To enjoy the best experience, you’re really going to need to have a plan for your mobile phone that has a significant data allowance. Naturally it will depend on how often you’re in the car and how much you plan to stream content. My wife and I both have unlimited data on our iPhones so I don’t need to be watching the megabytes rise in our case, but I would advise caution if you’re on a limited plan. Additionally, you’re going to ideally have a music streaming account. Several are compatible with the Echo Auto, as they would be with the regular Echo Dots in your house. The obvious choice would be an Amazon Music account, even better if it’s an Unlimited account.
So you’ve got a music streaming service, and you’ve got the spare data to get the most out of it. Now, you’re sitting in your car with your new Echo Auto. If you’ve set up an Echo device before, it’s pretty much an identical process. Plug the USB cable in to the the supplied dual 12v cigarette power adapter, and the other into the Echo Auto. The familiar orange set up light swishes back and forth like Kitt from Knight Rider and you’re ready to pair it with your phone. You’ll need the Alexa app on your iOS or Android device, and assuming you have that you go to the Devices button in the bottom right corner and then the Plus button in the top right corner. Add Device, Amazon Echo, Echo Auto and then follow the on screen instructions. From turning it on to completion should be under two minutes, so very easy. Quite a nice touch was that on the day it got delivered I received an email from Amazon guiding me through the set-up process.
You have two methods of connecting the Echo Auto to your car’s sound system, either by auxiliary port or by Bluetooth. The Echo Auto comes with an auxiliary cable, however I noted that it’s quite short. That’s not an issue if your auxiliary port is on the dashboard and close to the vent that you’re attaching the Echo Auto to, but my car’s auxiliary port is actually under the armrest in the centre console and the cable wasn’t long enough to reach. As it is, my car has a Bluetooth adapter (by Tecknet) which my phone connects to and the Echo Auto worked wirelessly through that.
The Echo Auto comes with a decent vent mount, although it’s not universally accepting of all vent types. My central vents are rectangular and are fine, but the circular vents at the side of my dashboard aren’t. The Echo Auto connects to the mount by magnet, and works quite well. It allows you to remove it out of sight quickly when you leave the car in view of undesirable individuals. While that’s a nice feature, my gripe with that is that the power and auxiliary ports are on the Echo Auto and not the mount so you need to faff around with unplugging them too. I would have preferred to see the connecting ports for the cables to be on the mount, with a magnetised charging connector similar to that found on my Nextbase dashcam. That system works really well and I’d ask Amazon to consider looking into that for future revisions.
But what’s it like in operation? Brilliant, that’s what. Over engine noise, even with the windows open at speed, the microphones have picked up my voice perfectly well. Alexa is quick to respond and is clear to understand. She works seamlessly with my Amazon Music Unlimited account and it’s allowed me to remove the remaining physical playlists from my phone as they were only on there for use in the car. Additional to playing music you can converse with Alexa in any way you would in the home, such as getting news and weather and asking how long it’ll take to get to work. I am extremely pleased with how it’s been working so far. I used to use the Alexa app on my phone quite a bit when I was in the car, but it always felt clunky and would often stop the music to listen to a command that I hadn’t actually asked. The Echo Auto works gloriously well and AC/DC is soon firing some bangers out at me.
Any negatives? Aside from my suggestion regarding the vent mount, and the limited length of the auxiliary cable, I don’t personally have any really issues. I’m aware that there are work-arounds to get a standard Echo Dot to work in your car, and if you want to do this then fair enough but I prefer products to do the job they were designed for. People may say it’s expensive. I ordered it on the day of its release as I’ve been waiting for this to land since it was announced a couple of years ago. As such, I willingly paid the full price for it. You can be sure that sooner or later it’ll be on offer as with every other Echo product. Black Friday will be your best bet for a good deal, but as it stands I have no reservations about having paid full price. It’s done exactly what I wanted it to do.
In many ways, Echo Auto is what a digital assistant like Alexa is designed to work with. A totally hands-free device that connects you with all of your cloud and streaming content in an environment that doesn’t allow you to safely take your eyes and fingers from the more important business of driving. I’ve always said that the value of a gadget is in whether you actually use it regularly. And Alexa is something that we use not just regularly, but constantly. Currently in our home we have seven 3rd gen Echo Dots, two Sonos Ones with Alexa built in, a Denon 2500 Amp with Atmos speakers with Alexa functionality and a number of LG smart TVs that have Alexa controlling them. Alexa controls the Nest central heating system, the Logitech harmony remote, six TP-Link smart sockets and twenty five Philips Hue bulbs. She is integral to our home and part of our routine. The Echo Auto has been an addition I’ve been looking forward to for some time, and I can truthfully say that Amazon really haven’t disappointed me.