These are the 10 best Alexa skills for India

Amazon has thoroughly customized the Alexa experience for the Indian market.

Amazon launched the Echo family in India at the end of last year, introducing the subcontinent to Alexa. The virtual assistant made its debut three years ago on the first-gen Echo and over the years Amazon has steadily added more features to Alexa, making it one of the most robust options available in this space.

Amazon took its time in bringing the Echo family to India as the retailer was customizing Alexa for the local audience. That includes a wide range of skills that leverage Indian services — including Zomato and Ola — and working around limitations like e-commerce purchases. In India, all e-commerce transactions require a secondary layer of authentication, usually in the form of an OTP delivered to a user's phone number.

The mandate means Amazon's one-click order isn't available in India, and so the retailer had to introduce a digital wallet — dubbed Amazon Pay — to work around the limitation. There are a lot of such instances where Amazon took the time and effort to customize Alexa for the Indian market, and the end result is that the assistant offers a ton of features out of the gate.

If you're just getting started with your Echo or are looking to know more about what Alexa can do, read on.

Book an Uber/Ola

Booking a cab with Alexa is about as straightforward as it gets. You'll need to link your Uber or Ola account with Alexa, and then the virtual assistant will be able to request a ride on your behalf. You can link your accounts by going into the skills section, finding the Uber or Ola skill, and signing into your account.

As with everything else, you'll get an OTP on your phone number to confirm the linking of the two accounts, but it's a one-time process. After you link your account, you'll be able to book a cab by just saying, "Alexa, book an Uber."

You can request a ride from any of your saved Uber addresses, or Alexa can pull in your home address from Amazon as well. Alexa will list out the closest ride option by default (for me, that tends to be UberGO), but if you're looking for UberX or UberSUV, you can ask the virtual assistant to list other cab options available.

Once you confirm the ride, Alexa will tell you how far away your taxi is, and give you a fare estimate to your destination.

Control smart home products

The larger Echo Plus has ZigBee built into the chassis, which essentially eliminates the need for a dedicated hub for your smart lights or door locks. The integrated hub makes it easier to connect devices to the Echo Plus, and because Alexa made its global debut over four years ago, there's a laundry list of manufacturers offering support for the platform.

If you're looking to get started with the smart home segment and are interested in a virtual assistant to control the lights or connected appliances, Alexa is the way to go. With Google Home not yet available in the country, it's also the only option available to Indian customers. That said, having used both the Echo Plus and a Google Home side-by-side, the former does a better job of finding and connecting to smart home gear.

Alexa has a lot of localized skills for the Indian market, so in addition to Hue, you can add bulbs from Syska, Yeelight, Oakter, and more. Chances are if you have a smart home product, there's an Alexa skill for it. Syska, Hue, LIFX, Oakter,

Buy things from Amazon

One of the coolest things you can do with your Echo is purchase items from Amazon. All you have to do is say something along the lines of, "Alexa, order hand sanitizer," and Alexa will look through your order history to see if you've ordered hand sanitizer in the past.

If it finds an item with a matching description, it will suggest that particular product and give you details on pricing. If there isn't a product available from your order history, Alexa will read out the top two links for that product query on Amazon, followed up with, "Would you like to buy it?". All you need to do is say yes for the order to go through.

Alexa will also mention the estimated delivery date once the order is successfully placed. The balance will be automatically deducted from your Amazon Pay account, and to prevent misuse, there's also the option of adding a four-digit passcode that you'll have to furnish Alexa before confirming an order.

You'll be able to view the order confirmation details in the Alexa app, and Amazon will send an email with all the relevant information. Buying things from Alexa is about as easy as it gets, and as I use Amazon for most of my ecommerce purchases, it is one of the features I use the most.

Get food from Zomato

The Zomato skill allows Alexa to suggest restaurant recommendations and order food to your house. If you're looking to dine out, all you need to do is say, "Alexa, find restaurants nearby" and the assistant will serve up suggestions based on your location.

Alexa will also ask you what kind of cuisine you're interested in, so if you're in the mood for some Mexican food, you can ask the assistant to look for Mexican restaurants in your city. For dining in, you can just say, "Alexa order food from Zomato" and it will look through your order history and suggest restaurants.

Get score updates

India is crazy about cricket, and Alexa is a great resource for tracking the latest score. Just say, "Alexa, what's the score?" and you'll get a rundown of football, cricket, and any other sports scores. If you're looking for scores from a particular match, just include the match name and you'll get a thorough breakdown.

You'll also get detailed statistics in the Alexa app. So if you're looking to catch up on cricket scores or see if Arsenal won a match lately, all you have to do is ask Alexa.

Hear the flash briefing

Alexa plugs into a lot of news sources, so if you're looking to start the day with the latest headlines, you can just ask, "Alexa, what's in the news?" and you'll get a briefing with what's going on in the world.

As with most things to do with Alexa in India, the flash briefing feature lists a lot of local news sources, so you should be able to find the publication you read in the skills list.

Play songs from Prime Music

Prime Music isn't officially live in India just yet, but it is available to Echo owners in preview form. The service has a vast catalog of songs available,, ranging from classic rock to heavy metal, reggaeton, electronica, pop music, and a staggering amount of regional songs.

Amazon has tied up with a majority of local labels, including the likes of Sony Music, Saregama, Times Music, Tips Music, Zee Music, Venus Music, and Warner Music Group, so if you're interested in listening to regional songs, Prime Music is one of the best options available in the market today.

Amazon also recently inked a deal with T-Series, India's largest music label, to make its catalog of over 150,000 songs available on Prime Music.

Alexa automatically selects Prime Music as the default music services; in the unlikely scenario where it can't find a song on Prime Music, it switches to Saavn.

Ask it to tell jokes

When it comes to jokes, Alexa is just as good as Google Home at delivering the most cringe-inducing one-liners. Like everything else to do with Alexa for the Indian market, Amazon has tailored the jokes for the local audience, so get ready for a lot of Bollywood-themes quips.

Play games

If you're feeling bored, you can play a game with Alexa. Just ask, "Alexa, let's play a game" and the assistant will respond with a lengthy list of games. Alternatively, you can enable skills in the Alexa app if you're looking for a particular game. There's enough content to keep you entertained for hours.

I'm partial to trivia-based games, and Alexa offers a wide variety of skills in this area.

Call your family and friends

Alexa's latest feature is the ability to call and text family and friends that also own an Echo device. Essentially, all Alexa-to-Alexa calls and texts are free, and there's a feature that lets you "drop in" on another Echo device. You can restrict the feature to members within your household (and you should).

Your turn

Got an Alexa skill that you use a lot? Let me know in the comments below.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5: Everything you need to know

The Redmi Note 5 has plenty to offer if you're looking for a capable budget phone that doesn't break the bank.

Xiaomi unveiled the Redmi Note 5 earlier this month, bringing the 18:9 form factor to the budget segment. The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 625 — like last year's Redmi Note 4 — but Xiaomi is positioning the improvements to the display and camera as the main differentiator for this year's offering.

Then there's the pricing. The Redmi series' meteoric rise was mainly due to aggressive pricing by Xiaomi, and the brand outdid itself this year. The base variant of the Redmi Note 4 with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage is available for just ₹9,999, which is less than what the Redmi Note 4 launched at last year.

So while the internal hardware may not be all that different, there's a lot to get excited about with the Redmi Note 4. Here's what you need to know about Xiaomi's latest budget phone.

It has an 18:9 display

The most visible change in the Redmi Note 5 from its predecessor is the 18:9 panel at the front. Xiaomi kickstarted the bezel-less movement with the first-gen Mi Mix back in 2016, and with the Redmi Note 5 the 18:9 form factor is making its way to the budget segment.

That said, the Redmi Note 5 has considerably larger bezels than the Mi Mix 2, but overall the effect is not unlike the Pixel 2 XL. The 5.99-inch display offers a resolution of 2160x1080, and the LCD panel is one of the best in this segment.

Xiaomi has carved out a niche for itself in the budget category by offering vibrant displays for some time now, and thankfully that hasn't changed with the Redmi Note 5.

The 12MP camera is from the Mi A1

Xiaomi started reusing components across its devices last year, and the result is that the 12MP camera on the Redmi Note 5 is the same as the primary sensor on last year's Mi A1. That's actually a good thing as the Mi A1 has one of the best cameras in the budget segment.

The camera on the Redmi Note 5 has 1.25um pixels and an ƒ/2.2 lens, and does a great job of taking photos in daylight conditions. Images tend to suffer in low-light conditions though, but it is considerably better than the Redmi Note 4. The front 5MP camera is the same as last year's phone, and comes with Beautify 3.0.

Still powered by the Snapdragon 625

The internal hardware is one area where the Redmi Note 5 is unchanged from its predecessor. The phone features a 4000mAh battery — slightly less than the 4100mAh battery in last year's model — but you still get two days' worth of usage from a full charge.

Under the hood, there's a Snapdragon 625. Xiaomi clearly stated last year that it was a fan of Qualcomm's mid-range chipset, and to that effect we've seen the Snapdragon 625 powering a variety of Xiaomi phones over the last 12 months. A year on, Xiaomi is confident enough in the capabilities of the Snapdragon 625 to retain it in the Redmi Note 5.

The phone is sold in two variants in India, down from the three models that launched with the Redmi Note 4. The base version now offers 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and the second variant comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

It's now on sale in India

Both variants of the Redmi Note 5 are now up for sale in India. As mentioned earlier, the 3GB variant is up for grabs for just ₹9,999, and the 4GB version is available for ₹11,999. You can purchase the device on Flipkart as well as Xiaomi's own portal, and the phone will be sold at Mi Home stores across the country.

It's usually hard to get a hold of Xiaomi's phones at launch due to the sheer demand, and the brand isn't making things any easier for customers by continuing to rely on the flash sale model. That said, you should be able to get your hands on the Redmi Note 5 at more retail locations thanks to Xiaomi's recent push into the offline market.

See at Flipkart

Read our extensive review

Need more on the Redmi Note 5? I reviewed the phone after using it for over a month, so be sure to take a look at my review. In broad strokes, you're getting a phone with a decent 18:9 screen, much-improved camera, and two-day battery life.

Oh, and MIUI 9 is pretty great. It's a shame that Xiaomi wasn't able to roll out Oreo with the device, but on its own, MIUI 9 makes a great case if you're a power user.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 review: The best just got better

Check out the Pro variant

Sure, the Redmi Note 5 introduces key upgrades in the display and camera segments, but a lot of the attention will undoubtedly go to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and for good reason. The phone is absolutely incredible, featuring an all-new dual camera setup at the back, front 20MP camera, and the Snapdragon 636 mobile platform under the hood.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro starts off at ₹13,999, ₹4,000 more than the base variant of the Redmi Note 5. If you're on a tight budget and are looking to purchase a phone for under ₹10,000, then the Redmi Note 5 is going to serve you well. If you can stretch your budget, then you'll love what's on offer with the Redmi Note 5 Pro.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro review: King of the hill

Any questions?

Looking to pick up the Redmi Note 5 but aren't fully ready to commit just yet? Hit me up with your questions down below, and be sure to take a look at our forums.

Sports streaming service DAZN launches Roku TV app in Canada

More streaming options for sports fans looking to cut out cable TV 🇨🇦

DAZN subscribers in Canada can now access the sports streaming platform on Roku streaming players and Roku-enabled smart TVs.

Adding Roku rounds out DAZN's list of supported devices which already included the prerequisite support for web browsers and smartphones along with apps and support for Android TV, Chromecast, VIZIO SmartCast, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Apple TV.

For a $20 monthly subscription, DAZN offers Canadian sports fans exclusive streaming access to NFL Game Pass, NFL RedZone and the NFL Network. Beyond the NFL, DAZN also has partnerships with BeIn Sports for FIBA basketball and European soccer coverage, and more recently announced partnerships with rugby union's Six Nations Championship, Red Bull Air Races, and a slew of PGA tournaments.

DAZN launched in Canada last August but dealt with technical issues out of the gate including dropped streams, bad video quality, and audio sync issues. While the quality improved as the NFL season progressed, the NFL offseason will be a true test of DAZN's ability to retain subscribers based on the other sports event streams offered.

Acquiring alternative streaming rights will be crucial for DAZN's survival in Canada as they go up against the big Canadian cable providers such as Rogers and Bell who have rock solid broadcast and streaming deals in place with the NBA, NHL, CFL, and MLB, and the CBC locking down the broadcast and streaming rights for the Olympics until 2024.

Learn More about DAZN

Businesses can now send RCS texts to Android Messages users

Launching first in the U.S. and Mexico.

We're expecting Google to go all-in with Android Messages later this year to turn it into a true iMessage competitor, but until that day, folks in the U.S. and Mexico are getting a small treat of what's to come. Thanks to Google's never-ending push of Rich Communication Services (or RCS), businesses can now tap into this to offer more engaging experiences.

Instead of sending bland SMS texts, companies can use RCS to send rich and interactive messages to their customers that use Android Messages. Businesses like 1-800-Contacts, Booking.com, Subway, and OpenMarket will be leading this charge in the U.S., and Mexico will soon follow suit with 5 Piso, DHL, Secretaria de Salud, and more.

Per Google's official announcement:

This means, for example, that a retailer can send beautiful images of their products, rather than a text message, and even let the customer select and buy something, all without leaving the messaging app. Best of all, customers who have already opted in to SMS messages from a business get this upgraded experience automatically in Android Messages.

Google says that it's partnering with Sprint for this initial business rollout of RCS in the U.S., but there are 43 different carriers around the globe working on adopting Google's Jibe RCS Hub.

Android Messages is Google's best chance to compete with iMessage

Rez Infinite VR for Daydream review: Psychedelic techno bliss

Finding this game in the Google Play Store was a Daydream come true!

Have you ever played a game that just stuck with you? Perhaps you only had a limited time with it, yet years later you still occasionally find yourself daydreaming about it.

For me, that game is Rez. Originally released for the PlayStation 2 and Sega Dreamcast way back in 2002, it was and is still the most unique game I've ever played — a mash-up between a rail-shooter and a music game set in a trippy cyberspace world.

I remember first experiencing the Rez demo on a disc that came with a PlayStation magazine and it blew my mind, but I could never track down a full copy of the game and I wasn't about to overpay for a used copy off of eBay.

This is by far the best VR experience I've had with my Google Daydream!

Then I learned Rez Infinite VR had been released for Google Daydream and realized my life is complete. Hyperbole aside, this is by far the best VR experience I've had with my Google Daydream. While I had a blast playing this game on a CRT TV in my parents' basement 15 years ago, this game is so perfectly suited for VR I can't handle it.

The gameplay in this game is just unreal. You use the Daydream controller to aim your targeting icon, pressing the touchpad to lock onto targets and releasing to fire. Everything is kept to the beat, so it's like you're controlling the music with every enemy you shoot down. As you progress through the different areas in each level, everything intensifies. The music gets louder and more intense, the visuals get brighter and more explosive with colors, and the enemies arrive in larger numbers and faster. It's brilliant and just sucks you right in.

Rez Infinte VR includes the original game recreated for VR, along with time attack modes and other quick-play options when you beat the core game. There's also a new mode, Area X, which ditches the rail-shooting aspect and lets you freely roam around the environment. I haven't spent a ton of time playing this mode, but it's definitely fun to cruise around the Rez universe on your own — in VR no less!

The problem is that it's really hard to describe this game in words to someone who's never heard of or played it before. You can show them playthroughs of the HD remake from 2008 or compare it to that trippy Star Gate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But until they've experienced the game for themselves, it's still too abstract to fully comprehend or appreciate.

That's why I love watching the reaction when I introduce Rez Infinite VR to friends. While you can't see exactly what they're seeing, you see the smile spread across their face and their head start bobbing along to the infectious beat. Yes, this game has still got it going on in 2018, and is perfectly suited for virtual reality.

There is a narrative underpinning the game here that deals with the world of hacking and some heavy-handed metaphors about technology and life, birth and death, and other philisophical musings. It's there for astute gamers to dwell upon... but really the main draw here is the crazy visuals and catchy music. Just like the original stuck with me for all these years, this game leaves an impression on anyone who plays it.

Rez Infinite VR is available as a free trial in the Google Play Store, but you should absolutely unlock the full game for $10. It's well worth it and a great title to show off your Daydream headset to friends and family.

Download: Rez Infinite VR ($9.99)