Amazon Echo Auto: A Year Long Pre-Order for a Mediocre Device

I’ve had the Amazon Echo Auto device going on a month now, and I have to say that this little device was probably the number one Alexa enabled device that Amazon has sold that I’ve been excited for. I had it on Pre-Order for a little less than a year, constantly checking it’s availability, continually checking my email for that invite code.. I finally got it the second week of August this year. Of course I authorized it, and had it sent, you couldn’t really beat the $25 entry price that they were sending them out at!

Friday comes, the package arrives, and the first thing I do when I get home is install it in my Jeep Patriot, I mean come on, I’ve been waiting for this thing for almost a year! The package itself comes with the Echo Device, a two port 12v plug, an AUX cord, and a micro USB power cable. In a separate box, included in the cost, they ship an air vent mount as when this device hits final release it’ll likely be included in one box. I thought this was great as I was having a hard time trying to figure out where I was going to put the gum pack sized device… but… wait… Jeep air vents… those little three pronged dealies that barely can hold themselves up. I open the book up that comes with it because I’m not very hopeful about how it’ll work when looking at it, and sure enough, they’re one of the two types of air vents that their supplied mount isn’t supposed to fit. Admittedly, I made it fit, but it sticks out way too far for my liking, it moves around pretty much every time I turn, and the mount just doesn’t tie down the way the description says it should. But oh well, they make other mounts… I want to try the device.

Next, I turn the car to the accessory position, and setup the device itself. The process of which is exactly like setting up any other Echo device and is straight forward – having set two of my own up, and a few others for various family members, I’m quite familiar with this process. It utilizes a Bluetooth connection to your phone to provide a data connection to the device, you go through the whole discovery process, and you’re ready to go in about 5 minutes. Once you get running, it works just like any other Echo device… albeit a lot more temperamental. That being said, the eight microphone array pictured below does hear you quite well, it just seems as though the actual device processing is a bit on the laggy side.

The device initializes almost instantly as just a simple Bluetooth adapter upon starting up, it’s the actual Alexa side of things that take a minute – if you’re on the phone and start your car, it’s going to hand off quicker than you’re likely going to be ready. When it comes to the voice control, when it wants to work, it works pretty well. This demo isn’t necessarily the best as the device that I’m using to record is the same device by which it gets its data connection, so it ends the recording about a second before it starts playing, but this is a decent example of the feedback:

Very similar to every other Echo device. All in all I’d say that for the introductory price of $25, it’s well worth it, especially for a car that doesn’t have Bluetooth on board the vehicle already. Oh! And with that, if your car does already have Bluetooth, you can use that to connect from the Echo Auto to your Stereo. But, for those of us that don’t, it’s nice that they provide an alternative. For the price, you can’t really go wrong though, especially if you’re already in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem for smart home (and now car) devices, and you’re thinking of expanding it to a place that’s a little more useful, but get ready to use something that feels a little more like it’s in the mid-range beta stages, because that’s about the reliability you’re going to get out of it.

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