Last fall Amazon announced the Echo Auto, promising all of the power and convenience of Alexa in your car, and started taking sign-ups for orders. This week they started allowing people to actually buy the device, so I immediately jumped when my invite arrived!
Does it live up to the hype? Let’s take a look, but to make things simple: if you use Alexa around the house, you will absolutely want one of these in your car – and the $25 price makes this a no-brainer.
Amazon’s description of Echo Auto is pretty comprehensive:
- Add Alexa to your car – Connects to the Alexa app on your phone and plays through your car speakers via Bluetooth or auxiliary input. Includes Dash Mount.
- Designed for the road – With 8 microphones and far-field technology, Echo Auto can hear you over music, A/C, and road noise. Echo Auto is also designed for your privacy. You can press the microphone off button to electronically disconnect the microphones.
- Go beyond radio – Voice control Echo Auto through the Alexa app to play Audible audiobooks, listen to podcasts, or stream Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, SiriusXM, or radio stations from around the world with TuneIn and iHeartRadio.
- Just ask – Use your voice to play music, check the news, open the garage door, find the nearest gas station, and more.
- Do more with your voice – Make calls, set reminders, add items to your shopping and to-do lists, or manage your calendar.
- Alexa has skills – With tens of thousands of skills and counting, Alexa is always getting smarter.
- Set location-based routines – Alexa can automatically start a series of actions when you leave the office or get home.
- Ask for directions – Alexa can start navigation on your phone with supported apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps. Not compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
When my Echo Auto arrived, I quickly unpacked the box and read the included minimal instructions. Everything seemed obvious – plug the USB adapter into the 12V power plug (aka cigarette lighter port), plug the USB cable into the Echo Auto and the USB adapter, use the adhesive to attach the Echo Auto to a flat surface, open up the Alexa app on your smartphone and Add Device. If your car doesn’t have BlueTooth you can use the included 3.5mm stereo audio adapter. From there, all you need to do is say ‘Alexa …’ just as you would with any Echo or other Alexa enabled device.
Once everything is set up, suddenly your car is just another Alexa-based device.
And honestly that is pretty much it – by my second drive in my car after installing Echo Auto, I just started talking to Alexa just as I would at home. I was looking to hear certain music, so I asked for it. Then I wanted to hear a playlist on Spotify, so I asked for it and Alexa changed the music. And so on – news briefings, weather in other places, directions, etc.
As you might expect there are certain skills that are more or less useful in the car than they are in the home. In the picture I took in my car, you can see I have a dashboard thermometer – so it is of little value asking what the temperature is outside. But asking for the forecast remains useful.
There are limitations, of course – as noted in the description you can’t automate directions on the maps app on your car over Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Also, while the Echo Auto has 8 microphones and is very sensitive, it IS still going to be prone to signal-to-noise issues just like the Echo will have issues if the volume of your music is louder than your voice. So if you’re driving with windows down in a very noisy area you might have recognition issues – but in my testing with my windows partially open and the sunroof fully open, I had no problem with Alexa hearing me and responding accurately.
It is also important to remember that the Echo Auto is essentially interfacing through your Alexa app, and not making full use of your smartphone. So if you have downloaded music on Apple Music or books on the Audible app and ask Alexa to play those, you will get the streaming version through the Alexa app and NOT the ones you have downloaded. The solution to all of this is to use the apps on your phone directly if you have special requirements in terms of content or the desire to conserve mobile data.
I don’t consider any of those things ‘problems’ or ‘negatives’, as they replicate the exact functionality of the Alexa devices scattered around our house. And that is exactly what Echo Auto promises and delivers – being another Echo device, but this time in your car. And Amazon has absolutely succeeded with this device!
Head to Amazon and grab yourself an Echo Auto for $24.99! [affilate link]
Source: Personal purchase
What I Like: Solid and well-built; easy to install and use; does exactly what it says and does it well.
What Needs Improvement: Nothing