilled that I can now easily set reminders for myself from any point in my home, whenever anything occurs to me, without having to find my phone and manually type it in. Apple’s Reminders app is already the most-used app on my iPhone, since I’m constantly setting reminders to run errands, pick up groceries, pay rent, or get work done; it’s a great way to stay organised. But now, I won’t have to reach for my phone whenever I think of a task I need to do later.

Similarly, the new ability to name timers is also a big deal for me. Hands-down, the most common request I make to my Echo is to set a timer. When I’m at home, I almost always have multiple timers running at once, for everything from laundry to kitchen activities like cooking, baking, thawing, and marinating. Setting timers on the fly, without using your hands, is incredibly useful, but I’ve always wished Amazon would let you name the timers since it’s so easy to have many running at once — and when one goes off, it’s unclear which timer it was. But now, you can actually name those timers by simply saying “Alexa, set a chicken timer,” or “Alexa, set a pasta timer.” Alexa will even let you know which timer is going off when the time comes.

These new features might seem like two small additions, but if you own an Amazon Echo or any similar smart speaker, you’ll know that the best use cases are often the simplest ones.

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