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Anker’s mobile division Roav is today announcing an in-vehicle Alexa device. Called Viva, the device plugs into a 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet and turns Alexa into a co-pilot of sorts. After using it on a 4 hour road trip, though, I found the device adequate but left much to be desired. For one, it doesn’t support Spotify and occasionally it requires the user to interact with the smartphone while driving.

Setup is easy but takes a few steps. The user needs to plug the device into the vehicle and pair it with a smartphone. The smartphone also needs to be paired with the vehicle’s Bluetooth connection. The clever system streams audio from the Viva to the vehicle through this link while the smartphone is also streaming other content.

In practice the Viva works fine if its limitations are understood. Don’t tell it turn on Spotify. That doesn’t work. If directions are requested, exact phrasing needs to be used and in some cases, the driver will have to use their smartphone. And since this is an add-on unit, it does not have any control over in-vehicle systems.

The Viva features a stripped down version of Alexa and it shows.

I’m not convinced the Viva is a necessary gadget. It does not do anything substantially better than Siri or Google Assistant. And since the Viva is reliant on a smartphone, there’s a good chance users will already have a device equipped with one of the other voice assistants.

The Viva will cost $49.99 when it comes out in early 2018. It’s novel, but I fear most units will quickly loss their appeal and end up forgotten in a glovebox.

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