Amazon Echo Auto (Gen 1) vs. Echo Auto (Gen 2): Should you upgrade?

For Amazon, the Echo Auto is a gateway to plug Alexa into vehicles, bringing its voice assistant into one of the spaces people spend the most time in outside the home. While only a generation apart, these two bear no physical resemblance, and their respective features and functions also draw clear distinctions.

Amazon Echo Auto (Gen 1) vs. Echo Auto (Gen 2): How are they different?

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Amazon Echo Auto Gen 2 on dashboard side view.

(Image credit: Amazon)

At first glance, the most obvious difference is in their respective designs. The first-generation model presented a flatter, pad-style build more consistent with Amazon's Echo product line at the time it came out in 2018. Four years later, the second-generation model followed a similar path, given the fabric cover that so strongly resembles the current Echo product lineup.

Cutting down the Gen 2 model for size also opens up more options in where to put it. For example, both models can work with an attachment to latch onto an air vent, only the lighter weight and smaller frame of the Gen 2 makes it considerably more stable once you put it there compared to its predecessor. Amazon sells the vent mount separately or as part of a bundle, so while there is one in the original, you won't get it in the box with the newer one.

Alternatively, you can stick the included adhesive onto the dash and attach either unit to the other side. You have to find a spot that isn't made of soft plastic, leather, or fabric to make it stick properly, but there's no question the adhesive coming with the Gen 2 is stickier. The cables and connections don't differ as much except the Gen 2's cable doesn't detach. Each of them comes with a 12V socket adapter for power, plus a 3.5mm cable to plug into the vehicle's Aux-In port for audio playback to run through the car stereo.

Amazone Echo Auto Gen 1 applied on car dash.

(Image credit: Amazon)

The Echo Auto Gen 1 has an eight-microphone array whereas the Gen 2 has five. That would indicate a major flaw in the newer model, but that's actually not the case because the two capture voices well, even with typical road noise and windows down. Amazon claims its own improved algorithms fill in for the fewer mics in the Gen 2, but it's hard to know exactly how they work.

Both have the same mute and Alexa activation buttons, so nothing changes there between them. Hands-free access also runs through the Bluetooth connection enabled between the device and your Android phone. You need to run the Alexa app to set it up and ensure the integration works at all times.

Amazon Echo Auto (Gen 1) vs. Echo Auto (Gen 2): How do they work?

Amazon Echo Auto Gen 2 in car while driving.

(Image credit: Amazon)

The main purpose for having either device is to access Alexa hands-free in the car. Either Echo Auto model does that, letting you do several things while driving. That could include controlling smart home devices, making calls, texting, looking up places of interest, or playing music on demand. 

Regardless of which model is in the car, you need the Alexa app on your Android phone to not only set up the device but also facilitate when it can do. That process is no different with either one, only performance and functionality could change due to improvements Amazon made.

Amazon Echo Auto

(Image credit: Russell Holly / Android Central)

The Echo Auto Gen 2 not only responds faster, it also offers better call quality when communicating with others using Echo speakers at home. The mics do a better job interpreting voices and accents than the previous model did, which can save a lot of time and effort if it gets things right more often.

There are two other distinctions between them that stand out. While connected, the Alexa app has an option for Roadside Assistance, which can be helpful if you've got car trouble in an area you're not familiar with. The other is that it comes with a fast car charger to plug in a phone via USB-C. The 12V charger on the original Echo Auto charges at a slower rate.

Amazon Echo Auto (Gen 1) vs. Echo Auto (Gen 2): Driving it around

Amazon Echo Auto Gen 2 dash on angle.

(Image credit: Amazon)

The Echo Auto fits best with vehicles lacking modern infotainment systems. If you're already running Android Auto, you may not need either one of these unless you're heavily invested in the Alexa and Echo ecosystem. Android Auto gives you Google Assistant hands-free, and it integrates with messaging apps, like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram, which the Alexa app doesn't.

You could use both an Echo Auto and Android Auto together, though you might only do that if you really need access to Alexa in the car. If that's you, the Echo Auto Gen 2 is the better way to go for its efficiency and ancillary features. You do have to pay extra for the vent mount, but it's worth the money for the versatility in placement it gives you on a crowded dashboard.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.