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Amazon Echo Auto (2nd Gen) Review: Not Smarter, But Smaller

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Amazon Echo Auto (2nd Gen) Review: Not Smarter, But Smaller

(CTN News) – Amazon’s second-generation Echo Auto is a miniature Echo that fits on your dashboard. In addition to having good microphones, this device is easy to install and store when parked.

It also provides a simple solution for adding hands-free music playback to your car stereo if it does not have Bluetooth capabilities.

In contrast, it is not as intelligent as the built-in assistant on your smartphone, and unless you have an ecosystem of Amazon smart home gadgets already, it is not useful to most people, including myself.

Essentially, the Echo Auto is a $54.99 microphone that you can mount on your dashboard and use Alexa voice commands while driving.

It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and then connects to your car stereo either through Bluetooth or a 3.5mm wired connection for playback.

You do not require any kind of smarts in your car to make it work, just a cigarette lighter / power outlet as well as an auxiliary input for your stereo.

The second-generation Echo Auto’s microphone is even smaller than the last version (2.1 x 0.9 inches, as opposed to 3.3 x 1.9 inches, which was itself a lot smaller than Echo’s speakers and pucks).

There is an adhesive-backed magnetic mount that attaches to the dashboard of your vehicle. I was concerned that it would be too close to the volume dial on my car stereo because there is not much open space on my dashboard. In spite of this, it is deceptively small, and I found a good location for it that did not interfere with any buttons or knobs.

Echo Auto is powered by your car’s USB port (or the 12V power adapter).

The vehicle must be running in order for Echo Auto to work, and once it is powered on, you can connect it via Bluetooth to your phone (and the Alexa app).

When you are ready to connect your Echo to your car stereo, you will either use Bluetooth or the 3.5mm jack on the breakout box. With an Amazon account and the Alexa app on your smartphone, you can accomplish all of this in about five minutes.

I had no problem using it, and I like that I can easily tuck the breakout box and cords into the compartment below my dashboard.

The entire system can be unplugged, removed from the mount, and stored in the center console when I leave my car – and reconnected in seconds.

Having something valuable-looking attached to my dash at all times would have been a non-starter for me since I do not like to leave anything visible in my car to encourage break-ins.

The experience I had with Alexa was not quite as smooth as I had hoped. My colleague Sean Hollister reviewed the first-generation Echo Auto, and it appears to have become more intelligent since then.

Asking it to locate nearby gas stations and coffee shops and to look up store hours usually works well.

However, when it comes to interacting with the phone, such as placing calls and using navigation, you are limited to what Alexa can do on your phone, and you quickly encounter these limitations.

Alexa cannot text just anyone in my contact list – they must have Alexa messaging enabled. Throughout the Alexa app, you will be able to see which of your contacts have opted into this feature.

Approximately a third of my contacts have enabled this feature, based on the information I have collected. Furthermore, I have an unusually high number of current and former Amazon employees in my circle (disclosure: I used to work for DPReview, an Amazon subsidiary), so please take that with a grain of salt.

Alexa can also open Apple Maps with a specified destination by speaking a command, but I have to tap a button within the app to begin or stop navigation. On the other hand, Siri can perform these tasks without my intervention.

The Echo Auto defaults to Amazon services, which I do not use. I had to ask Alexa several times to get A Charlie Brown Christmas to play on Spotify instead of Amazon Music despite having Spotify set as my default streaming service.

You can also set it to automatically add new events to the “Alexa Calendar” even if you already have another calendar linked to your account. Would I be interested in this Alexa calendar?

Are you even aware of its location? Both no and no. If you wish, you can change the default calendar to a Google, Microsoft, or Apple calendar.

However, it requires one more step in order to be able to set everything up the way you want.

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