Top critical review
Half-baked Beta in search of a niche
Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2019
At the time I put in for an invite for this device, I was frustrated with Siri hands-free. It couldn’t summon pandora or amazon music, and simple tasks like checking store hours and getting navigation were hit or miss. Fast forward to a couple weeks back when I finally got my echo auto, and boy does this product make Siri look great.
The first issue you’ll notice is that Echo Auto isn’t always ready to go when the car starts, often for the first few minutes she’ll report she’s lost connection with the app and can’t respond right now. Admittedly this is probably because the iPhone paged out the Alexa app, but it would be nice if the echo auto announced when she is ready rather than leaving me to make the same query over and over again until it works.
Navigation is also atrocious. In my short time with Echo Auto, I’ve discovered that asking Alexa to “navigate to <business>” often doesn’t result in directions, but instead either gets me traffic info or a suggestion to enable video skills in my library. Specifically asking Alexa to “get directions to <business>” seems to work okay, but since Alexa uses third party nav apps, on iPhone I often need to click a notification to get started with nav (and since iOS blocks notifications while driving, this means unlocking the phone). To make matters worse, if Alexa misheard you and puts the wrong destination into nav, she can’t cancel it directly and tells you to unlock the phone and cancel nav manually in the nav app. The entire point of an audio assistant in the car is to be hands free, so I consider echo auto nav fundamentally broken.
Other issues: customer support can be pretty clueless, suggesting things like lowering radio volume and ambient noise if echo auto misheard you (even though echo auto is the thing playing stuff through the radio, and there’s going to be road, wind, engine, and hvac noise in a car...). Also it’s irksome that the Auto is powered by usb but can’t send audio over usb to the car.
Now some of these complaints may seem minor, and Alexa’s always improving, but the trouble is so is her competition. With ios13, I can now say “hey Siri, play pandora” and it works! “Hey Siri” also works great for nav and other info, and she can more reliably hear me in the car. I’m guessing Google Assistant can do all this too. So the fundamental question is why would anyone pay $50 for an Echo Auto when their smartphone can already do everything the Auto does but better?