Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa has found a new home in 2020 – the Echo Auto, which, as the name implies, is a device to be used inside a car. I think that the Echo Auto is currently the most impressive device to have Amazon’s voice assistant. With the Echo Auto, you use Alexa to stream your favourite music, make calls, send messages to your phone contacts, etc., all while keeping your eyes where they should be – on the road. So, let’s see how effective it is in reality.
Instead of a tall cylindrical or a hockey-puck shaped design, the Echo Auto is tiny and looks like a small slab of chocolate. The Echo Auto can be powered by your car's 12V charging socket or USB port. The device connects to your car stereo system for audio playback using a 3.5mm auxiliary cable or Bluetooth connection. It connects to Alexa through the Alexa app on your smartphone and uses your existing mobile data plan to stream your favourite music, make a call, send messages to your phone contacts, and more.
Additionally, the device has an eight-microphone array, which allows Alexa to hear you over music and road noise – even when you are going fast on the highway, with windows down.
Like all Echo devices, the Echo Auto is built with multiple layers of privacy protections, including a mic on/off button that electronically disconnects the microphones. Customers have total control over their voice recordings and can delete the recordings any time they want by accessing the Alexa Privacy Settings or via the Alexa app.
You can use the Echo Auto in your car for your morning news, to listen to an audiobook during your commute, or look for the nearest coffee shops, petrol pumps, etc. You can even ask Alexa to play music from apps like Spotify, Apple Music, JioSaavn, Gaana, or Hungama Music. The Echo Auto can also set reminders, add errands to your to-do lists, check them off when they are complete, build your shopping list, and manage your calendar while your eyes stay on the road.
If you use an Android phone, you can send text messages as well. The Echo Auto connects to your phone and uses the mobile network for making calls and sending text messages to contacts saved in the phone's address book. It uses mobile data for drop-in and making announcements on other Echo devices.
While listening to music, you can even ask Alexa about cricket scores, questions about history, geography, the latest news updates from NDTV, Aajtak, or Bollywood Hungama, etc. You can also set up reminders and add items to your shopping list when on-the-go.
What’s more, the Echo Auto can also provide you with directions and help you reach your destination. The device uses the default navigation app on the smartphone, and its data plan, to provide directions. But it can only navigate to locations that are saved. For instance, to let Alexa navigate to your home or workplace, just go to ‘Your Locations’ in the Alexa app settings and add an address. To update or check the default navigation app, you can visit the Traffic section in Alexa App. And since the device uses your mobile data plan, every time you're in a low-network zone, the quality of Echo Auto will suffer.
Amazon also advertises that the Echo Auto can control smart home appliances. However, I couldn’t test this feature, for I currently don’t own any such appliance. Therefore, I can’t really comment on how effectively this feature works.
Here a few commands that the Echo Auto executed perfectly during our test:
I love using the Echo Auto in my car! And why not, it helps you with the hands-free calling, plays music, and even guides you in the same way as a friend holding a smartphone might. The biggest selling point for the Echo Auto, however, is its eight built-in microphones, which lets the Echo Auto pick up your commands clearly, allowing the device to respond appropriately. Overall, it’s a nice device that does what it’s supposed to do.
Eight-microphone array, compact
Relies on mobile data
Price Rs 4,999