Alexa on the Road: Echo Auto Review—Small Size, Same Assistant?
Amazon's Echo Auto makes older cars smart. Alexa, where is the cheapest nearby gas?
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As an at-large Tech Editor, I was intrigued by the Amazon Echo Auto. I’ve used various virtual assistants in my home to control lights and automate tasks over the years. Could the Amazon Echo Auto make my commute better? I ordered one to find out.
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What is Echo Auto?
The Amazon Echo Auto is an unassuming device. It’s a little smaller than a credit card and about as thick as a box of Tic-Tacs.
Essentially, it turns your car into a smart car — an excellent and affordable upgrade for drivers who don’t have a screen or streaming capabilities built into their dashboards. Since it’s voice-activated, it’s safer for driving than fiddling with a phone for directions or nearby gas prices.
Echo Auto serves as a bridge linking Alexa to your car audio from your phone. Unlike home-focused Echo products, the Echo Auto depends on your phone for data. Its built-in mic can transmit audio to and from your phone with Bluetooth or the 3.5mm audio jack, but no computing is done on the device.
The device is a plain black rectangle with a micro USB port on one end for power and the audio jack on the other. It features two buttons; one mutes Alexa and the other activates the mic for vocal commands. Just saying “Alexa” will cue the device to listen, just as it does with Amazon’s other Echo devices. A light on the front indicates when the device is listening.
Anyone driving a vehicle without a built-in information and entertainment center could benefit from an Echo Auto. It’s one of the most affordable and reliable ways to make your car smart without buying a newer model. Android Auto, Apple Carplay and a host of proprietary OSes provide the same interactivity with your phone as this product.
How We Tested It
I set up the Amazon Echo Auto right out of the box. First, I downloaded the Alexa app to my iPhone 13 Pro Max, then signed into my Amazon account. After allowing the device’s permissions, it was time to connect it to my car.
It comes with a mount that clips to your car’s air conditioning vents. Once placed, the Echo Auto magnetically attaches, making it easy to remove for storage. You don’t have to use the mount, as you’ll see when I describe how I tested it.
I hooked it up to my car via the included 12V power supply cable and adapter, which prompted the Echo Auto’s orange light to display. On my phone, I added the device via the Alexa app, then followed the onscreen instructions to complete the installation.
Since my Hyundai Sonata already has an entertainment and information system, it wasn’t feasible to use the mount. So I attached the device to my dash with Velcro. From there, I switched to the aux input in my car so I could hear the audio.
I set up the volume levels to ensure I could hear my Alexa assistant and music. After the quick initial setup, which only took about three minutes, I was good to go. I took the Echo Auto on a drive and tested its hands-free capabilities along the way, just as I would my Alexa devices at home.
Through the app, I called out some songs I enjoyed on Spotify, then input directions via Google Maps to see if the device could successfully route me home. It had no issues doing so. It remained connected the entire ride, even when I swapped from the corded connectivity option to the Bluetooth setting.
It remained clear, active and connected for the length of my outing, which is more than I can say for most Bluetooth-centric devices I’ve tried before. Typically, those devices cut off mid-drive, which was extremely frustrating. The Echo Auto worked like a dream. Each subsequent trip I took out, I tested a different function.
Pros and Cons
- Affordable price at around $50.
- Hands-free technology for changing music, making calls, getting directions and paying for gas.
- Works like a home device — add items to your to-do list and check the weather on the road.
- Functions as a Bluetooth dongle.
- Easy installation.
- Not useful in cars with a modern infotainment center.
- Requires a smartphone to use.
- No screen.
Q: Is there a monthly fee for Amazon Echo Auto?
A: No, but it does require cell phone data to function correctly.
Q: How does Echo Auto connect to a car?
A: It can connect via Bluetooth (not compatible with all vehicles) or a 3.5mm audio jack (AUX).
What Other Reviewers had to Say
I’m not the only one who had a positive experience with the Echo Auto. It earned a four-star rating on Amazon with more than 140,000 reviews.
Verified Amazon purchaser Jeannie M. Bushnell compares it to a helpful passenger. “If I ask for directions, Alexa seamlessly opens up Google Maps and I’m on my way,” she writes.
“This hands-free feature is very valuable to me, as I frequently drive in a great deal of traffic and I’m not always able to pull over to locate the information I need. She can help you locate restaurants and stores. Of course, you can stream music and have her tell you jokes, but you can also listen to podcasts and create lists as you drive or wait in traffic.”
Another Amazon reviewer, Furriends Corner, has a touch-screen system but prefers the hands-free convenience of the Echo: “With Echo Auto, I don’t have to touch my screen. I can just command Alexa to search for songs that I like, play my playlist or even tell me some news. I feel like my car was upgraded to a smart car and it makes my driving safer.”
The Amazon Echo Auto is a quick and easy way to add Alexa’s skills and options as you motor around town. It’s simple to hook up and makes a reliable Bluetooth accessory, especially if your car isn’t already equipped with one.
If you’re driving an older vehicle and want to listen to your favorite music, issue commands via Alexa and enhance your commute with hands-free calling and voice directions, the Echo Auto is an affordable device that’s well worth installing in your ride. All in all, it’s one the best car accessories for making your ride smarter — and more fun.
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