Post Updated: 11/28/18 – One of the new Alexa devices Amazon introduced last week is the Echo Auto: a device that brings the same Alexa service you get in an Echo in a smaller, sleeker package designed for the car. But what is Echo Auto exactly, and what does it do?
Note to UK and Canadian readers: as of this writing the Echo Auto is only being released in the US. It will probably be rolled out to other regions following its initial US release. Look on the bright side: by the time you get it, any significant bugs should be resolved!
Echo Auto: Sort Of Like An iPod Transmitter, But It Transmits Alexa From Your Phone
Remember when iPods first came out and all the tech manufacturers rushed to get iPod FM transmitters for the car on the shelves? iPod FM transmitters allowed you to pipe the music from your iPod through your car speakers. The Echo Auto is similar in concept, and it connects to your car’s audio system via Bluetooth or an AUX in cable.
The Echo Auto essentially acts as a go-between to transmit your voice to the Alexa app on your phone, and transmit Alexa’s responses back to you through your car speakers. It automatically routes any audio you’ve requested, like music or audiobooks, through your car speakers as well.
The Echo Auto comes bundled with an optional dash mount, offers the familiar blue light bar for visual feedback from Alexa, and has eight microphones designed for in-car acoustics to ensure your voice commands will be heard over music, A/C, and road noise.
You’ll Need A Smart Phone, Maybe More Data
The whole system works via the Alexa app on your phone, so you will need a smart phone that can run the Alexa app and unless your phone has an unlimited data plan, you’ll need to manage your data use with Alexa in mind. The Echo Auto doesn’t add any data charges, but it may encourage you to use your phone for data-hungry things you haven’t in the past.
Individual voice requests and responses (e.g., “Alexa, will it rain today?”, “Alexa, is Starbucks open right now?”) are tiny in terms of data usage, but if you’re going to be streaming music or audiobooks for long periods, using Alexa skills, or interacting with Alexa in any other way that requires a lengthy interaction your data usage will be higher.
Bottom line: the longer the Echo Auto is in use, the more data you’re probably using.
If You Want One You Must Request An Invitation
As of this writing (on 10/2/18) the Echo Auto is being released on an invitation-only basis. You have to request an invitation and wait for Amazon to send you one. But there’s no commitment, once you receive your invitation you can always just ignore it, so there’s no reason NOT to request an invitation if you think you might want an Echo Auto.
Click here to get your request for an invitation in on the Echo Auto product page on the Amazon site.