Score 70% Off This Best-selling Road Trip Accessory on Black Friday
Growing up in Canada, my favorite time of year was always when my family would pile into our wood-paneled station wagon and set off on our annual holiday road trip to visit my grandparents in Virginia. Now that I'm the one who does the driving, the prospect of hitting the highway is daunting, especially since I live in Los Angeles and must contend with some of the worst traffic conditions in the country anytime I get behind the wheel.
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Setting up the Echo Auto is a breeze. The device attaches to your car's air vent using an included magnetic mount, which you'll want to place far enough away that you won't knock it off if you need to adjust something on your central console. Just plug it into your car's USB port or 12-volt power adapter, turn on your stereo and set the input mode to Bluetooth to pair it with your phone, open the Alexa app and follow the one-time setup steps to add the device, and you've got access to all the same voice-activated capabilities you use with the Echo speakers in your home.
With a simple, "Alexa," you can stream music through Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora; listen to podcasts and audiobooks on Audible; or tune in to iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, and other digital radio stations. You can also use the Echo Auto to control the smart products that are linked to your homebound Echo and order groceries from Whole Foods, so you'll never have to come home to a dark house or an empty fridge again.
To buy: amazon.com, $15 (originally $50)
Even though I drive a car that's equipped with the latest technology, it's much easier (not to mention safer) to ask Alexa to perform a task rather than fiddling with the digital display on my car's console, especially when I need to keep my eyes on the road in heavy traffic. Plus, the Echo Auto can do things my car can't do: During a cross-country road trip with my nephew last year, I brought my Echo Auto along for the ride in our rental car. I used it to set reminders for things I needed to do once I was back at work, check the status of an Amazon order, and even access my calendar to confirm that we had time to squeeze in a stop in Sedona before we had to be back in LA to pick up my dog from the sitter.
With eight microphones configured around the body of the device, the Echo Auto can detect your voice over the sound of the car engine, music, A/C vents, and any ambient road noise. Just like the other Echo devices, a light strip glows shades of blue to let you know when it's listening and responding, or red when there is a connection issue. Speaking of listening, the microphones can be deactivated with the touch of a button, so you don't have to worry about it recording your conversations… or the kids bickering in the back seat.
The drive-assist gadget uses third-party apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze to help you navigate your trip, so Alexa can tell you how to get to the Grand Canyon and teach you all about it while you're on the way there. The latest version of the Echo Auto can even turn your phone into a "driver-friendly display" that includes touchscreen shortcuts to get directions to your favorite locations, place calls, or make announcements through the Alexa devices in your home.
Unfortunately, the Echo Auto can't connect to your car's Wi-Fi, so it often drops the connection to my phone when I'm driving through a remote area where there is poor cellular coverage. It's also important to note that the device accesses the Amazon Cloud through your smartphone's network connection, so if you don't have unlimited data, you might want to keep your streaming activities to a minimum to avoid hitting the limit of your mobile internet plan. And before you click the Buy Now button, you'll want to confirm that the Echo Auto is compatible with your car's Bluetooth technology and air vents and that it will pair with your mobile phone.
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