With Echo Auto, Amazon shows the first official way to speak to Alexa in the car. TechStage tests the solution and shows other alternatives for upgrading Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri in the car.
Amazon Echo Auto has been on the market for a long time in the USA, now the retrofit solution is finding its way to Germany. Echo Auto connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth, records voice commands via eight microphones and reproduces audio and voice via the car’s sound system. We tried Echo Auto and revealed whether the investment of currently 60 euros is worth it. We also show other ways to get Alexa and Google and Apple’s voice assistants in the car.
If you are interested in Amazon voice assistants, we recommend our Amazon Echo buying guide: A comparison of all models.
Amazon Echo Auto
At Echo Auto we are impressed by the high accuracy of the eight microphones. Echo Auto reliably understands both the (unchangeable) activation word Alexa and the subsequent voice command even when the ventilation is fully turned on. This can also be seen in calls that can be made, accepted, but not hung up by voice. There the other person didn’t even notice that we were igniting a small hurricane in the car due to the loud ventilation. Echo Auto thus provides a very well functioning hands-free kit for retrofitting, especially in older cars.
We tried Echo Auto with an Android smartphone. Alexa follows our directions on a radio station or favorite music Amazon Music or Spotify play smoothly. The navigation also worked perfectly and opens Google Maps with target on the smartphone. This also works if you use Android Auto via the entertainment system in the vehicle.
Setup is easy with the corresponding Alexa app. The little eavesdropper draws power from his micro USB port, a corresponding cable is included. You either plug this into an existing USB-A socket in the car or use the included adapter for the cigarette lighter. Thankfully, it comes with two USB-A ports, so you can also charge your smartphone with it.
Echo Autor primarily relies on Bluetooth for the audio connection to the car. If the sound system does not support Bluetooth, Amazon includes a 3.5 mm jack cable with the Echo Auto. If the radio does not have an appropriate input, you have to resort to external solutions. Amazon recommends an FM transmitter (four automotive Bluetooth transmitters in the comparison test) or an audio cassette adapter with a jack cable. It’s a shame that Amazon doesn’t integrate an FM transmitter into the Echo Auto. So it could have been a truly universal Alexa retrofit solution for old cars.
So that the microphones of the Echo Auto cover the interior as well as possible, you should attach it quite high. The ventilation grille above the car radio is ideal for this. The supplied bracket reliably clamps there. The Echo Auto itself adheres to it magnetically. This is solved well, so it can be easily removed and replaced with one hand. We like the cable management less well. Even if Echo Auto connects to the car radio via Bluetooth, there is always a cable for power supply to the device.
If you already have an Echo Dot (2nd Gen test report) lying around at home and no longer need it, you can get Alexa in the car differently. This is not possible with the new Echo Dot (3rd Gen test report), since it uses a round connector instead of a micro USB port for power supply. The version with a micro USB port can easily be supplied with power via an existing USB A port on the car, a power bank or an adapter for the cigarette lighter. Similar to the Echo Auto, it transmits audio and voice output to the car’s sound system via Bluetooth, 3.5 mm jack cable, FM transmitter or adapter cassette. If necessary, use the small integrated speakers of the Amazon Echo Dot. Music sounds gruesome in the car, but it is usually enough for speech reproduction.
In order for the Dot to work in the car, it needs a WiFi connection. The best way to set this up is via tethering on a smartphone. A correspondingly generously dimensioned data volume from the mobile phone provider is ideal for this. For example, a magnetic smartphone holder such as the Aukey HD-C5 (test report) can be effectively used as a fastening.
Siri and Google Assistant
When it comes to external solutions for retrofitting Apple voice assistant Siri in the car, the selection is thin. Mobile Home from Beanco is most likely to meet expectations for around 60 euros. The small device clamps on a metal clip on the sun visor. Its battery is supposed to supply the device with power for six months. Our colleagues from heise.de have this a news.
For the Google Assistant there are more current solutions for the cigarette lighter, for example from JBL or Anker, which work in a similar way to Echo Auto. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are significantly more elegant via an external moniceiver, i.e. a receiver with monitor. What older cars need for this is a 2-DIN slot in which the old car radio to be replaced is. Moniceivers cost less than 350 euros and turn stupid old cars into clever entertainment all-rounders.
Their installation is not always easy, especially because the depth of the 2-DIN slots and the respective cable management vary greatly from one brand to the next. The instructions usually help. If nothing helps, you should go to the professional around the corner.
All moniceivers offer large touch screens and lots of functions. In addition to VHF, you should also pay attention to DAB + support; an external antenna is then usually necessary. The support of Android Auto and Apple Carplay mostly works wired. Once connected, the systems respond accordingly to the activation word by voice command.
The radio plays quite simply as audio streaming providers as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Co. If desired, Android Auto reads out incoming messages and replies to them via speech-to-text. This works well, but reading emojis often makes it involuntarily funny. The navigation is really great, which can also be operated by voice and is in no way inferior to expensive installation solutions from car manufacturers. The car radios also support Bluetooth. This allows mobile devices to stream music to the moniceiver without being connected by cable.
We recommend the individual tests for the entertainment systems Sony XAV-AX3005 (test report), Kenwood DMX7017DABS (test report) and JVC KW-M745DBT (test report). In the comparison test, we reveal which of the three is the best: Moniceiver with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
Echo Auto impresses us above all with its very well functioning microphones and the associated very good quality as a hands-free device. Otherwise, Echo Auto offers most of what Alexa fans expect from their voice assistant in the car. The hardware itself is good, the cable management could still have been solved more elegantly and an integrated FM transmitter would also have found many friends.
Moniceivers are probably the most elegant way to retrofit a voice assistant in the form of the Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. At around 350 euros, they cost significantly more than Echo Auto, but offer a feature list in which some owners have a well-equipped one Car could get jealous. We recommend our comparison test: Moniceiver with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.
Inexpensive retrofit solutions for head-up displays are also very popular, more on this in the article
Comparison of OBD-2 head-up displays for cars. If you want to attach your mobile device in a functional and chic way to your car, purchase a smartphone holder for your car in the buying guide: that’s what you need.