Amazon’s Alexa is fast seeping into all tools of life interjection to crafty partnerships with OEMs, and Garmin was one of the many unexpected partnerships announced last year. The builder of navigation systems, lurch cams, and wearables debuted the Garmin Speak at the tail-end of 2017. For $119, you get a tiny Echo Dot-like device that puts Alexa in the vehicle with you.
At CES this year, Garmin combined another device to that new family—the $199 Speak Plus. Instead of simply behaving as a home for Alexa, the Speak Plus also includes an embedded dashboard camera, making it a some-more unsentimental vehicle appendage than the strange Speak. While lurch cams are undoubtably useful, the utility of Alexa in the vehicle is debatable. Alexa rose to celebrity as a virtual partner for the home, and the Garmin Speak Plus doesn’t make the strongest case for it to be a required partial of your daily invert yet.
The Speak Plus’ footprint is so small, it’ll simply disappear behind your rear-view counterpart if you don’t position it properly. The brief cylinder measures 1.47 x 1.48 inches and has a 114 x 64-pixel OLED screen surrounded by an LED light ring on one finish and a camera lens on the other. The screen shows elementary instruction cues like arrows and measurements that you can follow while you’re driving, but you don’t indispensably need to see the screen given Alexa reads out directions as well.
Only two buttons accoutre the side of the Speak Plus: one to tongue-tied the microphone and one to energy on the device. The underside of the device binds a microSD label container that can take a label up to 64GB. The section we reviewed came with an 8GB card. The incomparable the microSD card, the some-more footage you can store at once. But the Speak Plus supports loop recording, so you never have to worry about the microSD label being full. The device will erase the oldest footage first once the label gets filled up. Like Garmin’s other lurch cams, you can perspective the footage using the company’s VIRB mobile app (designed for its movement cams) or you can mislay the microSD label and insert it into your PC.
Attaching the Speak Plus to your windshield is easy: it uses a captivating arm with an glue pad that sticks to the glass. we prefer suction mounts to adhesives since they let you some-more simply pierce the lurch cam to another spot. Garmin doesn’t yield additional glue pads either, so you must select the Plus’ plcae wisely.
The Speak Plus’ camera is the only differentiator between this device and the unchanging Speak, but it’s an critical eminence that adds a lot of value. Sure, having Alexa as a vehicle messenger is good for hands-free music playback controls and answers to pardonable questions about the forecast. But Amazon has finished it so many smartphone users can entrance Alexa from anywhere by several mobile apps—therefore, the hands-free aspect of the unchanging Speak is the only reason you’d wish to deposit in that device. At slightest with the Speak Plus, you get an ever-watchful lurch cam in further to Alexa.
While a series of vehicle manufacturers are building Alexa into their vehicles, copiousness of Alexa-less cars will still be on the highway in the future. In those cases, the Garmin Speak Plus is one of the few ways you can get Alexa into the car. Most things Alexa can do in an Echo device can be finished in the Garmin Speak Plus: review the news, check the weather, answer pointless questions, control smart home devices, and more. With the new Garmin ability enabled, Alexa can also review turn-by-turn pushing directions by the Speak Plus.
However, Alexa doesn’t totally live inside the Speak Plus. Garmin’s Speak app is indispensable to set up the device, and it tells you during the initial setup that the program must be using on your smartphone for any of your Alexa commands to be over on the Speak Plus. While it’s the lurch cam that hears you, all the information is drawn from your smartphone since Alexa requires a tie (Wi-Fi at home in a device like an Echo, mobile on the highway in this case) to work.
This doing isn’t surprising, generally deliberation Amazon has pushed Alexa voice services to many of its apps opposite many OSes. But it’s not the best doing since we mostly forgot to open the Garmin Speak app when we got in my car. In those cases, the lurch cam available footage invariably while we drove, but we couldn’t ask Alexa to do anything for me—including reading off directions using the Garmin skill.
The Speak Plus warned me that it was having difficulty “connecting to the Internet” when the app wasn’t open. A identical warning came by the device’s speakers when my smartphone had a bad mobile information connection—something we couldn’t control or fix until we gathering to an area with better reception. If your phone isn’t getting data, Alexa won’t work at all.
The Garmin Speak app prompts you to capacitate the Garmin Alexa ability when you set up the Speak Plus. Since commanded pushing directions aren’t partial of Alexa’s simple ability set, you must say, “Alexa, ask Garmin to take me home” when you wish the device to review out pushing directions to your home. Without the “ask Garmin” apportionment of the prompt, Alexa will be confused, and you will be frustrated.
Garmin’s pushing directions commanded by Alexa are not very opposite from pushing directions given by Apple or Google Maps. Alexa’s voice tells you when you’re coming a turn, which streets to spin onto, when to stay on the highway ahead, and other navigation information. If you’re shaken about blank a turn, the tiny screen’s arrows and stretch estimations are a decent choice to having a maps app constantly open on your smartphone.
But Alexa can tell you other things while you’re driving, including traffic conditions, weather reports, and more. You can hunt for circuitously destinations, asking Alexa to ask Garmin to find the closest coffee shop, bookstore, or Thai restaurant. This comes in accessible if you’re already on the highway and need to make an unexpected stop.
While Spotify formation doesn’t work nonetheless on the Speak Plus, you can ask Alexa to play music from Amazon Music (a underline that’s only useful if you get many of your music by Amazon). we still listen to the radio when I’m in the car, so I’d adore for Alexa to be means to control my car’s radio, switching between my saved stations. The closest you could get to that is joining Alexa to an iHeartRadio account, but infrequently using the old-school, unchanging radio in the vehicle is some-more available than hooking up nonetheless another streaming service to nonetheless another accessory.
The many frustrating thing about Alexa in the vehicle is that it’s a fragmented experience, but you may not comprehend how fragmented unless you’ve been around cars that have Alexa integrated. Automobile manufacturers are starting to welcome Alexa—Toyota, BMW, Nissan, and others possibly already have Alexa skills and capabilities for certain vehicles, or they have plans to create them. But some of those facilities are possibly not concordant with the Garmin Speak Plus or would need you to have special, connected vehicle hardware. You can’t assume that just since the car’s Alexa ability can do something, you can do it with the Speak Plus.
For example, Ford’s Alexa ability lets you ask Alexa for your car’s mileage. Unless you have a concordant Ford vehicle with Sync Connect, you can’t ask Alexa on the Speak Plus that same doubt and design an answer.
Since the Speak Plus is an appendage and not partial of the vehicle itself, Alexa can’t do many of the things you may design it to do in a vehicle. Most infotainment systems with Alexa or vehicle Alexa integrations have the simple Alexa features—news and weather updates, reminders and to-do list editing, smart home device control, and more—plus special facilities that the vehicle manufacturer has built in to its own Alexa skill. The Speak Plus’ special underline that was many unsentimental for me was pushing guidance. we don’t have a prolonged commute, and we don’t frequently take prolonged pushing trips, so we didn’t have much use for Alexa while my hands were on the wheel. Anything we wanted to know we could demeanour up when we reached my destination.