When they work as intended, Amazon’s Echo, Dot and Tap speakers are quite impressive and save the hassle of having to whip out a phone to change the color of smart lights or the temperature setting of the thermostat. And the Alexa voice assistant gets more useful the more smart-home devices you add to your collection.
But things don’t always go as planned and Amazon didn’t create a truly flawless product. Alexa has issues of its own. Here are some of the most common Alexa problems and how to fix them.
Understanding the light ring
The vast majority of the time, Alexa sits around completely dormant with no status indicators until called upon. But the ring around the top of the Echo and Echo Dot lights up in six colors, which indicate five different things.
Cyan and royal blue are used together. They spin and flash after the wake word is spoken, during your command and throughout Alexa’s response. These also appear during the boot process.
Red means you’ve activated the mute switch on top of the speaker.
Orange means the device is trying to connect to the wireless network.
Violet appears when a problem occurs during Wi-Fi setup.
White is used to indicate the volume level when you either manually turn the volume ring or change the volume by voice.
The status indicator is a little different on the Amazon Tap. It comes in the form of five tiny LEDs along the top front edge of the speaker.
The lights pulse cyan and blue while powering up.
They shine cyan when you press the microphone button and speak a command and pulse while Alexa processes the command.
Pulsing red lights mean Alexa could not complete or process your command.
Pulsing amber lights from left to right mean the speaker is in setup mode, waiting for you to pair it with a network using the Alexa app.
Pulsing blue lights mean the speaker is in Bluetooth pairing mode.
Problems with Alexa
In my time with the Amazon Echo, I’ve had very few problems, most of which were very easily resolved with a power cycle and a few simple tweaks or adjustments. Here are some solutions to problems you may encounter.
Alexa cannot find your smart-home devices
If you are trying to add smart-home devices to your Alexa speaker, first check to make sure the device you want to add is natively supported. That list is constantly growing, including devices like the Ecobee3 and lines from companies such as Honeywell, Insteon, Lifx, Nest, Philips Hue and Wink. However, far more devices have added official Alexa support by way of Skills.
To add a new device, open the Alexa app, navigate to Smart Home and tap Discover devices under the Your Devices section. Even if your devices aren’t natively supported and don’t have Skills, you’re not entirely out of luck. Alexa has an official IFTTT channel and also integrates with Yonomi, both of which have an extensive list of supported smart-home devices.
If you’ve already added your devices but Alexa cannot seem to connect to them, there are at least two possible solutions.
Check the command you’re using, aka your invocation. The commands vary a lot between different devices, Skills and a connected service like IFTTT. They can be oddly specific commands, and small differences in the phrasing or names of the devices can throw Alexa for a loop.
Some smart-home devices have trouble staying connected due to software problems, crowded networks, being always on or other issues. My Lifx bulbs go offline every few days, rendering any commands I issue to Alexa useless. A simple power cycle of the connected devices (in my case, a flip of the light switch) will usually fix any connectivity problems you’re having.
If that doesn’t fix the issue, try rebooting the speaker as well as removing the device and adding it once more from scratch.
Frequent disconnects from the wireless network
If the Echo, Echo Dot or Tap isn’t staying connected to your network consistently enough, there are a few guidelines you can follow to try and improve connectivity.
First, power-cycle everything — the router, modem and Alexa speaker. After that, try streaming audio for a few minutes to see if the issue arises again. If so, attempt to move the speaker away from other devices, preferably closer to the router, and try switching the speaker to a 5GHz channel to decrease interference.
Alexa is no longer hearing you properly
Over time, you might notice that the Alexa speakers seem not to hear you as well as they once did.
Try not to crowd the speakers. Leave at least 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of space around them.
Again, a great place to start is turning the speaker off and on again. If this doesn’t fix the issue, try moving the speaker away from obstructions and at least 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) from the wall.
In recent months, I’ve noticed that my Echo has more and more trouble hearing me than it did when I first bought it. Then it dawned on me. I bought the Echo when it was still winter. We’re now halfway through summer and my air conditioning is running constantly. It’s loud and significantly raises the ambient noise level in the room. Before I moved it, the Echo was also positioned near the cold air return, and when the AC was on, I had to project my voice for the speaker to hear the wake word. When the AC was off or I moved it away from the vent, I found Alexa had no trouble hearing me speak normally from nearly 20 feet (6 meters) away.
In other words, if you have any noisy appliances, move the Alexa speaker away from those to reduce the ambient noise level.
Additionally, you can use Voice Training, which is under Settings in the Alexa app. You’ll read 25 phrases aloud in a “typical voice from a typical distance” so Alexa can better understand you.
If you’re a fan of the television show “Mr. Robot,” you likely caught the Amazon Echo mentions in episode 3 of the second season. If your speaker is anywhere near your television, watching this episode, or anything with lines that sound similar to the default wake word, may activate your speaker.
It’s harmless, but it’s still a nuisance when Alexa starts speaking unwanted responses over the TV show you’re trying to watch. There are three things you can do to minimize this:
Move the speaker farther from the television.
Press the mute switch on top while watching TV.
Change the wake word from the default “Alexa” to either “Echo” or “Amazon.”
Voice activation is an area where Amazon could stand to make some general improvements, such as learning a specific person’s voice (a la Motorola’s Trusted Voice feature) or permitting custom wake words.