Echo Auto Review 2019: Ease on Down the Road with Alexa

In Recommendations, Reviews by Tim Brennan30 Comments

echo auto review

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Synopsis: In this article, I provide a thorough review of the new Amazon Echo Auto, including pros and cons as well as how it can help you own the road ahead in 2019 and beyond.

echo auto review

The Bottom Line

Initially available by-invitation-only but now finally starting to ship to the masses, the new Echo Auto brings location-aware Alexa to your car at a very affordable price. With Alexa as your co-pilot, things you are already doing in your car just become simpler. Plus, you get some cool new capabilities too. Echo Auto can help you navigate, tune your radio, play audiobooks, as well as help you find the nearest gas station or taco stand. She can even help you manage your calendar, to-dos, and shopping lists—all from the comfort of your driver’s seat.

Pros

  • Hands-free navigation
  • Voice control of your tunes, audiobooks, and more.
  • Remote control of lights, garage doors, locks, thermostats, and other smart devices
  • Full Alexa capabilities in your car: to-do lists, calendaring, telephone calls, drop-in, games for the “kids,” and more.

Cons

  • Could eat into phone data plan for those without unlimited data.
  • Could be distracting for some drivers.

9 Ways Echo Auto Makes Driving a Gas

So what can Echo Auto do? In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive and review 9 ways the Amazon Echo Auto can make your drive easier, more interesting, and more fun in 2019. Here they are:

  • Way #1. Navigate Like a Boss
  • Way #2. Make Phone Calls and Send Texts
  • Way #3. Get Your Tunes How You Like ‘Em
  • Way #4. Enjoy a Relaxing Audio Book
  • Way #5. Receive a Warm Welcome Home
  • Way #6. Manage Your Busy Calendar
  • Way #7. Find Nearby Restaurants and Services
  • Way #8. Food Shop from the Road
  • Way #9. The Other Cool Alexa Stuff Too

Of course, we’ll go into each of the 9 ways in more detail below. Read on fellow commuters!!



Finally! Got My Echo Auto Invite…

When I first heard about Echo Auto way back in September of 2018, I thought cool! Now I can get Alexa in my car.

It looks sleek and unobtrusive.

echo auto review

And, I saw it was being offered by Amazon on an “invitation only” basis.  I thought oh how fancy, and  I felt pretty special. Then, I waited, and waited, and waited for my invitation to arrive.  But I heard nothing but crickets 🦗🦗 for months!

Then, word on the street way back in December of last year was the long-awaited Amazon Echo Auto “invite-only” orders were finally starting to ship [source CNET].

But still, I waited. And waited…

Well, my friends, the wait is finally over!  I received my invitation last week and immediately ordered up my Echo Auto. I should have it in a few days.

While I don’t have the device in hand just yet, I’ve done a TON of research since this was announced and a friend of mine let me take her Echo Auto on a test run for a few weeks. I also took another Alexa-in-your-car-device, the Roav Viva Pro, for a test drive, and I wrote up a review that compares Roav Viva with the Echo Auto here.

That said, here’s my UPDATED Echo Auto review for Fall 2019.

But first, a flashback!

Here is Amazon announcing the Echo Auto [along with other products] at their “surprise event” last September.

One year later, Amazon announced a slew of new devices a few weeks ago. The Verge does a nice job summarizing the latest Alexa devices in the following video:

While the company shied away from talking about the general availability Echo Auto, the scuttlebutt out in the forums is that more and more devices are being sent out. Finally!


Way #1. Navigate Like a Boss

echo auto review

I’m terrible with directions. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag. Before the advent of GPS, I would often travel back to my old neighborhood the next town over so I could use that a launch point for my latest excursion. [Yep, THAT bad.] Needless to say, GPS navigation apps like WAZE, Google Maps, and yes even Siri has been a godsend.

That is AFTER you get them open.

Admit it you’ve been here too. Fumbling around to get these apps open and ready for the state when they are ready for your input can range from annoying to infuriating to down-right dangerous.

And, what’s up with that Waze screen that makes you lie and say you’re a passenger before you can get directions??

echo auto review

I always feel dirty after pressing that Passenger button.

Yeah, I’m trying to drive someplace right now, so let’s open up the !@#$&* app already!

Echo Auto promises to solve all this by providing real on-demand voice-controlled directions.

By the way, if you have a major crush on Alexa like me, don’t miss this post  👉 The Year of Alexa! 7 Awesome Amazon Echo Devices To Give ‘n Get in 2019.


Way #2. Make Phone Calls and Send Texts

Despite laws and hefty fines, the number of people I still see texting and driving on a regular basis makes me nuts.

echo auto review

Grr. See?

Hopefully, Alexa can help make this ancient history with simple hands-free texting capabilities that actually work.

But what about phone calls?

My little Mercedes wagon actually has a voice recognition set up that will let me make calls over voice. Aren’t you impressed?

I’m not. It is so over-the-top complicated and unreliable that I never use it.

With some very basic set up to integrate Alexa with your address book, Alexa will let you make phone calls and send text messages using your voice simply. And Amazon continues to add more skills to Alexa on the communications front. For example, you can use drop-in calling to let your family know that you are on your way home from work.

Thanks to our friends at Old Nerd Reviews for this helpful unboxing video:

I’m an old nerd too, man! Love the SpongeBob pillows!


Way #3. Get Your Tunes How You Like ‘Em

If you own an Echo device, you know that Alexa has got some mad skills in the music department.

There’s Amazon Music of course, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Tunein, and Spotify. But did you know that support for Apple Music is now available too?

No question. Alexa can help you get your groove on as you ease on down the road.

Hmm. Now I wonder if there is a skill to control my satellite radio.  I will look into this and report back.

Either way, this will absolutely be one of our favorite ways to use Amazon Echo Auto on the road in 2019.

Already have one or more Echo devices at home? Then why not give Alexa a little bling? Check out  👉 15 Best Amazon Echo Show, Dot & Spot Accessories for 2019: Stands, Wall Mounts & Cases



Way #4. Enjoy a Relaxing Audio Book

echo auto review

In addition to tunes, with an Audible subscription, you can listen to the world’s largest collection of audiobooks.

echo auto review

This can be great for that long commute to and from work. Even better, it can help calm your nerves when you are stuck in the bleeping Boston traffic that is enough to get out of the car, jump and down on the roof, and scream to the high heavens 🚗🚚🚗🚚.

[Yup, me again! Boston traffic is the worst! ]

Don’t have Audible yet?  Click here to see Amazon’s latest subscription offer.


Way #5. Receive a Warm Welcome Home

echo auto review

With Alexa and Echo Auto at your fingertips—um, I mean voice—the world is yours.

You can combine Alexa with your smart home devices to create “routines” that are anything but…routine.

For example, you could have a welcome home routine that automatically detects when you are within a few hundred feet of home, turns on the outside lights, opens the garage door, turns on a few lights in your home, and even tunes the TV to your favorite local news program.  Pretty cool.

Similarly, you could have a “Workday” routine that automatically locks your door, opens the garage door, closes your smart blinds, and turns on your daytime lighting configuration. Also cool.


Way #6. Manage Your Busy Calendar

echo auto review

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible about managing my calendar. I too often caught up in what I’m doing [read blogging] and neglect to take the time to properly manage my schedule. If only I had a secretary…but wait! I can get Alexa to manage this for me. Problem solved!

With Alexa as my personal assistant, I can ask her to schedule meetings, set appointments, send reminders and more. And with web calendar integration, I have full access to my calendar from anywhere with a web browser including my phone. Shoot. I have a dentist appointment tomorrow at two.


Way #7. Find Nearby Restaurants and Services

Almost out of gas?  No problem. Just ask Alexa the location of the nearest and least expensive gas station. Hungry for a huge cheeseburger with extra pickles and a side of fries? [Oh wait that’s me…]

echo auto review

Alexa’s got’chu.  Just ask her the location of the nearest hamburger joint. You’ll never run out of gas—or go hungry—again.

On to our Echo Auto Review Way #8.


Way #8. Food Shop from the Road

I do some of my best thinking in my car.  When I think, I usually get hungry!  Lucky for me, I will soon be able to use Alexa lists to add items to my shopping list while I drive.

I recently set up Peapod integration, so now I just ask “Alexa, Ask Peapod to add Powerade Zero to my shopping cart.”

And she does it!

Speaking of lists, my car seems like a great place to put Alexa to work on my good old to-do list as well.

“Alexa, add work on my To-do List to my To-Do List.”

“OK. ”

Okay!

Did you know that you also food shop right from your refrigerator door with the Samsung Family Hub?  Check out our 👉 Samsung Family Hub Smart Refrigerator [Review & Comparison]



Way #9. Get All The Other Cool Alexa Stuff Too

Of course, you get all of your favorite Alexa skills too.

This includes weather reports, news, alarms, games, jokes, Find My Phone, food delivery, and on and on.

Yay.


Setting Up Your New Echo Auto

Automate Your Life does a nice job with this video walkthrough that includes how to set up a new Echo Auto.

Thanks for pausing the game, man. Very helpful!


Echo Auto Review: Fun Fact

Just out of curiosity, I Google-d “Echo Auto Review” shortly after Amazon announced this product in September of 2018.

At the time, there were 92 Google results with these words in the title.  Yes, that number indicates the number of pages with those words in the title from the entire Internet.

I just tried again a little over one year later, and Google spit back 75,100,000 results. How’s that for crazy popularity!

Hopefully, you were still able to come across this review in that haystack.


Discover What Alexa in Your Car Can Do For You

Now that Amazon has started shipping Echo Auto to the masses, there is no telling if and when they will end their invitation-only discount.

Our guess is that this will be over soon. So why not head on over to Amazon and reserve yours now?

You’ll be glad you did.

🚗You can click here to see Echo Auto at Amazon.


Amazon Echo Auto Review – Your Turn

So what do you think of our review and ways you can use Amazon Echo Auto for 2019?

Are you clear on what Echo Auto can do to help you own the road in 2019?

Do you get the information you were looking for? Are you as excited as we are about putting Alexa in your car?

Please leave a comment below and let us know.  We would love to hear from you.

Until next time, be careful out there!

Beep 🚗 beep 🚗!


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3 Home Security Cameras That Work w Amazon Echo Show/Spot, Your Smartphone, and FireTV


About the Author

Coredy vs EufyTim Brennan, Technical Writer & Blogger

Tim Brennan [a.k.a. "Tec Timmy"] is a senior technical writer with over 20 years of experience writing for companies and organizations in and around Greater Boston, including GE and MIT. In addition to actively writing for this smart home blog, Tim is also a regular contributor over at UniversalRemoteReviews.com. Tim holds a BA in Journalism from Northeastern University. Brennan is a father to two sons, an active blogger, a Star Wars nut, and loves a good taco🌮. There is a strong chance he is developing a crush on Amazon Alexa. You can learn more about Tim here.

Comments

  1. Could’ve definitely used this when I did food delivery. Having to fumble around with my phone and Google Maps was a huge pain.

    1. Author

      Totally man, makes a big difference for my morning commute as well. It’s just so much easier to ask Alexa from the driveweay before I leave for work in the AM. Then I know bad the traffic is and get alternate routes if necessary. Thanks for writing in!

  2. I’ve had my Echo Auto for about a month now. I love almost everything except the Navigation part which is most definitely NOT hands free. When I ask “Alexa, get directions to…” the answer is always something like “when you get to a safe place, tap your screen.” If I’m zooming down the highway I’m not going to pull off so I can tap my screen, nor am I taking my eyes off the road to look for a tiny notification on my phone. Do I have something set up wrong?

  3. Just installed mine – works like a champ – opening/closing my garage doors, Pandora, Waze, texts, calls all working at 100% of expectation. Hope more of you have an experience like mine.

    1. Author

      Rob, Awesome! From what I can tell in looking at the ratings on Amazon and from the chatter in the forums that a lot of the issues reported earlier seem to be getting resolved by Amazon. Glad you are enjoying your Echo Auto. I should have mine in a few days!

  4. I just sent mine back. I thought it was a complete waste of $24. I had such high hopes. I have Alexa EVERYWHERE. Why not in the car? (It always was when you have your phone, and even now if you don’t have your phone the Echo Auto won’t work.)

    It kept losing Bluetooth connection. I have an iPhone 6plus. I can just say, Hey Siri open Alexa then control Alexa there.

    The nice thing about hooking your phone to your car via Bluetooth is less cords. With Echo Auto, you need to add a power cord.

    Echo Auto uses your phone apps for navigation. Just say Hey Siri…

    1. Author

      Hey Daniel,

      Thanks for writing in. Sounds like your Echo Auto experience has been a bit of a bummer. That’s too bad. My understanding is that Amazon has been busy improving it behind the scenes since it announced general availability in September. I had some quirky things happen with an earlier version of the device I test that others are saying don’t exist anymore. Anyhow, you may want to check out the Roav Viva if you didn’t like the cord. The nice thing about the Roav Viva is it actually adds USB ports in addition to Alexa. You can read my review comparing Echo Auto and Roav Viva here.

      Best,
      Tec Timmy

  5. I got mine and let me tell you, it stinks. I’m a huge Alexa fan, but Amazon really dropped the ball on this one. The hardware all worked fine (it could hear me, I could hear it, etc.) but the functionality was so poor it made it significantly more difficult to do anything that I can’t see this being a long-term win for the company. I don’t need to turn on and off my living room lights from the car, but I would like to listen to music and podcasts. I couldn’t get it to even open Spotify (it told me to do it manually) and after I did open it manually, no combination of commands could get it to do anything but say “Here is Spotify” followed by complete silence. Amazon should pull this product immediately before they do serious harm to their company image. I wouldn’t buy it if I were you, but if you do, dial your expectations WAY back.

    1. Bummer, Ed. But thanks for writing in. I have a hunch this is why it has only shipped in limited quantities to date. I am guessing Amazon will iron out the kinks before they take this mainstream (there is just too much to lose otherwise). Interesting about Spotify…. I know that Roav Viva Pro (Echo Auto’s primary competition) doesn’t support this at all. I wonder if there are issues with some implementations. My understanding is that Echo Auto does not work well with all cars, especially if the cars have competing technologies [like Android Auto or Carplay built-in]. I’ve been testing a friends Echo Auto and it generally works well in my Mercedes GLK 350. Alexa lost connection to the Echo Auto a few times and I had to reconnect but that is about it. I also just bought the Roav Viva and plan to publish a review on it later this….stay tuned!

  6. A year ago, my employment switch to a two hour round trip commute. I bought a 2016 Chevy Cruze Premier for my long commute due to the great gas mileage. I’ve been using an echo Dot down in the cubby and worked well. I had my invitation from the beginning for the Alexa Auto. I’ve had a almost a month now and I will love it. It’s it’s on the dash but I don’t use the add on air vent cuz it doesn’t fit well. It does everything that the echo dot did and more. There is room for improvement because it has the typical eight little tiny pinhole speakers in it. Because it’s only used in a car, it should have had three microphones. One in the front left, one in the front right and one in the center close to the windshield for any reflected sounds. Sometimes the air conditioning or especially if I have a window open doesn’t respond well to commands. I haven’t tried sending text messages from it yet but it will pick up on the last song that I played from it with my Amazon music. A couple of other things they could have included a 90-degree micro USB cable so it doesn’t stick straight out but runs at an angle. Outside of that I would give it a four and a half out of five. Because it isn’t actually released yet, Amazon won’t allow you to leave a review.

    1. Author

      Michael, Thanks for the great info. I am STILL waiting for my invite, so will have to live vicariously through you guys for now. LOL.

  7. Mine shipped today from Amazon, I will have it by July 3rd.

    1. Author

      Karl, Sweet! Enjoy Alexa in your car this 4th of July weekend. Write us back and let us know how you like it!
      Cheers,
      Tec Timmy

  8. Received my Auto Echo on 6/20/19 and got it to work just fine on my 2018 Hyundai sonata. I had a time getting it to add new device in my car so I took it in to my apartment and plugged it in to my kindle fire charger and spent some time but it finally added new device. So this is what I discovered. It is an auto echo everything meaning after I got it to work with my phone I turned my bluetooth headphones on and played music oh man the sound is so awesome. Took it to my car awesome sound. Took it to my office with my headset listened to music all day and the sound is amazing. This is not just for the car this is auto echo everywhere house ,hotel, rental car, any where your phone goes it goes. So enjoy every where I have. And this is all the amazon echo I really need. The auto echo everwhere!!!!

    1. Author

      Hey Scott,
      Awesome!!! I’m jealous as I am still waiting for my dang invite. Although from what I have been reading, more and more of these have been shipping. Hoping I get my invite soon, so I can join in on your awesome nomadic music experience.
      Thanks for writing in….keep us posted!
      Happy Trails,
      Tec Timmy

  9. I just received my invite and ordered one. After reading these comments I’m not sure about it. I am not tech savy. I hope it is user-friendly. I got the 50% off the introductory price. That was nice.

    1. Author

      Hi Janice,
      Thanks for writing in. Yes, the special introductory deal is pretty sweet. I am still waiting for my invite. Any new technology is bound to have a few kinks. The great thing about Alexa devices is that Amazon can update and improve them on the fly. I wouldn’t worry too much about it….and yes it is very user-friendly from what I’m hearing and reading out on the tech forums. Hope you will write us back with an update once you start using it! All the Best,
      Tec Timmy

  10. I just received my Echo Auto and it installed easily and works without any problems.

    However, there’s one BIG issue that may be a deal-breaker for me:
    When I asked it to play Pandora, it told me “Pandora is not supported on this device”.

    I was sure that all the information I saw mentioned that Pandora was supported.
    I called Amazon customer support and couldn’t get a straight answer, even after I
    led the rep to the web pages that showed Pandora support.

    He opened a ticket with the Echo developers to find out if this feature was removed,
    planned for the future, or not planned at all. I should be hearing back this week.

    I like the Echo Auto much better than my Roav Viva, but I will return it if there is no Pandora support.

    1. Author

      Hey Eric,

      Thanks for writing in. Hope you will update us once you hear back from Amazon. Yes, major bummer about Pandora. I’m a huge fan and have TON of playlists that I listen to in my car via Bluetooth. Wonder if that might be an option for you? But also get that you want to control that using Alexa. I’m sure if it’s not already supported Amazon will be supporting that very soon. I will write to them too to see what’s up.

      Cheers,
      Tec Timmy

    2. Just got mine yesterday – fired up Pandora like a champ. Hope yours is working now.

    3. Author

      Hi Robb,

      Thanks for writing in! Outstanding! It’s nice to get a good report. I finally have my on order and can’t wait to use it. I have been using the Roav Viva and I actually like it a lot. I tested a friends Echo Auto a few weeks ago and, like you, I didn’t experience most of what others have complained about. I’m sure Amazon will continue to push updates to make the product even better over time.

      Best,
      Tec Timmy

  11. Biggest issue I am having is that the Echo auto disconnects every time you leave the car and doesn’t automatically reconnect. And reconnecting is a pain. Reason I’m on this site is because I was looking for reviews and to see if I am doing something wrong connection-wise.
    Also, as a previous user said, it would be nice to have a battery backup…not aesthetically pleasing to have the usb cable running down the dash.
    Otherwise, if I can get this connection issue resolved, I absolutely love the Echo auto!

    1. Author

      Hey Jackie,
      Thanks for writing in.
      Yes, that is the number one problem it seems that folks are reporting. Amazon has published a fix here.

      I’ll replicate Amazon’s troubleshooting steps below for your convenience and for anyone else who might be experiencing this:

      Echo Auto Loses Bluetooth Connection
      To resolve most issues with Bluetooth connectivity, force closes the Alexa app and restart your Echo Auto.

      Check if Echo Auto is connected to your phone between each troubleshooting step:

      1. Force close the Alexa app, and then launch it again.
      2. Unplug the micro-USB power cable from your Echo Auto. Wait 30 seconds, and then plug it back in.
      3. For Android phones: Turn on Airplane mode on your phone. Wait 45 seconds, and then turn it off.
      4. For iOS phones: Turn off Bluetooth on your phone and then turn it on.
      5. Restart your smartphone.
      6. Go to your Echo Auto settings in the Alexa app and forget the device. Then go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings to check if your phone is connected to Echo Auto. If your phone already is connected to Echo Auto:
      7. Unpair or forget the connection.
      8. Unplug the micro-USB power cable from your Echo Auto. Wait 45 seconds, and then plug it back in.
      9. Open the Alexa app and complete setup again.
      10. Factory reset Echo Auto and complete setup in the Alexa app.

      Glad you like the device! I’m STILL waiting for mine! 🙁

  12. I’ve received and am using Echo Auto. It’s not all it’s touted to be, yet! Had initial problems getting recognized in Amazon App. Didn’t work for a day, then started working all by itself. Seems to require that Amazon Alexa App be open and operating on iPhone when using. No battery backup in the device. Totally dependent on connection to iPhone and iPhone connection to auto Bluetooth system or use via a cassette adapter. Not too impressed yet though I’m still learning.

    1. Author

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for writing in! Super interesting…I still haven’t received my invite yet but I am dying to get my hands on this. Were you notified via email when it was available for you to purchase? As soon as I get mine, I’ll do a followup review and will post some tips to help folks troubleshoot problems. I wonder if the stuff you are experiencing is why there have been so many delays with this product. The cassette adapter is surprising I gotta say. I don’t think I’ve had a casette player in my car for like five years. LOL. Keep us posted on your experience! Would love to hear more.

  13. It’s liking pulling teeth trying to get any information when the Alexa Auto will/have shipped. It’s seems like it’s cloaked in secrecy.

    1. Author

      No joke! I still haven’t received my invite but I know others who have. The last update I saw said “will begin shipping in early 2019.” Grr…I want mine now! LOL. I have an extra Echo Dot, tempted to get a battery and see how it works with my hotspot in the car.

    2. Author

      Mickey,
      Nice! I’m still waiting on my invitation. Let us know what you think!
      Cheers,
      Tim

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