Mobile navigation device company Garmin has announced a new speaker that includes integration with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. It’s the first product to give Alexa mapping capabilities, which is one of the things that other in-car Alexa solutions (such as those from Ford) have been missing. The device is compact, measuring 1.5 inches with an LED light ring and an OLED display that has four arrows to help guide the driver to the correct lane while on the road. It also features spoken turn-by-turn directions. With the Alexa integration, users can ask for news briefings, weather forecasts, traffic updates, and sports results, and also works with Skills — Alexa’s voice-activated apps. You can also use the device to remotely access smart appliances in your house, like lights, locks, and thermostats.
“Our vision is that the Alexa service will be everywhere our customers want it, including inside the car,” said Ned Curic, vice president of automotive at Amazon Alexa in a statement.
The device works with a free smartphone app called Garmin Speak, which uses the phone’s data connection to access Alexa’s responses, music, and directions. The Garmin streams these through the car’s speakers via Bluetooth or an AUX connection, and can accept or reject incoming calls. It attaches to the windscreen via a magnetic mount and is easily detachable when you want to stow it away.
There are some limitations with the Speak, however, even compared to other Alexa devices. The Speak can bring up music from Amazon’s services, but in our testing, it wouldn’t play songs from Spotify. And since Alexa doesn’t support calls or text messaging, you can’t use the Speak to place hands-free calls or send messages, like you can do with Google Assistant on Android Auto or Siri on Apple CarPlay. (The Speak does work as a Bluetooth speakerphone for incoming calls, but commands such as “Alexa, call home” do not work.) Lastly, while the device appears to have a circular display, the screen itself is a small rectangle within the circular housing and doesn’t display very much information. The LED ring does help with navigation, though, as it will glow green when you have an upcoming turn.
Dan Seifert contributed to this report.