I’m no fan of Amazon, but I do love gadgets. That goes double for car gadgets designed for older vehicles that lack modern infotainment interfaces like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. An owner of an older car, I should be in favor of the second-generation Amazon Echo Auto which claims to add a ton of modern functionality to my old ride, but I’m not, and that’s because the new Echo is a borderline pointless piece of future e-waste.
Amazon has been vying for a corner of your car’s dashboard since 2018, when it released the first Echo Auto, and Alexa is back again with this Echo Auto (2nd Gen), which Amazon claims can add modern functionality like voice control, smart home integration and roadside assistance to older cars, and, yet it struggles to add much beyond what’s already built into the phone in your pocket — begging the question, why bother with the Echo in the car at all?
We’ve seen things like this before: the Spotify Car Thing, for example, lived and died on the premise that people would find another gadget useful, so long as it added some functionality over your phone: in the case of the Car Thing, it was a way to control music playback. The Echo one-ups the Car Thing in that it offers is a way to connect with Amazon and a select group of other services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora or SiriusXM.
Beyond music control, the Echo links with services like Amazon Fresh or uses a small set of Alexa Skills; the Verge uses ordering coffee at Starbucks as an example (and notice how both of those use-cases are, more or less, ways to add shopping to the driving experience.) And at worst, the Echo Auto brings along another voice assistant. The Echo needs your phone to do anything, which brings me back to the question: why bother?
Look, it’s not like Amazon Alexa and the Echo have turned out to be a “colossal failure” whose development has burned through billions of dollars only to yield a defunct meme about playing reggeaton. Oh, wait. It’s exactly like that, according to a report from Ars Technica. This latest version of the Echo Auto just seems like Amazon is trying to get its devices to stick somewhere, anywhere, but there’s little reason to let it stick on the dashboard in your car.