In case you hadn’t noticed, Amazon has released a brand new version of the Echo Auto, which is still one of the few ways you can talk to Alexa in your car. The Echo Auto 2 offers a brand new design, technology improvements and some extra features that make Alexa even more useful out on the road.
We enjoyed our time with the Echo Auto 2, and it’s certainly a very big upgrade over its predecessor. But should you actually go out and buy one? That question is especially important if you already have the original Echo Auto, and were thinking about upgrading. Here are five reasons to buy the Echo Auto 2 and three reasons to skip it entirely.
Reasons to buy the Echo Auto 2
The new compact design
The most notable thing about the new Echo Auto 2 is that the design has had a complete overhaul. Not only is the whole thing smaller, it’s also split off two of the major components into separate microphone and speaker modules, which helps to minimize their overall footprint in your car.
That’s quite the contrast to the original Echo Auto, which was self-contained and has similar dimensions to a (very thick) credit card. It measured 3.3 x 1.9 x 0.5 inches, and was pretty prominent as a result. The Echo Auto 2’s microphone is 2.05 x 0.91 x 0.6 inches, and that’s the part that will primarily be on display. Meanwhile the speaker module, which can be tucked away out of sight, measures 23.24 x 1.38 x 0.55 inches.
On top of this the Echo Auto 2’s microphone is made from the same material as the Echo Dot, making it much more attractive than the blocky design its predecessor offered.
Microphones have been improved
The original Echo Auto had eight microphones to help pick up your voice commands, while the Echo Auto 2 only has five. This might sound like a downgrade, but these new microphones are significant improvements. In our testing we found that they were able to pick up voice commands very easily, even with background noise from the music, A/C or the road outside the car.
In fact we found that the Echo Auto 2 could still hear what you’re saying when driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour with the windows down. Naturally this has a pronounced effect on call quality, and in our case the new Echo Auto offered better-sounding calls than the system built-into the car.
Alexa and Auto Mode
Unless your car is a newer model that has Alexa built-in, it’s quite difficult to access Amazon’s voice assistant in your car. Unlike Google Assistant and Siri, Alexa can’t be summoned on your phone unless the Alexa app stays open — even if you have voice summon switched on.
But being connected to the Echo Auto means you have a direct feed to Alexa, no matter what your phone is doing. Similarly you need either the Echo Auto 2 or its predecessor to access Amazon’s Auto Mode.
Auto Mode ensures your phone’s display is safe for driving, cutting out any distracting apps, while ensuring you have the important stuff like navigation, music, and phone calls. That’s particularly helpful now that Google has killed off the standalone Android Auto app that did much the same thing.
You can add smart features to older cars
Modern cars come with all sorts of useful features and technology, like touchscreen infotainment displays, Bluetooth audio and so on. If you have an older car that lacks these, the Echo Auto 2 is a great way to upgrade your car without paying a huge amount of money. Beyond having access to Alexa, of course.
If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, for instance, then the Echo Auto 2 can function as a go-between. Because it has a 3.5mm headphone jack, something a lot of modern phones now lack, it can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and relay its audio into your car’s stereo system.
Similarly Auto Mode offers a distraction-free interface for your phone, giving you access to essential apps should your car not support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Though you will need to pick up one of the best phone mounts to safely make full use of it. The 12V adapter also offers an extra USB-C quick charging port so you can make sure your phone doesn’t die on you mid-drive.
There are multiple mounting options
The original Echo Auto came with its own vent mount, and it wasn’t particularly nice to look at. The design of the Echo Auto itself didn’t do much to mitigate that either, leaving you with few options on what to do with it. Either mount it on the dash somewhere, or hide it in a cubby and hope the microphones can still hear you clearly enough.
The Echo Auto 2 has a lot more options, aided by the fact it has that discreet design. The default is an adhesive mount and combined with the Echo Auto 2’s small size and weight, you can attach it just about anywhere in the car — so long as the cable doesn’t get in the way.
The device can also come bundled with an adjustable vent mount (priced $63), should you prefer to avoid adhesives, which also has a much smaller footprint than before. Alternatively you can still tuck the microphone away in any of the cubbies or gaps in your car, so long as the microphones can pick up your voice commands.
Reasons to skip the Echo Auto 2
The non-removable cable
The original Echo Auto was a self-contained device with a power port that any typical micro USB port could plug into. The Echo Auto 2 does not work this way, with Amazon shrinking the device by separating the microphone and speaker system into two separate modules. Modules separated by a non-removable cable.
This means that, no matter how versatile the Echo Auto 2’s petite design may be, it’s hampered by the fact it’s connected to a lengthy piece of cable. Moreover, the USB cable protruding from the speaker unit isn’t particularly long, and during the testing for our Echo Auto 2 review we had to use a USB extension cable to position the speaker module comfortably.
Separating the two parts of the Echo Auto 2 to shrink its design was a brilliant move, since only the microphone needs to be out in the open. However, the non-removable cable can prove to be quite awkward.
The features haven't changed much
While the Echo Auto hardware may have been upgraded, the software is still fundamentally the same. Their purpose is to connect you with Alexa, and its effectiveness is bound within the voice assistant’s own limitations. While Alexa can do a lot for you on the road, including making calls, playing games and offering hands-free smart home control, very little has changed between the Echo Auto and Echo Auto 2.
Roadside assistance has been added, which enables you to call an agent via an Alexa command, but that’s primarily it. So if you already have an Echo Auto you’re not going to be missing out on very much. That means there’s little practical need to upgrade, beyond enjoying the refined new design.
It's more expensive than the Echo Auto 1
The original Echo Auto had an MSRP of $50, a price it kept until the day the Echo Auto 2 went on sale. The device has been dropping to as little as $15 during recent sales events, a price that is still available at some retailers. This price also included the vent mount, and while ugly was still very practical.
The Echo Auto 2 costs $55, if you’re happy to stick with the minimalist adhesive mount, or $63 if you want the new vent mount. Whichever way you look at it, you’re going to have to pay more to put the Echo Auto into your car. Especially given the fundamental basics of the device haven’t changed all that much.