With a little help from a funny moment involving my 6-year-old daughter, it hit me: Why not put an Echo Dot in my car?
When Amazon put the Echo Dot on sale for $35 during Prime Day, my reaction was probably like a lot of others': Should I buy another Echo, and if I do, where would I put it?
Then, with a little help from a funny moment involving my 6-year-old daughter, it hit me: Why not put an Echo Dot in my car?
Sure enough, I ordered another Dot and installed it in my car. So far, it has turned out to be the best $35 I have spent in a long time.
I'll walk you through how I installed it (it's easy), what I use it for (just about everything), and why it is the best car infotainment system I have ever used (it turned out to be better than I imagined):
Our family already had three Echos — a regular one in the living room and Dots in the office and master bedroom — that we use for music, controlling various Hue lights and Nest thermostats, maintaining shopping and to-do lists, reordering Amazon items, and other general goofiness. In other words, we were already tight with "Alexa," the Echo's digital assistant.
So when Amazon dropped the price of the Echo Dot on Prime Day, it was tempting to order another. But where would we use it? (Sorry, kids, you're not ready for an Alexa in your room.)
Then I recalled a funny moment in the car when our 6-year-old tried to ask the radio to play her favorite song. Nothing happened, and we laughed. But while staring at the $35 price tag on the Echo Dot, it hit me: Why couldn't we put one in a car and use it as a media device where everybody would have easy access?
Eleven hours later, the Echo Dot, through Amazon's free one-day shipping, was on our doorstep, ready to be installed in the truck.
I do have a bit of advantage here as the owner of a 2015 Chevy Silverado. It has several USB ports, a Bluetooth stereo, and built-in Wi-Fi.
While few will have all three features, it is easy to imagine this would also work with a lighter socket adapter, the Echo Dot's speaker, and tethering to a phone as a hotspot.
Installing it was a snap — just plug in the Dot, turn on the car, go through the regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth setup as you would with any Echo, and voilà!
I now have the Dot sitting on top of the center console for easy access to anybody in the front or back seats.
Interestingly, the Dot also fits perfectly into a standard cupholder if you want to hide it and still have constant voice access. But I was nervous I would forget and place a sweaty drink on top of it.
One concern was whether there would be a lag when starting the car and turning on the Dot. Inside the house, the Echos are always on. I was worried this would be a nuisance. It turns out that the Dot boots even quicker than I imagined it would, about 45 seconds, or before everyone has taken a seat and put on a seat belt.
The other huge advantage is that it always automatically connects to the Bluetooth. In fact, the Bluetooth is fully connected even before the Dot has finished booting. So there is never any additional lag between turning it on and connecting to the car's media center.
One of the worst things about using a phone as a media device in the car is frequent connection problems. Sometimes it worked seamlessly, but other times it got confused, especially if we had two phones in the car or if one was using a USB port to charge. This never happens with the Dot, probably because the car is its only external connection and signals aren't crossing.
Using the Dot in the car couldn't be more fun. So far we have used it for the obvious things like playing music ("Alexa, play the girls' favorite-songs playlist") and podcasts ("Alexa, play 'The Bill Simmons Podcast'"). The sound here is coming from the car's speakers.
We can make truly hands-free phone calls ("Alexa, call Laura") or send messages ("Alexa, send a message to Mom") to other people with Echos or the Alexa app on their phone.
We can get quick updates on the news ("Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"), add things we suddenly remember while driving to to-do lists, or listen to audiobooks.
We can control the house lights ("Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights") and temperature ("Alexa, set the house thermostats to Away") if we forget before we leave.
And our daughters just love goofing around with Alexa, whether it's jokes ("Alexa, tell us a joke") or games ("Alexa, open the Magic Door").
But the best part of all of this is that everything is now truly hands-free. You never have to look at the display. You never have to reach for the radio or even find that one button on the steering wheel that you can never quite find without looking. It just feels safer.
And everybody in the car can use it without getting out of their seat, even from the back seat.
While the Dot is great as an infotainment system, it's not perfect. For example, unlike music on my phone, the car's media display does not show the name of the song, and if you want to know, you have to interrupt Alexa to ask.
Alexa is also not giving you turn-by-turn directions like Google Maps or Waze. This truck has in-dash navigation, but it doesn't give audio instructions, requiring that you look away from the road. So for this, we are going to have to stick to the phone.
Podcasts work, but they aren't perfect. By default, the Dot uses TuneIn radio for podcasts, and it can be hit or miss on whether TuneIn has your favorites. It's also heavily limited on settings like fast-forwarding, rewinding, or playing at a faster speed, and it's a bit cumbersome to find the exact episode you are looking for if it isn't the most recent one.
Alexa does have the AnyPod skill, which helps with some of these issues, but this makes the command a little clunkier ("Alexa, ask AnyPod to fast-forward two minutes").
My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Alexa integrates a better podcast player. But at this point, some will prefer to stick to their phones for podcasts.
But overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and for the first time, I feel as though I have a truly hands-free experience with media in the car. It seems inevitable that in the near future, all cars will have Alexa or something similar built-in.
Strangely, the Echo Dot actually feels more natural in the car than in the house. While Echos in the house help you do things you could do yourself (i.e., it helps you be more efficient or just lazy), in the car it actually helps you do things you can't — or shouldn't — do.
Now, check out the NBA's new revenue stream.
Source: Pulse Nig