Monday, September 24, 2018

Vintage car with no Bluetooth? Amazon’s new Echo Auto could be a good solution.

Vintage Plymouth AM car radio
Photo: Tiffany Bailey (Wikimedia Commons).
Amazon announced a new device last week that could expand smartphone connectivity options to those of us who drive older cars that haven’t been upgraded with aftermarket stereos featuring all the fancy-schmancy Bluetooth technology.

As long as your car stereo has a 3.5mm auxiliary input, you’ll be able to plug in the new Amazon Echo Auto, which can then connect to your smartphone through the Alexa app, enabling you to use Alexa voice commands to access features available through your existing phone plan, such as music, navigation, and hands-free calling.

In their press release, Amazon states that the Echo Auto includes an eight-microphone array that enables the Alexa to hear you in the typical automotive sonic environment, which can include interfering elements such as music, your air conditioning or heating blower, and road noise.

According to product information currently posted on Amazon’s Alexa Auto page, Alexa Auto will enable users to stream podcasts or listen to Amazon music, Spotify, SiriusXM, or NPR.

Users will also have access to other Alexa functions they have set up elsewhere, such as smart home features. According to Amazon, Echo Auto will make it possible to set a routine that turns on the lights at home upon pulling into the driveway, set up reminders and to do lists, and perform other operations hands-free while on the road, such as building shopping lists.

But right now, there’s a catch—because apparently you can’t get Echo Auto just yet. Currently, Amazon is offering Echo Auto under a special invitation-only promotion, for an introductory price of $24.99, a $25.00 markdown from the published $49.99 list price.

Amazon currently indicates that the product will be available “by invitation only later this year.” You can request an invitation now on the Amazon Echo Auto product information page.

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