Echo Auto, technical characteristics
|Dimensions||85mm x 47mm x 13.28mm|
|Processor||Mediatek MT7697, Intel Dual DSP with Inference Engine|
|Connector||MicroUSB, 3.5mm jack|
The Echo Auto is basically an Echo Input intended for use in the car. While the Echo Input adds Alexa to any speaker, the Echo Auto adds Alexa to any car we use it in, sounding the responses through our vehicle’s speakers. The difference is that the Echo Input has a WiFi module and can be used independently, while the Echo Auto requires a Bluetooth connection with our mobile to access the Internet using our data rate. The only utility that it has outside the car is to be able to use it as an intermediary to listen to music via Bluetooth on speakers that we have at home without Bluetooth thanks to the use of the A2DP protocol.
To connect it to the car we have two options: use the Car bluetooth through the mobile, or use a 3.5 mm jack. In the case of opting for a 3.5 mm jack, we can connect it directly to the car radio if we have it, or we can even opt for an FM transmitter if our radio does not have a jack output. Thus, Bluetooth must always be connected to our mobile phone to the Alexa app, since it is from there that you get the Internet connection to function properly.
The box includes what is necessary to connect it directly to the car cigarette lighter, or use a USB port of a 12V charger that we already have. For this reason, we will always have at least one cable connected: the current cable. If we connect it via Bluetooth, at least we will avoid having the sound cable in between. We can even use it without the car speakers, since when the Echo Auto is connected to the mobile and the mobile is not connected to the Bluetooth of the car or the jack, the voice assistant uses the speaker of our mobile. Curiously, the Echo Auto also has a small speaker that expels sound from the left side, although it will not allow us to use Alexa independently because it needs the mobile to operate.
The Echo Auto has 8 microphones on the top and long-range technology to hear all our words while driving, and thanks to this it can understand our words even if there is background music, a lot of noise on the road, or if we have the air very strong conditioning. In case we want a moment of privacy, we have one of the buttons at the top to activate or deactivate the microphones.
The official price of the Echo Auto is 59.99 euros, much more expensive than the $ 29.99 it costs in the United States. It is to be hoped that in future offers it can be purchased for considerably less price.
Unboxing and external analysis
The box is quite compact and makes good use of the interior space. As soon as we open it, we find all the accessories we need to use it.
Among them, we find:
- Echo Auto
- Car air vent bracket
- 12V car charger with two USB A inputs
- 1 meter microUSB cable
- 1 meter 3.5mm jack cable
- Manual, warranty and voice command suggestions
On top of the Echo Auto we have the eight microphone holes and two buttons: one for turning the microphone on or off, and one for the action button. On the front, the Echo Auto features a small RGB LED line that lets us know when we are interacting with the device and what we need to do. Later we will see what each color does.
At the bottom we have the hole for the magnetic hook of the grid support, in addition to four very adherent rubber feet. At the connectivity level, as we see, we have a 3.5 mm jack connector, and unfortunately, a microUSB connector instead of USB C.
Assembly and installation
We have several options for mounting the Echo Auto. The most comfortable is to use the included bracket to anchor it to the ventilation grille of our car. This adapter is not compatible with all models, and in the following image we can see the type of grid in which we can use it.
In my case, I also have the option of placing it on an attached support that I have glued to the dashboard, thanks to which you avoid losing air flow when placing it on the grille. Despite having four sticky feet at the bottom, we cannot leave it loose as is because the cable pulls down on the device. If there were no cables connected, it would stay fixed on the dashboard without the need for support. For this reason, it is better with a 3M sticker, or use magnetic mobile mounts. It would have been nice if a 3M sticker was included so you could do without the grille bracket without spending money on an additional sticker.
Amazon alerts that the Echo Auto is not compatible to be used by Bluetooth with some cars or mobiles. We can check the compatibility at this link. In the event that our car is in the list, we always have the option of using the 3.5 mm jack.
The included bracket has a small cable gland to guide the cable coming from the bottom. However, it is better to go one step further and buy small sticky plastic grommets to guide them and prevent them from swarming in the middle and bothering us while we change settings like the air conditioning in the middle of the center console.
The installation with the included support must be done so that the small black plastic that protrudes is facing the front and at the bottom. And the Echo Auto should be positioned so that the front LED light is facing us. We just have to connect it to the included USB charger.
A very favorable point of the Echo Auto is that we can easily store it, since as it magnetically adheres to the support, it can be stored to hide it or take it with us if the car is going to be exposed to the sun and we do not want to risk it being damaged due to excess temperature. However, the manual specifies that the Echo Auto holds stored between -40 and 85 ºC, so it is designed to withstand even the most extreme situations in summer in a car with black paint.
Once installed, we only have to download the Alexa app on our mobile. With it, as with all kinds of Amazon Echo products, we can perform thousands of actions with the Alexa speaker. At home the greatest utility is to control smart devices or music, and this music control is one of the functions that we will use the most with the Echo Auto in our car. You can listen to streaming content from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer, as well as TuneIn radio stations or podcasts with iVoox. We can also find out the latest news without having to worry about looking for it on the radio. It is really comfortable to listen to songs, groups or specific podcasts that we say, something where the Google assistant fails with apps with iVoox.
With these apps, we can ask Alexa to play a specific song for us, or we can tell her to play a special radio for us. We can also choose playlists that we already have, listen to podcasts, put random music of the genre we want, or play games with passengers such as Trivial Pursuit or Veo Veo.
Navigation is another point in favor of using the voice assistant, since we can tell Alexa to take us to a specific site, and it will open Google Maps or the default navigation application that we have. However, this functionality is identical to that of the Google Assistant, where just by saying the site we want to go to, we start browsing directly without having to interact with the screen.
It is also useful to make Drop In calls to another Alexa or with normal calls, in addition to controlling home devices. For example, when we leave work, we can call whoever is at home, or we can control elements such as smart light bulbs, air conditioning, heater, etc. Beyond that, we can also add additional actions through the skills to control more devices, or have more games.
When we start the car, the Echo Auto is automatically activated. The orange light comes on, and Alexa will greet us, so we have to have the audio output selected correctly, either through Bluetooth or AUX on our radio. At that time we can start to configure it. In the event that the orange light is not seen, we will have to hold down the action button for 8 seconds to restart it. LED lighting can be disabled in the settings, although it is not too annoying since it only comes on when the Echo Auto wants to tell us something.
The setup process with the Alexa app is quite simple. We have to press the device icon located in the lower right corner of the app, and follow the instructions to add the new device. The setup process uses mobile data to download information, so it is recommended that you do the setup first at home with the Echo Auto connected to any speakers or headphones you have at home. Amazon reminds us that we should not configure it while we are driving, so it is better to do it at home and leave it already configured to get to the car and simply connect it.
Once it is configured, we will only have to say Alexa, followed by the command that we want to use. In the box we include a piece of paper with a series of recommendations for using Alexa in the car, such as:
- Alexa, put music on
- Alexa, what song is this?
- Alexa, remind me to buy the birthday cake
- Alexa, what do I have on the calendar?
- Alexa, what does the news say?
- Alexa, what time is it going to be tomorrow?
- Alexa, where is the nearest gas station?
- Alexa, how’s the traffic on the way home?
- Alexa, I want to play
- Alexa, buy detergent again
The front of the speaker has a fairly subtle LED light that illuminates when we interact with the device. Colors light up with the following actions:
- Light blue color from sides to center: Alexa is processing the request
- Blue from right to left: the device is starting
- Blue from side to side: the device is waiting for the Bluetooth connection
- Blinking red: The microphones are off. Press the button to reactivate them
- Purple: configuration failed
- Orange from one side to the other: the device is ready to be configured
- Flashing orange: factory reset is in progress
- Green: a call or message is in progress
On paper everything is perfect, but in practice there are some drawbacks
Although basic tasks like changing music, checking the calendar, choosing radio stations, knowing the weather, or jotting down tasks, there are others that don’t work as well. Also, one of the main drawbacks of the Echo Auto is that it requires a permanent Internet connection to function. As soon as you go through an area without Internet, you stop being able to use it for anything; including things as basic as changing songs, since nothing else “waking up” Alexa tells us that we have no Internet connection and that we try again later. And as someone who lives in the south of Andalusia, I assure you that there are many areas without coverage, even on large motorways such as the A-92.
GPS guidance also has a lot to improve, for example if we ask for the nearest gas station, it simply tells us the name of the gas stations and their address, and it doesn’t tell us which one is closer or which is cheaper. And if you ask him something “weird” about where the cheapest gas station is, he tells you that the cheapest one is in Houston at $ 2.25 per gallon, and on other occasions he replies “I can’t look for that.” Super useful.
The battle of voice assistants means that in the end you use the one that best integrates with your software or your devices. In my case, the Google Assistant integrates much better in my day to day driving, having in a single device the possibility of seeing the GPS route, making calls or controlling the music that I have stored in my mobile with PowerAMP without depending Internet connection, and with the possibility of changing the song with physical buttons or with the voice as it suits me best. With the Echo Auto we are obliged to use platforms such as Spotify or Amazon Music with a premium subscription, in addition to being able to use only the voice.
However, if you have multiple appliances at home that work with Alexa, then it will be more useful to use it to control your devices, such as the garage door, the thermostat or the home alarm. In addition, the integration of the Google Assistant with iVoox is garbage and does not allow you to interact with the app, while with Alexa it does go well. These are the only situations in which it occurs to me that it may be better to use Alexa to Google Assistant in the car. And if we already have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, an Echo Auto stops making sense because it is too redundant.
The Echo Auto is a great option to add a voice assistant in our car if we have Alexa integrated in our home and in our life, as well as if we have premium subscriptions to platforms like Spotify or Amazon Music Unlimited. The problem is that the interaction that the Google Assistant has is much better within the context of our mobile while we drive, and unless we have the devices with Alexa very integrated in our homes, it is not worth it.
The Echo Auto adds some cool options to use while driving, like better podcast control or smart home control. But, unfortunately, there are other basic things that make it worse than the Google Assistant, or that it directly does not allow you to do, such as playing and controlling the local music you have on your mobile. It also doesn’t read incoming text messages, and it doesn’t give you turn-by-turn directions with GPS, making this a must-have feature on such a device. Instead, it is Google Maps through your voice that gives them to you, so you don’t really need to use Alexa in this step.
Luckily, the Echo Auto is a great start, and Amazon will surely add new features in the future. The base hardware it uses is excellent, with the microphones picking up the voice in any situation. However, there are other more comfortable options if all we want is to have a Bluetooth intermediary to control music by voice, including the Google Assistant or Siri itself. Therefore, at the moment, there are not many reasons to get an Echo Auto if you already use the Google Assistant on your mobile when you go by car, where I exclusively use it to control music, podcasts and navigate to sites.
- Easy to install and configure
- Music control with voice
- Listens to you even if there is a lot of ambient noise
- Does not include 3M sticker
- You always need the Internet
- Almost everything can be done with the Google Assistant
- High price in Spain (more than double that in the US)