Amazon Echo Auto (2nd Gen) review

Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) review: Alexa rides shotgun

9.1

Undergoing a major hardware redesign to better fit your car, the Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) ensures that Alexa is always by your side when you hit the road.

If you’ve become accustomed to having your favourite smart assistant at your beck and call, then it’s understandable that you might not want to give this up when you get behind the wheel. If you’re a fan of Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant then you could summon them from your smartphone sitting in a cradle, but it’s not that simple if you’re wedded to Amazon’s Alexa.

To fill this gap in your life, the Amazon Echo Auto brings Alexa to life in your car. You can chat to her while you’re cruising the streets, but her usefulness is limited by the fact that she’s still completely dependent on your phone.

Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) first impressions

The original palm-sized Amazon Echo Auto was designed to attach to your car’s air vent, but it was a bit cumbersome and looked unsightly. Amazon has improved on this by splitting the unit into separate pieces for the speaker and microphone.

The microphone half of the second-gen Amazon Echo Auto is only the size of your thumb, making it much easier to tuck away somewhere on the dashboard. To assist with this, Amazon provides a tiny mount that is sticky on the back and magnetic on the front. Simply stick the mount in a convenient location and then attach the microphone to the magnet.

Alternatively, you can pay a few extra dollars for Amazon to include an air vent mount for the microphone. One advantage of the magnetic mount is that it’s easy to detach the microphone and hide it out of sight when you leave the car.

More choice over where you place the microphone also ensures that Alexa can hear you more clearly. Plus, it makes it easier to reach the action and mute buttons on the front, which are accompanied by a status light.

The microphone is on the end of a 90cm cable that runs back to the speaker module. This module has a tiny built-in speaker which allows Alexa to talk to you during setup, but most of the time she wants to make herself heard via your car stereo. You can link the speaker module to your car via Bluetooth, or via the 3.5mm audio jack and supplied 60cm audio cable.

Bluetooth is probably the easiest way to connect to your car but, depending on your phone and your car stereo, you might notice a slight drop in sound quality compared to using the 3.5mm audio jack. There’s also the option to connect to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, wired or wireless, if your car’s stereo is smart enough to support them.

A 5cm USB cable extends from the other end of the speaker module, which plugs into the supplied 12-volt car power adapter. The power adapter features a USB-A port to power the Echo Auto and a USB-C port to power another device, with support for fast charging.

While the design is a big improvement over the first Echo Auto, that super-short USB cable is a hassle because it leaves the speaker module hanging awkwardly from the car charger – looking even worse if the 3.5mm cable is snaking to the car stereo’s AUX input.

If the USB cable was a bit longer, and perhaps the speaker module had its own sticky magnetic mount, then it would be easier to tuck the speaker module out of sight. Some people might also prefer a 3.5mm cable with an L-shaped jack, so it sits flush against the AUX input on the front of the stereo.

Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) specs

Smart assistantAmazon Alexa
Mobile OS supportAndroid 8.0 and iOS 14 or greater
MicrophonesFive-mic array
ChargingQuick Charge 3.0 
Ports1 x USB-A
1 X USB-C
ConnectivityBluetooth – HFP, A2DP, AVRCP
3.5 mm line-out
Apple CarPlay
Amazon Auto
Speaker module dimensions57 x 35 x 14 mm
Microphone module dimensions52 x 23.2 x 15.3 mm
Weight61 gm
Price (RRP)$99
Warranty1 year
Official websiteAmazon Australia

Features

Setting up the new Amazon Echo Auto requires installing the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone, which you presumably already have if you’re a fan of Alexa and have Echo speakers around your home.

The set-up process pairs the Echo Auto’s speaker unit to your smartphone via Bluetooth, so it can connect automatically when you get behind the wheel and turn on the electrics. The unit doesn’t have any built-in smarts of its own and is completely reliant on your phone.

With Alexa brought to life in your car, you can talk to her just like talking to any other Amazon Echo speaker, with the ability to answer your queries, set reminders and alarms, add things to your shopping list and control smart devices around your home.

Echo Auto (2nd Gen) | Add Alexa to your car
  • HANDS-FREE ALEXA ACCESSORY – Slim design that’s easy to place in your car with 5-mics built-in so Alexa can hear you over music, air con, or road noise. Includes a fast car charger to charge your phone on the go.
  • LISTEN TO YOUR FAVOURITE MUSIC – Ask Alexa to stream playlists from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and more, or listen live to radio stations. Use Follow Me Music to resume media playback.
  • CALL AND MESSAGE WITH YOUR VOICE – Use your voice to make calls, reply to text messages, drop in on Alexa-enabled devices in your home or broadcast announcements.
  • GET YOUR FAVOURITE ENTERTAINMENT HANDS-FREE – Binge a hot new podcast, catch up on the news, or listen to best-selling Audible books.
  • CONTROL YOUR SMART HOME FROM THE ROAD – Ask Alexa to turn up the air con, turn off the lights, check if your front door is locked, and more while you’re away from home.

As part of the Echo Auto setup, you can specify which streaming services you want Alexa to use for music, podcasts, radio and news. Additionally, you can specify which mapping app she should rely on, as Amazon doesn’t have its own equivalent of Apple or Google Maps. You can also grant Alexa access to your address book for making hands-free calls.

Finally, you can configure the Amazon Alexa app to automatically launch Auto Mode when it’s connected to the car, giving you easy access to touchscreen shortcuts such as music controls, making a call and getting directions home. There’s even a “Find My” feature for remembering where you parked.

Keep in mind, Alexa is completely reliant on your phone and its mobile broadband connection, so you need to keep an eye on your data usage when requesting tunes on a road trip.

Quality

Alexa is very good at hearing you, even when driving with the windows down, although she can struggle if you really crank up the music. The microphone also acts as a handy car kit for making hands-free calls, sending the sound from the person on the other end to your car stereo.

Unfortunately, the second-gen Amazon Echo Auto falls short when it comes to integrating all of these aspects into a slick user experience. That’s mostly due to the fact that it’s totally reliant on smartphones made by its rivals.

The downside of relying on an iPhone is that the Alexa app needs to be running in the background before the Echo Auto will connect. Worse yet, ask Alexa for directions and she tries to launch Apple or Google Maps – but you need to tap an onscreen notification to get started, meaning it’s not really hands-free.

Things go a lot more smoothly on Android, assuming you’ve granted all the permissions during set-up. You can talk to Alexa even when the app isn’t running in the background, and asking for directions launches Google Maps with no extra fuss. Another, albeit pricier, option worth considering for Android users is Motorola’s MA1 Android Auto adapter.

Alexa can also be reluctant to respect your choice of non-Amazon services. For example, despite setting my preference for Spotify, when I asked for music Alexa kept calling on my Amazon Music account. Amazon also has its own calendar, address book, shopping list and other personal information management tools, requiring you to dive into a lot of settings if you want to use such features but favour Apple or Google’s tools for managing your day-to-day life.

The fact that Alexa is totally dependent on your phone also means that everyone who drives your car needs to set it up on their phone in order to work. In some ways, a completely standalone device would be more practical, but in other ways, it makes sense to tap into the power of your phone.

Who is Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) for?

If your home is full of Amazon Echo speakers and you live an Alexa-centric life, then adding the Amazon Echo Auto (2nd gen) to your car probably makes a lot of sense. The redesign makes it much easier to tuck the hardware out of the way, while ensuring Alexa is always there when you need her.

But if you’re on Team Apple or Team Google, which is more likely if you live in Australia, then the hassles of getting Alexa to play nicely when your non-Amazon services of choice might be more trouble than it’s worth. Considering that the Echo Auto requires your smartphone to be in the car anyway, it’s probably easier to mount your phone on the dash and talk to Siri or Google Assistant hands-free when you hit the road.

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Amazon Echo Auto (2nd Gen)
If Alexa is your smart assistant of choice, the new Amazon Echo Auto ensures she's always on call when you're behind the wheel.
Features
9
Value for money
8.5
Performance
9
Ease of use
10
Design
9
Positives
Easy to fit into any car
Ensures Alexa is available when you're behind the wheel
Charger can power second device
Negatives
Fully depending on your smartphone
Awkward iPhone integration
Need to change a lot of settings on Android or iOS if you don't use all of Amazon's default services
9.1