Amazon Alexa is a voice-activated personal assistant that can answer questions and perform a growing number of actions.
First used on Amazon Echo smart speakers, Alexa can check the weather or traffic, set alarms or reminders, make lists, provide news briefings, play music or audiobooks, tell jokes, or even sings songs.
The personal assistant was available on Amazon Fire tablets since September 2016, when the 6th-generation HD 8 was launched.
But it’s the introduction of Fire HD 10 in 2017 when Alexa’s benefits fully met possibilities of Amazon Fire tablets. It was the first model that enabled owners to use Alexa without touching the screen, turning their tablet into a fully-fledged Echo Show speaker – or much more.
In the list below, you will learn how to enable hands-free Alexa (and why it’s good to do it), or how to make the most of Show Mode. We focus on visually-enhanced Alexa skills and commands, plus answer most common questions about using Alexa on the Fire tablet.
Alexa on Amazon Fire tablets – tips and facts
1. Use Alexa hands-free
Did you know you can use Alexa on your Fire tablet without touching its screen? If you bought the Fire model released in 2017 or later, you can start using hands-free Alexa right away.
Hands-free Alexa was introduced together with Amazon Fire HD 10 in September 2017. In April 2018, Amazon brought it to the 7th-generation Fire 7 and HD 8 via the software update. Older models won’t get Alexa hands-free mode, though.
What’s so special about hands-free Alexa? Before, you had to press the home button to enable Alexa and ask for weather, check upcoming events, or play an audiobook. Now, you can do it from a distance. You don’t even have to be anywhere near the tablet. Say “Alexa,” wait for the activation sound, and ask a question or give a command.
How to enable hands-free Alexa?
- On your Fire tablet, go to Settings (in the Home view, look for the gear icon).
- In the “Device” section, find Alexa, and tap it.
- Find “Hands-Free Mode,” and tap a toggle switch next to it.
2. Turn your Amazon Fire into Echo Show
Alexa is a voice-activated personal assistant, but it’s not about sound any longer.
Echo Show, Amazon’s top-shelf Alexa-powered smart speaker equipped with the 7-inch display, can provide both audio and video replies. For instance, you can watch news briefing from Reuters or CNN, see your recent photos, make video calls, or read music lyrics.
With hands-free Alexa, you don’t have to buy Echo Show or Echo Spot (the smaller speaker with the 2.5-inch screen). The Fire tablet, if you purchased the 7th-generation or later model, can do that as well.
Use the Fire together with Show Mode Charging Dock
Show Mode Charging Dock is a $39 accessory specifically designed to make the full use of hands-free Alexa and Show Mode on your Fire tablet.
The accessory consists of two parts: the backshell case and the charging dock. It enables you to switch your Fire from being hand-operated to voice-operated by merely placing it on the charging stand.
When you put the Fire on the stand:
- the Show Mode automatically turns on,
- the Fire is being charged via metal connectors at the bottom of the dock – there is no need to plug the cable.
You can change the angle of the stand to reach maximum visibility across the room.
Use the Fire without Show Mode Charging Dock
You don’t need to invest in a charging dock to use your Fire tablet the same way as Echo Show or Spot. If you have a stand case, you can do that as well.
Just open the case and fold it to form the horizontal stand. Place is where you want it to be – but remember one thing: to enable the hands-free Alexa, the Fire has to be connected to a power source.
To place the tablet at the right angle, you can alternatively use any universal tablet stand. It doesn’t have to be a tailored Amazon Fire stand case.
This method is less convenient than Show Mode Charging Dock because you need to plug the cable and turn on the Show Mode manually.
On the other side, the Fire has to be charged quite often, so you’ll have to do it anyway. Instead of placing it on a bedside table, form a stand and make it ready to respond to your voice commands.
3. Make the most use of Show Mode
When responding to your question or answer, Alexa can provide visual information even when Show Mode is turned off. You will see weather conditions, current time, or confirmation of the alarm being set.
But the Show Mode does it so much better. Visuals are enhanced and designed to be visible from a distance. Letters are more prominent and bolder. Longer information is being split into a sequence – everything is dedicated to achieving maximum visibility. The currently spoken passage of a longer text is being highlighted.
To see the difference, let’s compare weather information.
The Show Mode is much more than just better-displayed information. It shows example commands you can try, so it’s the easiest possible way to learn about what Alexa can do for you. When the Show Mode is on, the Fire wakes up when you are near, displaying time, weather conditions, and recent notifications.
When you enable Show Mode, the display will be automatically turned to horizontal view, overriding the setup of your choice ( Auto-Rotate / Portrait / Landscape).
You can control what information you want to see while the Show Mode is on. To do that:
- In the Home view, go to Settings.
- In the “Device” section, find “Show Mode” and tap it.
- Play with the options.
- Background – it lets you decide which background you see. It’s either the default set of images or a slideshow from the selected photo album from your Prime account,
- Home Cards – you can decide which information you want to see: notifications from Alexa skills, upcoming events from your calendar, trending topics, new reminders.
You can set here photo slideshow preferences, and decide whether to show ambient clock when the Fire is inactive.
Automatic Mode Switching
It applies to Fire tablets that are equipped with Show Mode Charging Dock. You can toggle whether you want to automatically switch to Show Mode when docked.
When you turn this option on, you will hear transcripts for received messages.
How to enable Show Mode on the Fire tablet
As I said before, if you use Show Mode Charging Dock, the Show Mode will be activated automatically every time you put the tablet on the charging stand.
To do it without the stand, you can choose one of the options:
- Option 1: say “Alexa, turn on Show Mode” or “Alexa, switch to Show Mode,”
- Option 2: swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal Quick Action menu, and switch Show Mode toggle located below the controls and above the notifications.
To disable Show Mode
You can do it using one of three methods:
- Option 1: say “Alexa, exit Show Mode,”
- Option 2: swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal Quick Action menu, and switch Show Mode toggle,
- Option 3: unplug the Fire from the power source (7th-generation Fire 7 and Fire HD 8).
4. Use Alexa to read your Kindle books
One of the most popular Alexa features is the ability to play Audible audiobooks.
However, there is another, completely free way to listen to a book, and you don’t even need to add an audiobook companion to a previously bought Kindle title.
Alexa can simply activate the text-to-speech function in the Kindle app. Obviously, it will work for you if you can stand a mechanical Alexa voice for a longer time.
To start listening to a Kindle book, say:
Alexa, play the Kindle book, (title).
To continue listening to a Kindle book, say:
Alexa, resume my Kindle book.
Try also other commands:
Alexa, pause / skip / stop my Kindle book.
At any time, you can ask Alexa to adjust the reading by using one of the following commands:
Alexa, read louder.
Alexa, stop reading in 15 minutes.
Alexa, next chapter.
You can play any book from the Kindle Store that supports text-to-speech technology. Alexa can also read books that you get via Amazon subscription: Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Amazon Prime Reading).
Alexa can read Kindle books in one of the following languages:
- English (US, UK, CA, AU, IN)
How to check out if text-to-speech is available for the Kindle book
- In your web browser, go to the Kindle Store and find a book you want to check out,
- Scroll down the page to reveal “Product details” section,
- Look for “Text-to-Speech” option and make sure it says “Enabled.”
5. If you start with Alexa, stop with Alexa
Amazon Fire is not a single-purpose device like the Echo. Alexa is just one of the ways to use it.
If you don’t want to get confused, try to stop using the Fire the way you started it. If you used Alexa to start an audiobook playback, use Alexa to stop it. Otherwise, you may encounter unexpected behavior.
Alexa handles actions independently from apps. If it reads a Kindle book, it doesn’t mean it opens the Kindle app to read it.
Therefore, if you ask Alexa to read a Kindle book, don’t be surprised that opening a Kindle app to stop text-to-speech will not take effect. Because the Kindle app “doesn’t know” that Alexa is reading the book for you.
It’s even more evident with an Audible audiobook. If you trigger an audiobook playback with Alexa and decide to stop it by opening the Audible app, you may end up playing the same audiobook twice.
How to stop Alexa – Show Mode off
If you use the Fire tablet without the Show Mode, you can stop Alexa in one of the following ways:
- Option 1: say “Alexa, stop / pause,”
- Option 2: tap the Close icon in the top right corner of the screen,
- Option 3: slide down from the top edge of the display to reveal the Quick Action menu. In the notifications section, there is a currently opened Alexa action. Tap the Play / Pause button and/or slide it to the left.
How to stop Alexa – Show Mode on
Use one of the following ways:
- Option 1: say “Alexa, stop / pause,”
- Option 2: slide down from the top edge of the display to reveal the Quick Action menu. In the notifications section, there is a currently opened Alexa action. Slide it to the left.
6. Make the most of Alexa’s visual responses
On a smart speaker, Alexa can give you only an audio response. It’s much more fun when the display comes into play.
There is a growing number of Alexa features and skills that display visual content. You can watch Flash Briefings, make video calls, watch videos on Amazon Prime Video, or preview photos from your Prime Photos account.
All basic features provided by Alexa come with full visual responses, as well. Setting the alarm or timer, viewing upcoming events, adding new items to a shopping list – you will not only hear but also see them.
One of the most helpful Alexa features on the Fire tablet are video Flash Briefings. If you enable one of the briefings that are enhanced with video, you can start watching the latest news on your Fire by saying:
Alexa, show me CNN News / Fox News / NBC News
How to enable video-enhanced Alexa Flash Briefings
By default, your Flash Briefing on the Fire tablet is Reuters Now. You can add other networks as well, and control the order.
To enable video-enhanced Alexa news services:
- Go to the Home screen of your Fire tablet and open the Amazon Alexa app (the light blue icon).
- Tap the menu icon in the top left corner, find “Things to Try,” and tap it.
- Swipe down to reveal the “News” section. Tap it.
- Swipe down to the bottom of the screen. Under “Explore More” you will see “Discover News Skills” – tap it to open the Amazon Alexa Skills section featuring Flash Briefing with full video support.
Top video-enhanced Alexa News Skills
- Reuters TV (US and World)
- Fox News
- NBC News
- Bloomberg First Word
- The Tonight Show Monologue
7. Avoid lock screen passcode when using hands-free Alexa
Some users set a lock screen passcode to protect sensitive data on their Fire tablet.
When you enable hands-free Alexa, you will not be required to enter the PIN only when asking for general information, such Flash Briefing or weather.
Every time you ask Alexa to provide personal information, such as upcoming calendar events, you will be required to enter the lock screen passcode.
One way to avoid the lock screen passcode with Alexa is disabling it in the Fire’s Settings.
But there is a better way. You can still have your Fire password protected but use freely with hands-free Alexa at home.
How to use hands-free Alexa at home without the passcode
Go to the Home screen of your Fire tablet, and open Settings. In the “Device” section, tap “Alexa.” Here, there are two things to do:
Step 1: On a list, find “Hands-Free Lock Screen Access.” Make sure it’s turned on.
Step 2: Right below, you will find another setting – “Trusted Networks.” Tap it, and then tap “Add Trusted Network.” On a list of available or saved Wi-Fi networks, find the one that’s yours. Tap it and confirm your selection.
8. Use Amazon Alexa app to discover commands and skills
I said earlier that the Show Mode is the easiest and most natural way to learn about possibilities Alexa gives the Amazon Fire user.
If you, however, would like to embrace Alexa faster, you can use the Amazon Alexa app for that.
The app enables the user to control a few more settings, such as managing preferences for Alexa features (music, TV schedules, Flash Briefings, and more).
However, the most important benefit of the app is that it shows how to use Alexa – which commands to use to achieve the desired result.
When you tap the app’s menu in the top left corner, you will see a long list of items. An item you have to check out is “Things To Try.” You will find here example Alexa commands in a number of areas, such as:
- What’s New
- Questions & Answers
- Smart Home
9. Use Alexa to set up a routine
Many people have daily routines. Are you among those who check out the weather, news headlines, and local traffic when eating breakfast?
Amazon Fire can provide that multi-step information for you, and all you should do is say one Alexa command.
It’s possible thanks to a feature called “Routines,” available in the Amazon Alexa app. It lets you perform a sequence of actions.
How to create an Alexa routine on the Fire tablet
- Open Amazon Alexa app and tap the menu icon in the top left corner.
- On the list of available items, find “Routines” – tap it.
Now you are in the section, where you can either enable/disable the routines or create your own one.
One routine is already there, so the only thing to do is to enable it. The routine, triggered by “Alexa, start my day,” provides the following sequence of actions:
- tell you something new
- provide weather information
- report traffic
- play the news
You can change the order, remove items, or add new elements to the routine. Then, switch the toggle in the top right corner to enable the routine and test it!
You can also create a routine from scratch. Go one step back and tap “Create Routine” button. Have fun!
10. Alexa on the Fire tablet – quick questions and answers
Find below the most common questions regarding using Alexa and Show Mode on Amazon Fire tablet.
Q: What is Show Mode?
A: Show Mode is a special interface on Amazon Fire tablets that enhances Alexa with visual information.
Q: How do I get new Alexa skills?
A: Open Amazon Alexa app, then Menu, then Skills & Games. Obviously, you can always ask: “Alexa, suggest new skills.”
Q: Can I change the wake word?
A: Yes,… sort of. The only other option you can select is “Amazon.” There is no way to set a custom wake word.
Q: Is there is a monthly fee on Alexa?
A: No, Alexa is a free service provided by Amazon.
Alexa on Amazon Fire tablets – useful links
if you want to learn more about how to use Alexa and Show Mode on your Fire tablet, make sure to follow these links:
- Amazon Help Pages: using Alexa on your Fire tablet – which models are compatible with Alexa, how to enable or disable it, Show Mode tips, how to set up Alexa app, how to make calls,
- Amazon Help Pages: Show Mode on your Fire tablet – a list of compatible Fire models, setting up trusted Wi-Fi networks, full screen visual responses,
- Read Kindle books with Alexa – eligible books, Alexa commands, and more,
- Devices compatible with Alexa – Fire, Fire TV, Echo, other Alexa-enabled gadgets,
- Amazon Alexa at a glance – all the most exciting features of Amazon’s voice assistant in a must-read directory.
• • •
Are you an Amazon Fire tablet owner? We’ve got more for you:
- Amazon Prime Day 2019 price watch – Kindle and Fire devices
- Amazon Fire 7 (2019) all-in-one: specs, benefits, comparisons, more
- The 3-minute guide to Amazon Fire 7 tablet (2019 release)
- 19 best Amazon Fire 7 (2019) cases and accessories to get right now
- 5 reasons why you should not buy Amazon Fire 7 (2019)