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Alexa is the voice assistant that lives inside Amazon’s Echo speakers, but increasingly is being built in to third party devices.
There’s no monthly fee for using Alexa. Once you have purchased an Alexa-enabled device, you’ll have access to general voice commands, routines and automations as well as a number of free services that are integrated with Alexa.
Some of the things you’ll be able to do for free with Alexa include playing radio stations, asking questions, controlling your smart home devices and communicating with other Echo devices.
If you want to use premium services such as music streaming or audiobooks, you’ll need to have the required subscription, but there is no additional charge to link the service to Alexa.
Does Amazon Alexa Require a Monthly Fee?
No, you do not need to pay any ongoing monthly fees to use Alexa’ basic functions. You may need to pay for some premium features such as streaming services.
Here are all the free things you can do with Alexa:
- Alexa commands – Everything from managing your calendar to checking the traffic on your commute
- Alexa routines – Used to automate your home and devices – find out more
- Calls and messaging – Call or send a message to another Echo device or via skype. You can also link with EE or Vodaphone to make and receive phone calls.
- Alexa announcements – Send a message from the Alexa app and have it announced on the Echo speaker
- Alexa drop in – Once you have added devices to your Alexa app and enabled drop in, you can instantly communicate between these devices – find out more
- Alexa skills – Third party add-on’s for extra functionality
- Finding information – Ask Alexa almost any question you like and she will search the web for a relevant answer
- Listen to the radio and podcasts
- Ad-supported music streaming services – Such as Spotify free, Amazon Music Free, etc
Why is Alexa Free?
Amazon see Alexa as a key part of their ecosystem along with their Fire operating system.
Yes, they will make money by selling Echo speakers, but their main aim is to get their Amazon-branded products in to your hands.
Then, they can promote their paid services such as Prime, Amazon Music, etc, and they make it easier for you to shop on Amazon.
How Much is an Amazon Echo?
I’ve already mentioned that you’ll need an Alexa-enabled device to use Alexa, the most likely device you’ll opt for is Amazon’s own range of speakers.
An Amazon Echo (4th generation) costs £79.99. However, there is also a smaller version called the Echo Dot which costs £34.99.
These prices are correct as of May 2021.
Do I Need a Prime Subscription for Alexa?
No, you don’t need a Prime subscription to use Alexa.
However, you will need to set up a free Amazon account and link it to all of your Alexa-enabled devices. This allows services to run seamlessly between the devices.
If you do have a Prime subscription, you can use your Prime benefits through Alexa, for example ordering Amazon products for free next day delivery, listening to ad-free Prime music and watching Prime video on devices with a screen.
Is Amazon Music Free with Alexa?
Yes, there is a free tier of Amazon Music that you can access via Alexa. This is ad-supported and is limited to playlists rather than individual songs.
To help understand how Amazon Music works, here are the three main tiers:
Amazon Music Free: This is available for free on Alexa-enabled devices and smartphones. It has a music library of around 2 million songs, however you can only choose playlists or radio stations and not individual songs. It’s also ad supported.
Amazon Music Prime: Included with a Prime subscription, this has the same 2 million songs as the free version, only you can choose individual tracks and there are no ads.
Amazon Music Unlimited: This is Amazon’s paid music service with 70 million songs and no ads. This is £9.99 per month in the UK, or £7.99 if you have a Prime subscription.
How to Listen to Music for Free on Alexa
Here are three more ways you can listen to music for free on Alexa devices:
- Radio – You can access any DAB radio stations for free simply by saying “Alexa, play [radio station]’
- Spotify Free – Spotify’s free tier is now available on Alexa devices, you’ll need to create an account and connect it in the Alexa app. It has similar limitations to Amazon Music Free such as only using playlists and limited skips per hour, however you can create custom playlists and it is far superior at recommending music you’ll like.
- Bluetooth or AUX – Most Echo devices have built in Bluetooth or AUX inputs, this is handy if you have an old-school collection of music on CDs or MP3s.
What’s the Best Alexa Smart Speaker?
The standard standard Amazon Echo strikes a good balance between audio quality and price so this is the one I’d recommend.
You can stream music, access all of Alexa’s commands and find out the latest news and weather. You can also connect multiple Echo Dots for multi-room audio experience.
The latest generation also has a built in Zigbee hub to connect smart devices directly to it.
If you want a cheaper Echo and won’t be using it for listening to music or the radio, then the Echo Dot is a good choice.
What’s the Best Alexa Smart Display?
The Echo Show 5 is my favourite Echo smart display. Whilst it’s not the biggest, it’s conveniently sized for everything you need and affordable too.
With the Echo Show 5, you can access all the feature of an Alexa speaker, but you can also watch Netflix, see live streams from a Ring video doorbell, get recipes on screen, and more.
It has a built in camera so you can make video calls to other Echo Show devices, or you can link with your EE or Vodaphone account to make phone calls using Alexa.
Are Alexa Skills Free?
Alexa skills are the equivalent to apps. They are usually built by third parties and add extra functions to Alexa.
For example, you can use the Dyson skill to control Dyson robot vacuums and smart fans.
Alexa skills are always free to download, however many skills have in-skill purchases. These work much like in-app purchases on your phone and will be charged to the card on your Amazon account.
You will of course need to purchase hardware such as smart home devices for skills that control your smart home.
Are There Any Hidden Costs for Alexa?
Apart from music and video subscriptions which are to be expected, there are relatively few hidden costs with Alexa.
Here are the main costs that you may run in to when using Alexa:
Premium music and audiobook streaming services – Such as Spotify Premium, Apple Music, Audible, etc. These vary by service but will usually be between £5-10.
In-skill purchases – Premium features within an Alexa skill, these are usually around £1.
Celebrity voices – Amazon announced that you’ll soon be able to use celebrity voices instead of default Alexa, for example, Samuel L Jackson. These will be charged at 80p.