The first Amazon Echo device designed for use in a car has finally been launched in the UK and Ireland, after being first revealed by the tech giant back in 2018.
Amazon Echo Auto allows drivers to play music, check the news, make calls and check their schedule without taking hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.
The £49.99 device, which clips to car air vent mounts, is powered by Alexa, the company’s digital assistant, just like the rest of the Echo smart speaker range.
Drivers can use Alexa voice commands such as ‘Alexa, start my road trip playlist’ to enjoy their journey safely without being distracted by their phone.
The three-inch-long black box gets internet connectivity by connecting to a user’s smartphone and the Alexa app, and using its existing data plan.
Thanks to eight built-in microphones, Echo Auto can hear its driver over music, air conditioning and road noise, according to Amazon.
And to assuage fears of Alexa listening in to personal car conversations, users can press the ‘microphone off’ button to electronically disconnect the audio pick-up.
Amazon Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app on a smartphone and plays through car speakers via auxiliary input jack or your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection
Users also have ultimate control over their voice recordings and can view, hear or delete them at any time, Amazon said.
‘Customers tell us they want to take Alexa with them everywhere they go,’ said Amazon’s EU vice president Eric Saarnio.
‘With Echo Auto, customers can now enjoy the convenience of Alexa on the road, giving them the ability to play music, make calls, continue their audiobook, play games, manage their reminders and more – all just by using their voice.’
The small rectangular device, which spans 3.3 inches across and 1.8 inches back, includes a micro UBS power slot, a light bar that flashes as Alexa speaks and the eight microphones hidden behind small dots on the top.
The microphones allow the technology to hear voice commands despite road noise, blaring music or a loud air conditioning system.
It features two buttons on the top – the microphone off button, which turns the light display a shade of red, and the ‘action button’ to bring Alexa back to life.
The £50 device is ‘designed to protect user privacy’. Users can press the ‘microphone off’ button to electronically disconnect the microphones
The top of the box features two buttons – ‘microphone off’ and action. The small dots hide the eight microphones, which allows the technology to hear voice commands despite road noise, blaring music or a loud air conditioning system
Echo Auto doesn’t have a built-in speaker like the other Echo devices, however, meaning the sound comes out of the car’s speaker system.
To do this, the device plugs into a car’s 12V power outlet or built-in USB port and connects to the in-car stereo via either audio jack cable or Bluetooth to enable the use of voice assistant Alexa inside the vehicle.
It attaches to a stand that clips to the air vent mounts, although it is not compatible with all phones and cars, Amazon said.
Amazon Echo Auto comes with an air vent mount, which is not compatible with some style of air vents. Amazon advises consumers to check if their vehicle’s air vents are compatible with the included mount on their website
Non-compatible phones and cars, including some with circular air vents, are listed on the tech giant’s website.
The firm advises drivers to make sure their phone’s volume is at an audible level and set the car stereo to the correct input, before saying ‘Alexa, waiting for the device to chime and then giving an demand.
Alexa can play a song, genre, artist or station from streaming services such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer.
Alternatively, users can ask Alexa to select a radio station or content from Amazon’s audiobook service, Audible.
Amazon confirmed Echo Auto is going on sale in the UK for £49.99 and Prime account holders can already get next-day delivery
Users can also update their to-do lists, set reminders, check calendars without getting distracted from safely delivering themselves and their passengers to their destination.
Amazon confirmed Echo Auto is going on sale in the UK for £49.99 and Prime account holders can already get next-day delivery.
Echo Auto, which was unveiled in September 2018 as an invite-only release in the US, comes to the UK and Europe after repeated rounds of testing and tweaking so it can accommodate as many different cars as possible.
It’s Amazon’s latest attempt to bring access to its virtual assistant to a wider space, having already created an established line of smart home hubs and speakers for inside the home.
Since the release of the first Amazon Echo in November 2014, the company has released the more compact Echo Dot, the Amazon Echo Show with an in-built screen and the Echo Loop smart ring for users to speak into their hand, which is yet to get a full release.
Last year, the company announced the Echo Frames – Alexa-powered smart glasses with tiny microphones built into the frame.
On its unveiling, UK writer Sam Jordison called the high-tech specs a piece of ‘terrifying spyware’ and a threat to privacy, by allowing Alexa to hear and record the most personal conversations within earshot.
Amazon has received criticism for storing most of the conversations users have with Alexa, which Amazon admitted last year are being listened to and transcribed by staff.
THE TRILLION DOLLAR RISE OF AMAZON
The first book sold on Amazon was ‘Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’ by Douglas Hofstadter.
1994: Jeff Bezos incorporates what would become Amazon under the name ‘Cadabra Inc.’ He later re-named the company under its current name.
Bezos chose the name Amazon in reference to the Amazon River, the biggest river in the world, as he hoped Amazon would be the biggest bookstore in the world.
1995: Amazon opens up shop as a bookstore. The first book sold on Amazon was titled ‘Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought’ by Douglas Hofstadter.
1997: Amazon goes public at $18 per share on the Nasdaq under the symbol ‘AMZN.’
1998: Bezos begins selling more than just books on Amazon. The firm opens up sales of music, movies, consumer electronics, video games, toys and more.
2000: The firm introduces its now-famous logo, which features a curved arrow leading from A to Z, with an arrow shaped like a smile. The logo is meant to suggest that Amazon sells every kind of product from A to Z.
In 1998, Jeff Bezos began selling more than just books on Amazon. It ventured into consumer electronics, music, movies, video games, toys and many other products
2001: Amazon turns a profit for the first time ever, proving to investors that the firm’s business model could stick.
2002: The company launches Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a service for internet traffic data, but it would go on to grow into the firm’s cloud computing behemoth.
2006: Amazon rolls out Fulfillment by Amazon, its massive logistics unit that now threatens the likes of UPS and FedEx.
In 2006, Amazon rolled out Fulfillment by Amazon, its massive logistics unit
2007: Amazon releases the first Kindle e-reader, in a move that was perceived as a disruption to the traditional publishing industry.
2012: Amazon doubles down on consumer hardware, launching the Amazon Fire HD tablet.
2014: Amazon launches the Fire phone, meant to be a competitor to the iPhone, which ends up flopping. The firm discontinued the device a year later.
2015: Amazon launches the original Echo speaker, a groundbreaking device, due to its speech recognition and AI capabilities.
2017: Amazon becomes the first streaming company to earn an Oscars nomination for the drama ‘Manchester By the Sea.’
Later that year, Amazon announced it would purchase Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The move has only strengthened its stronghold over the retail market.