A little over a month ago Amazon expanded its product catalog with Alexa with a rather curious device. It was not a new speaker, or a screen or tablet, or even a device for the television. It was about Amazon Echo Auto, a device designed to take the Alexa assistant in the car. A movement that, on the other hand, we could consider until expected, since both the Google Assistant and Siri can be carried in the car through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay respectively.
With the Amazon Echo Auto we can have all the functionality of Alexa on the dashboard of the car. We can from putting music to asking any questions we have. Also control the smart devices we have at home, create lists, put reminders and, ultimately, everything we can do with any Amazon Echo speaker. I have had the opportunity to try it for a few weeks and I tell you how it works and what I found.
Amazon Echo Auto datasheet
|Amazon Echo Auto|
|Sound||Set of 8 microphones|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, Audio Out with 3.5mm Jack and Micro USB for Power|
|Bluetooth||Compatible with HFP for calls, A2DP for audio streaming and AVRCP for multimedia sessions|
|Dimensions||85mm x 47mm x 13.28mm|
|Box contents||Echo Auto, Vent Grille Mount, Car Adapter, Micro USB Cable (1m), Audio Cable with 3.5mm Jack (1m) and Quick Start Guide|
Everything you need in a small box
The Amazon Echo Auto arrives in a small blue box in which we find everything we will need to place the device in the car. On the one hand we have the Echo Auto itself, a small rectangular device, very light and it looks like a small portable battery. Considering that we are going to carry it in the car, it could perhaps be somewhat more compact, but in general it seems to me a suitable size.
Also in the box we have two cables: a 3.5mm jack and a power cable that has a Micro USB connector on one end and a USB connector on the other. In addition, in the package we also find a cigarette lighter power adapter that has two USB connectors, one to power the device and another that is free so as not to cancel the 12V or cigarette lighter connection of the car. Well thought Amazon.
To place the device in the car in the box we have a support that we will have to place on the ventilation grille of our vehicle. The part that goes to the Echo Auto is magnetic, so it fits quite well.
But be careful, not all cars are compatible with this mount. I have a Seat Ibiza from the year 2009 and I could not place the support for the Echo Auto, since my car has a slightly different design than the usual ventilation grilles. Here you have a small scheme that Amazon provides to know if your car is compatible or not.
If we cannot place the device in its holder, we can always find a hole for it in the front of the car. The Amazon Echo Auto is equipped with eight microphones, located in its upper part. Obviously, if we have it in an elevated area, the device will hear us better. But I have tried to have it in the lower part of the dashboard and it also works. In fact, the microphone array is capable of picking up voice commands even with the window open and engine noise.
Continuing with the design, at the top we have two large buttons. With the one on the left we can turn off the microphone so that Alexa stops listening. With the one on the right we can call the assistant manually.
On the right side of the device we have a Micro USB connector for power and 3.5mm jack connector. As we will see later, this is one of the ways we have to connect it to the car.
Finally, on the front we have a LED light that will show us the status of the assistant. The light on the Amazon Echo Auto works identically to that of any Echo speaker. That is, it turns blue when you hear us or is working on the response and red when we have deactivated the microphone.
Connection and configuration
To put the Amazon Echo Auto into operation we must take into account some things. The first is that it is not a standalone device, that is, it needs an Internet connection to function. Considering that it doesn’t have 4G connectivity, will use the mobile data connection to connect to the network.
The second is that, before using it, we will have to configure it in the Amazon Alexa application. If you already have other Echo devices at home, you probably already have it installed on your mobile, but if not, it will be necessary to download it, install it and create an Amazon account (or identify us with our data).
Although you could try to configure it at home, the ideal is to do it already in the car. We just have to open the Amazon Alexa application and click on the tab Devices and Add Devices. In the list of devices that the application shows us we select Echo Auto. If we have the device connected to the power and turned on, the application should automatically detect it and we will see it on the screen.
After a few seconds the application asks us if we can connect the mobile to our car via Bluetooth to play music. This question, which seems a little strange, is because the Amazon Echo Auto we can connect it to the car in two ways. If our vehicle has Bluetooth connectivity, it is best to connect it using this connection. And if our car is very old and its radio system does not have a Bluetooth connection, we can use an auxiliary connection with a 3.5 mm jack. If we don’t have either, we won’t be able to use the Amazon Echo Auto.
So that, this question is a way to know if our car has a Bluetooth connection or not. In my case it is an old car, so I do not have a Bluetooth connection directly on the audio equipment. I use a small adapter that is connected to the aux of the car and that during these days I have changed for the Amazon Echo Auto.
What can we do with the Amazon Echo Auto?
The quick response is “the same as with any other Echo speaker.” However, despite having all the functionalities, the use of Alexa in the car could be said to be slightly reduced. For example, in my case 90% of the time I have used it to control music, asking him to put a specific playlist, a song or a list of songs according to the type of music that I wanted to listen to at all times. The streaming music services supported by the Echo Auto are Amazon Music, Spotify, and Apple Music.
I have also used it to play the radio or my favorite podcasts, using applications like TuneIN or Ivoox. And the third most common use that I think we will give the Amazon Echo Auto is that of calls. We can ask Alexa to call “Fulanito” with a simple voice command. He also understands the names quite well and if he has doubts he simply asks you.
These three uses are the ones that I have given the most in the weeks that I have tried the device. But the Amazon Echo Auto can do much more. For example, we can ask him to teach us how to go to an address, task for which you will use the mobile phone as it does not have its own screen. Of course, before we will have to configure in the Alexa app which navigation application we want to use as default.
Otherwise, We can ask the Amazon Echo Auto anything we normally ask Alexa. We can tell him to tell us the news of the day, to tell us what we have on the agenda or to inform us of the weather. We can also create lists, very useful if we remember something we have to do or a product we have to buy on the way to work.
Another highly recommended option is to create reminders and set alarms so that we don’t forget anything. And even we can control the smart devices that we have at home and are compatible with Alexa. For example, we can put the washing machine so that when we get home the laundry is ready to hang. The possibilities are very wide and will depend a lot on the level of “intelligence” that our home has.
Amazon Echo Auto vs Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
At this point in the analysis you have surely already realized that the Amazon Echo Auto has little or nothing to do with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The systems of Google and Apple use the screen of the multimedia equipment of the car to show us the applications and that we can control the functions of the mobile through it.
The Amazon Echo Auto, however, it’s more like a Bluetooth handsfree of which we connect to the car to get some features such as making calls or listening to music from the mobile. The difference is that this device, in addition to connecting our mobile with the car, provides us with the option of controlling everything by voice commands and being able to use all the features that Alexa offers.
Conclusions and price
The Amazon Echo Auto seems to me a very interesting device for those who have a car without a multimedia system. Users who can not connect the mobile to the car to see Android Auto or Apple CarPlay were a little marginalized so far. With the Echo Auto, part of that marginalization is over, since we can use it as a perfect link between our mobile and the car’s speakers. It is true that we will not be able to see anything on the screen, but at least we will have voice control.
Also, Alexa offers us a wide range of skills for a multitude of tasks. For example, we can use the Echo Auto to play a family game in the Chained Words game to make the trip more enjoyable.
On the other hand, It has some limitations that we must take into account. For example, it is totally dependent on mobile coverage. If we do not have an Internet connection on the mobile, the Echo Auto cannot be used. On the other hand, the clip to place it is not compatible with all cars and we also need either Bluetooth or Aux connection to use it.
With everything said, I think it is a device to take into account if we want to have a voice control system in our car and, incidentally, make it a little smarter. We can get the Amazon Echo Auto with an official price of 60 euros.
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