Smart speakers are the fastest growing tech category in the United States. Now, they’re threatening to transform car dashboards, with potentially huge implications for music.
Amazon’s Echo currently leads the pack in a heated race for the home. But what about cars?
Last September, Amazon announced the Echo Auto, the first device to bring Alexa on the go. Now at CES, the company has announced that it is finally ready to start shipping Echo Auto devices to customers who pre-ordered them.
The in-car accessory will bring access to Alexa’s thousands of skills to drivers everywhere. The Echo Auto features the same eight-mic array that is present in the Echo Show. It connects via 3.5mm auxiliary jack, or it can piggyback on your phone’s Bluetooth connection to your car.
The device is mounted on the car dashboard and features a real-time OS designed by Amazon.
The Echo Auto piggybacks off of your phone’s connection for communicating. The device can also bring up services on your phone like Google Maps. A cigarette lighter USB cable powers the Echo Auto.
The Echo Auto will cost $49.99 when it launches, but right now you can get it for $24.99. The millions of pre-orders accepted for the device after it was announced in September have started shipping. The only downside is that you can’t buy the device outright. You have to request an invitation and hope you’re selected to receive 50% off.
As mentioned, Amazon’s Alexa assistant holds the lion’s share of the market for digital assistants. The company has around 70% of the market share for smart speakers, with Google and Apple trailing behind.
Android Auto has the disadvantage of needing to be pre-installed or installed in a custom job.
Much like Roku gaining market share by creating plug-and-play devices for “dumb” TVs, Echo Auto can be used in any car with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s a tactic that could put Amazon in the driver’s seat.