Amazon puts fifth and accelerates in what way in the career of voice assistants with the arrival of its voice assistant to vehicles with Echo Auto. Thus, those who lack CarPlay or Android Auto – with their respective Siri and Google Assistant – in their cars, or simply feel more comfortable with the Amazon ecosystem, can do so with this compact device that we can place on the dashboard to take advantage of some of the features of your voice assistant. We have tested the Echo Auto and this has been our experience.
Echo Auto datasheet
|INTELLIGENT ASSISTANT||Amazon Alexa|
|WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY||Bluetooth with HFP, A2DP, AVRCP profiles|
|PORTS||3.5mm jack and micro USB|
|DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT||85mm x 47mm x 13.28mm; 45 grams|
|IN THE BOX||Grille mount, car adapter, micro USB cable (1m), audio cable with a 3.5mm jack (1) and device|
A conservative and functional design
If there is a word to define the Echo Auto aesthetic, that’s conservative. It is not the most compact nor the most original design, but mounting it on a rack using the included bracket is a handy resource that we already know works because it is quite common in air fresheners or mobile holders … like mine. In that case, we are going to find a somewhat baroque dashboard. Of course, be very careful because not all the grids are compatible.
The Echo Auto is shaped like a small power bank. In its upper part, we find the action button – which in practice we will hardly use since the idea is to go with the hands on the wheel and handle it with the voice – and to mute the microphone. On one side, a fine line with an LED that glows blue when Alexa is actively listening.
Also on the sides, we find the micro USB port for power – which you can connect to the car’s USB or to the cigarette lighter with the included adapter – and a 3.5 mm jack in case your car does not have Bluetooth. In the lower area, there is a notch to fix it to the support. Simple and functional.
Limitations and settings
As we will see later, although one of its strong points is its wide compatibility, it is not valid for everyone: Before buying it, check that your phone and your car grill are compatible with Echo Auto. Also, we must bear in mind that it works using our data rate to connect to the internet and that it is compatible from Android 6.0 and iOS 12. Although it is not incompatible, Amazon explains that it works better in cars that are not equipped with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Set up the Echo Auto It is practically the same as the process of other Amazon devices. The first thing is to connect it to the power, which we can do through the USB socket of our car or, if we lack it, the lighter with the adapter. If all is well, the LED line will be illuminated in orange.
Then we will have to download the Amazon Alexa application to our mobile and create an account (if we do not have an Amazon account) to link it to the devices. Within the app, in the “Devices” tab, click on the “Add devices” icon and then select “Amazon Echo” and “Echo Auto”. On the next screen the device name will appear, click on it.
On the last screen it will ask us if we can connect our mobile to the car through Bluetooth to play music, as was my case. Otherwise, we will have to connect it using the auxiliary cable. Finally, it will ask us for authorization to access certain services only when using the app or always.
What can you do with it
One of the questions we can ask ourselves before making the decision to buy it is knowing what we can do with it. The basic idea is use a voice assistant using the vehicle’s speakers for audio output. Until now, this happened by having systems such as CarPlay or Android Auto, which can either come as standard in our vehicle or we can roll the blanket over our heads and buy and install a radio with CarPlay or Android Auto. In this sense, in addition to being more affordable, its installation is much faster and easier. Another advantage is that it can be connected both via Bluetooth and through the auxiliary cable with a 3.5 mm jack socket, which opens the doors to more veteran models.
In my time testing the Echo Auto what I’ve done the most is using it as a DJ: ask him while I’m driving to put on a certain song or a specific playlist, something that can be done through the services of Amazon Music (default), Apple Music or Spotify. You can do the same with podcast services like iVoox or with radio stations with TuneIn.
Another of Alexa’s star uses in the car is ask him to make a call for you, simply with the command “Alexa, call Fulanita”. If there is only one entry in your phonebook, it will call you immediately. If in doubt, he will ask you.
But since you have a voice assistant, Why not take advantage of it for driving? So, I asked him where we were, routes, traffic conditions or if there were gas stations nearby. Just as Apple has Apple Maps as determined and Android does the same with Google Maps, with the Echo Auto we must access the device settings within the app to choose which navigation service will be determined, being able to also choose Waze. From here, we can ask you how to go to San Sebastián to open the app and we can follow the directions.
Usually, Alexa answers your questions just as well at home as in the car, so it doesn’t matter to you to ask how far Zaragoza is or the age of Julio Iglesias.
In the same way, we can use it to consult our agenda, list of tasks, create reminders, tasks that if we manage from the mobile we can do with the voice without having to take our hands off the wheel. It is also interesting for entertain passengers with games like the Trivial, as long as we activate this skill in the application. In this sense, it is advisable to take a look – or ask her directly about her best skills – to get the most out of it: to read audiobooks, news, relaxing sounds …
As you can communicate with other Amazon smart speakers, if we have Echo smart speakers and compatible connected devices at home, we can also give orders from the car for home automation. Thus, on a warm day we could, for example, give you the order to connect the air conditioning so that when you get home the temperature is as desired. And the same with a smart thermostat or connected plug.
An important data for privacy: in case we want Alexa not to listen to the conversation, we can press the specific button to disconnect the microphone. Or just disconnect it. In addition, we can always review, listen to and delete our recordings.
It has surprised me that even with open windows, mechanical and environmental noise, Alexa has been able to capture my orders voice. The “secret” is none other than a configuration of eight microphones that anticipates that indeed, we are facing a more demanding scenario than that of a home. Just take a look at the rest of Amazon Echos to realize: the simple Dot integrates four but more ambitious models like the Echo Plus stay at seven.
Its operation is quite fluid and the response time between our voice order and execution is a matter of a few seconds, but we depend on the coverage of the mobile, since it pulls the internet connection of our terminal and, being mobile, can it happens that at certain moments of the trip you lose your internet connection. AND without data, there is no “magic”. As a result of these drops, the device sometimes crashes, having to open the application to restore operation.
Echo Auto, Xataka’s opinion
The routine on the road with my Volkswagen Polo in October 2015 consisted of preparing the browser or Spotify before moving and, from here, using the buttons on the steering wheel for both music and calls, since the computer at My car’s board shows me nothing but data regarding gasoline consumption or current reproduction.
With the Echo Auto, I have easily accessed by voice commands to the browser, calls or music with no more difficulty than a proper configuration in the application, three very frequent uses in my driving that I have been very grateful for. But it also has a wide range of skills and communication with other Alexa devices that allow us to interact with home automation. In this sense, this device allows you to compete in functionality with radios with CarPlay or Android Auto and their respective voice assistants.
It is true that we depend on the mobile connection and, in turn, on the data rate, which in practice implies that from time to time we can despair when the coverage falls. If you live in big cities and your movements are limited to those areas, you will not notice much. But if you are far from the big cities and you move through the countryside, it will happen more frequently.
Just for the sake of navigation, calls and music, this device is worth it for many users (server included), but Amazon has two aces up its sleeve: that the Echo Auto is considerably cheaper than changing the radio for one with CarPlay or Android Auto and that the installation is sewing and singing … or well, plug and play.
The device has been loaned for testing by Amazon. Can inquire our policy of relationships with enterprises.