The Echo Auto is so worth it!

The Echo Auto is so worth it!

I mentioned before Amazon made their recent announcements

Amazon Announcement Day 2019: maybe the best ever (Part 1: the wearables)

that I hoped they would make the Echo Auto available for general purchase (it was invitation only).

Well, they did!

We already had one, but that was in my Significant Other’s car.

I definitely wanted one for my own car. I was using Alexa pretty often there already, by accessing it on my phone, but that wasn’t a great system. In California, we are only supposed to do a 1-touch operation while driving. So, I’d start Alexa on my phone reading my current e-book, “Alexa, read my Kindle book XYZ”, before I started. I had to access the Alexa app first, though.

Also, if I wanted to do something else while I was driving, well, that wasn’t really doable.

Now, it’s all easy! 😉

So, before you jump to the

Alexa and Echo devices page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to spend your $49.99 (for yourself, or, and I think this will be popular, buy it as a gift), let’s talk a little more about how it works and what you can do with it.

The Echo Auto pairs wirelessly with your phone. You’ll need your phone in the car when you use it, and you’ll need to be able to receive a signal. We can’t get a signal near our house (we’re in a dead zone), so I have to drive for about a minute before I can give ask Alexa to do something for me.

The Echo Auto needs to be connected to your car’s sound system (it doesn’t have a speaker of its own). In most cars nowadays, that will be by Bluetooth…so you will need to set your car to play audio from a Bluetooth device. That should be easy. Don’t worry if you usually listen to over-the-air radio or play music…you’ll be able to do all that through the Echo Auto.

If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, you could use a cable to plug it into the Aux (they include a cable).

Your Echo Auto needs power (again, they provide a cable). It plugs into a standard USB outlet (your car probably has them, if it’s relatively new…if not, they include something that plugs into another standard power source in your car…it will have that one).

Here’s how that all works together:

  1. You ask Alexa to do something. It has “far field” microphones, meaning it hears you really well (even with music playing, for the most part)
  2. Your Echo Auto uses your phone (wirelessly) to connect to the internet)
  3. Your Echo Auto plays the sound for whatever you asked it to do through your car’s audio (probably wirelessly through Bluetooth, but maybe wired if you don’t have Bluetooth in the car)

The Echo Auto comes with a clip to attach it to an air vent (a lot of people have those for their phones..you won’t have to have your phone up there). My Significant Other actually just leaves it below the dashboard in a cup holder, and it still works. I do put mine in the clip: it stays up there magnetically, and I take it off when I park just so it isn’t so obvious to potential thieves.

The only thing I do differently than I normally do is turn the Bluetooth off on my phone before I get into my SO’s car. It’s probably not necessary, but I don’t the car to get confused about to which phone it should be connecting.

What do we do with our Echo Autos?

  1. Have it read text-to-speech to me. That’s the most common thing: it’s how I get most of my reading done. I know I’m in the minority, but I prefer TTS to audiobooks, unless I’ve already read the book. I don’t like an actor or even the author interpreting the characters for me. I also read a lot of non-fiction, and it’s certainly fine for that. If you prefer audiobooks, its worth noting that she can read those for you, too! You have to own the books, but you don’t need to have downloaded the book to your phone first before you use TTS. “Alexa, read my Kindle book XYZ.
  2. Listen to TuneIn. Again, you don’t need to have TuneIn on the phone to use that function. In fact, I took TuneIn off my phone after getting the Echo Auto! I mostly listen to a 24-hour news station. My SO tends to listen to a local radio station (again, through TuneIn). “Alexa, XYZ on TuneIn”
  3. I chat with Alexa. Amazon does a university competition to improve chatbots. You can say, “Alexa, let’s chat”, and one of them will talk to you. You can rate it at the end, and give them feedback. That can be fun
  4. I do ask it general knowledge questions…
  5. I ask for the news, my “Flash Briefing”. That includes my Alexa Skills
  6. My SO listens to more music with it than I do, but it works well for that…ask for an artist, a song, or something like “happy jazz”
  7. I listen to a lot of Old Time Radio, and I have found a good Alexa skill for that: Radio Time Warp (at AmazonSmile*)
  8. You can ask for directions. I’ve only tested this. You set your preferred maps app in the Alexa app settings. “Alexa, directions to 123 Main Street”
  9. I can make phone calls, send texts, and do Alexa Announcements. On that last one, I say, “Alexa announce XYZ” and my SO can hear my voice saying it at home. When you text, it does use your contacts, but it comes from a different account than what you usually use. No big deal, though. As I mentioned in another piece, the far field microphones presence means that the person calling you can hear both the passenger and the driver easily
  10. One of the main reasons the pre-release one was in my SO’s car was for what I think is an underutilized function. You can say, “Alexa, remember that the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle.” That’s an old Danny Kaye bit, I’m just using it as an example. Later on, you can say, “Alexa, what did I ask you to remember?” or “Alexa, what did I say about the poison?” or “Alexa, what did I ask you to remember about the vessel?” It’s wonderful if you have trouble remembering things!
  11. It’s helpful for shopping. We can ask what’s on my list, where’s my stuff, and so on
  12. I ask about the weather, even for the place we are going (not just where we are)

Well, that’s twelve, but that’s just a sampling: there are literally thousands of Alexa skills.

Bottom line: this is one of my favorite devices, and it certainly makes my life easier. I think it’s going to make a great gift at the holidays (I think the odds will be low that most people have bought one for themselves).

Have additional questions or comments? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

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