“Surprisingly the Echo Auto can do much more than the Echo Dot that’s sitting on the shelf in the office”
Magnetic rubber anti-vibration mount
I should start this review with a little bit of inside information. I live in a smart house, anywhere in the house you can say “Ok Google” or “Alexa” and you will get a reply. I wake up from the alarm on my smartphone at the same time the smart light bulb comes on to about 20% brightness so it isn’t blinding, Alexa turns on the TV and starts playing current news… and when I leave I say goodbye, All the lights turn off and the AC goes into ECO mode. What I’m saying is that I’m fully invested in the smart assistant ecosystem.
If you’re not like me (smart assistant user) should you get an Echo auto? The short answer is it depends. If you already have Alex, Android auto, or possibly Apple car play then you already have a smart assistant built-in. However, if you are one of the millions that use Alexa as your main assistant, then the echo auto is totally worth it. Here is how I’ve been using it.
Important: At the time of this review Echo auto is only available through invitation, you can apply here, but it will be available to the masses sometime this year.
Amazon ships the Echo auto in a black box that’s not much larger than a bar of soap, that should give you an idea of how small the Echo Auto really is. Inside that box, you’ll get the Echo Auto, the magnetic dash mount, micro USB cord, 4Amp dual port USB-A power outlet adapter, and a quick start guide.
Install And Setup
The installation can be as easy as connecting the power cord and sticking the magnetic mount to the dash. This method will work if your vehicle has Bluetooth built-in. The second method is to use a 3.5mm/ headphone jack along with the power cord to get the sound to your speakers. Most cars made in the last 10+ years will have at least the AUX (3.5mm) input. If neither of those methods would work I could use an FM modulator (this one has Bluetooth, AUX, Handsfree, and Micro SD)
So installation can be really simple, or if you’re like me you can custom install it and hide most of the wires.
Installed in Toyota FJ Cruiser
The setup couldn’t be easier, it was by far the easiest Echo device that I’ve set up and Echo are easy to set up already. You goto the Alexa app on your smartphone, then go to add Echo. Once there scroll down until you see Echo Auto. (Your phones Bluetooth should be on) Select Echo Auto, it will use Bluetooth to find and connect to the Echo Auto. The last step is connecting to your vehicles Bluetooth if you use Bluetooth to connect. In the words of the Porky the Pig, That’s all folks… It’s that easy to setup. After the initial setup, it should just connect within seconds once you enter the car as long as your phones Bluetooth is on.
Autobots Roll Out
I guess you are wondering how useful Alexa in the car really is. Well, surprisingly the Echo Auto can do much more than the Echo Dot that’s sitting on the shelf in the office. This is because Echo Auto can connect to and use your phones GPS and Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps.
I get into my Truck and ask “Alexa how’s my commute” seconds later I get a response based on where I am. If I’m close to work or it’s around the time I leave I get my commute home if I’m at home or it’s around the time I go to work I get my commute time to work. This alone saves me so much time. I used to check my phone daily about my commute home, can I take the interstate or is it backed up, or should I take the longer but possibly faster surface streets. Now I hop in and within seconds I can just ask Alexa and get a reply.
Another thing that GPS and maps allow is turn by turn navigation, but what’s better than that is the location awareness. “Alex, Starbucks near me” A second later I get an answer. ” Alexa, Navigate me to Starbucks” seconds later I’m on my way. All hands-free, the whole time I’m still moving. I’m not stopped or staring at my phone while driving.
The Echo Auto still has all the great features that you’ve come to love.
“Alexa, What’s on my shopping list” I get a rundown of my list.
“Alexa, add Xyz to shopping list” the item is added to my shopping list.
“Alexa, where is my stuff” I get the rundown of where all my in-progress Amazon packages are and the ETA.
Echo Auto also has integration with all the same music services that you do at home. I use Spotify and have since the US Beta released forever ago. I simply ask “Alexa play Xyz from Spotify” seconds later the song, podcast or playlist plays. What I don’t like is the lack of volume control. You still need to adjust the volume by knob or button on the cars radio. I previously used an Echo Dot in my truck and the volume control was awesome, maybe this is something that will be added in the future.
Home control! YES! they work too. If you own a nest thermostat, a smart lock or have any other reason to control your home from the road this is great news. I can get in the car and ask:
“Alexa what’s the temperature of the AC” or I can say “Alexa, set AC to xx degrees” and I’ll get the current temp of the house or have the thermostat change the temp so it’s comfortable when I arrive home.
“Alex, what’s the status of door lock” or “Alexa, lock or unlock door”
I’m just scratching the surface as thousands of Alexa enabled home devices can be controlled by Echo Auto.
Echo Auto is really only a fancy Amazon Bluetooth dongle that uses your phones mobile data and the Alexa app to deliver your content through your car’s speakers. The reason that it took so long is dues to all the noises and vibrations in a moving vehicle. As someone that’s been using an Echo Dot in their car, I can say the microphone optimizations is worlds better, and my truck isn’t as quiet as most cars on the road.
I mention that above to say that I’m sure other manufacturers will take this template and use Alex and make Echo Auto device of their own, but that doesn’t mean that you need to wait. I ‘m just saying if you don’t like the looks or form factor that someone else will make a different version.
Sidenote: You can buy additional magnetic rubber mounts if you have multiple vehicles. AC vent mount is available here.
So, is it worth buying? YES!!! especially if you’re already in the Echo (Alexa) ecosystem or if you want to be. If you own Alexa enabled devices like smart lights etc… If you only needed to take phone calls with high-quality microphones, navigate, create or add to the occasional shopping list, or create reminders its worth it.