Forgetful? Now Alexa can juggle your crazy reminder list

Amazon's Alexa can now remind users of specific tasks, with the ability to set not only an alarm but assign a reason for it too. The latest in Alexa's growing skillset on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap, it opens the door to far more useful reminders than simple alarms. Both reminders and timers are supported by the update.

Although Alexa could set timers before, when the alarm actually went off it was up to you to remember why you'd programmed it. Named timers, in contrast, allow users to set both a countdown and a reason for it. For instance, you could say "Alexa, set a three minute timer for my tea" and, after three minutes, the virtual assistant will not only flash its blue ring as an alert but read out the reason you set too.

Meanwhile, with the addition of naming to timers, it's also possible to check on their progress even if multiple are set at once. For example, you could ask "Alexa, how much time is left on my tea timer" and have that specific countdown detailed. Or, you could cancel specific timers individually by name.

As for reminders, that's set by time and date rather than a specific countdown. For more immediate reminders, you can just say "Alexa, remind me to mail the electricity bill at 3pm" and, come 3pm that day, the blue ring will light up and the assistant will read out the reason you set.

There's also support for more distant reminders, though. You could instruct "Alexa, remind me to call the dentist on Thursday," or "Alexa, remind me to take the car in for service at 10am on July 15th."

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Although a fairly small tweak to Alexa's abilities, it seems likely that reminders and timers will be some of the most used functions. After all, the capability to set a quick reminder, before you forget, and without having to reach for your phone – or, indeed, do anything with your hands – could be a huge benefit in a busy home. Indeed, it joins the recent addition of iCloud Calendar compatibility in helping make Alexa a schedule-managing PA.

Reminders and named timers are headed to Echo units in the US today. It'll be added to Alexa in the UK and Germany in the coming weeks, Amazon says.