Amazon and Garmin teamed up to make a tiny Echo Dot for your car with Alexa navigation

Garmin has worked with Amazon to release the first Alexa device made for your car. The Garmin Speak is a small round device that attaches to your car windshield to provide you hands-free access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on the go. While it looks just like a tiny Echo Dot, thanks to its LED light ring, it also has an OLED screen on the front that works with Alexa and Garmin’s software to provide both spoken and visual turn-by-turn navigation directions.

The Garmin Speak is 1.5 inches wide with a tiny 114 x 64 pixel OLED screen on the front that’s surrounded by a multi-color LED light ring. It attaches to a car windshield magnetically, so you can easily hide it away if necessary, leaving just a small coin-sized black disc in its place when not in use. It’s powered through a micro USB cable that plugs into a 12V accessory socket.

The Echo-like device has a small built-in speaker, but you’re intended to connect it to your car stereo, either via Bluetooth or a wired 3.5mm auxiliary port on the power socket. It has a pair of beamforming microphones that are always listening for the Alexa wake word. On the side closest to the driver is a microphone mute button and an action button to manually trigger Alexa.

The Garmin Speak needs to be connected wirelessly to your phone, via an app available for both Android and iOS devices, in order to work because it uses your phone’s data connection for all of its functionality. You configure the device’s settings through the app and can input navigation destinations manually through the app if you don’t want to use your voice.

Of course, all of Alexa’s usual capabilities, including smart home control and Alexa skills, are available through the Garmin Speak. If that’s all you want from this device, you might be better off just putting an Echo Dot in your car and connecting it to your phone’s hotspot WiFi connection, like many people have already done. Where the Garmin Speak takes things a step further is its navigation capabilities.

Garmin has created a new Alexa skill that can exclusively be used by the Garmin Speak. The Garmin skill, unfortunately, requires you to say “Alexa, ask Garmin…” before giving any navigation command, but it thankfully has a very robust set of features.

The Garmin skill lets you search for nearby locations, by saying something like “Alexa, ask Garmin to find some BBQ,” and start navigation. You can also specify a city, street, or intersection, by saying something like “Alexa, ask Garmin to find a Chinese restaurant near 12th street and Vine Street,” if you don’t want to search near your current location. You can also save locations in the Garmin app and ask for them by name by saying something like “Alexa, ask Garmin to go home.” As you’d expect, you can also say a specific address or intersection.

With a destination set and navigation started, Alexa will speak out turn-by-turn directions, either through your car stereo or the built-in speaker on the Garmin Speak. In addition to spoken directions, your next turn will be displayed on the Garmin Speak’s screen. It will also give you lane guidance on the screen and a distance countdown.

The Garmin skill allows you to ask for route information at any time by asking “how much farther?” or “what time will I arrive?” You can also ask for information about your location by saying “where am I?” or “what’s the speed limit?” or “how’s traffic?” Lastly, the Garmin Speak will also allow you to answer or dismiss phone calls using your voice.

The Garmin Speak is $149.99 and is available to purchase today.

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15 comments
  1. Bill says:

    i guess when voluntarily bugging your house isnt enough……

    • TinFoilBuster says:

      It must be tough not having a smart phone then. Since you’re so concerned about being bugged you clear wouldn’t use a smart phone, right? It has microphones, cameras, GPS, and would be with you all the time. Anyone worried about Alexa/Echo spying on them would surely NEVER cary a smart phone, which is the ultimate bugging and tracking device.

      • Reflex says:

        Nice username! I point this out all the time. Echo devices are *less* useful as bugging devices than the phone we all carry in our pockets, yet people freak out about them.

      • Bill says:

        i guess it would really blow your mind if i told you i dont have a “smart” phone either then huh? i still cherish my privacy. no social media accounts either. no tinfoil hat here, everything is backed up by leaked top secret documents.

        • Reflex says:

          At least you are somewhat intellectually consistent, although browsing the web already compromises you tremendously (Google knows who you are and where you go).

          However at the end of the day that is a personal choice. My job does not leave me with the option of not using a smartphone, and while I also cherish my privacy I understand that nothing is absolute and focus instead on awareness of what information I make available. I actually read the privacy policies of devices like the Echo, and as a result I am confident that they are reasonably secure and private.

          At the end of the day, if the feds are who you are worried about they don’t need a phone or a smart assistant to watch you. A FISA court order and a few gadgets and you are completely compromised. They don’t even need the court order if the intent is not to charge you with anything. There is no such thing as absolute security or privacy, and certainly no immunity to overreaching government or corporations.

          • Bill says:

            FISA?????? ok im not talking about hiding my tracks from divulging government secrets – that is pretty far fetched. i dont use google either, and browser is private.

            the only computer i use is the shared workstation at work.

  2. Leo says:

    Wow. Who is the target market for this device? I thought the standalone GPS (for driving) died 8 years ago?

    I’m only a light Google Assistant user, I suppose this is for the Alexa superfan. Still, wouldn’t a smartphone app have won the day?

    • Reflex says:

      The point really is that you don’t have to do a phone mount or interact directly with your phone, which is cumbersome and distracting. I’m not sure it makes sense at this price point without other features like a screen or a dashcam, but conceptually this is a more elegant solution than a phone mount.

      • Leo says:

        Doesn’t smartphones overtaking standalone GPS devices in the late aughts refute that theory? And interfacing directly with a smartphone in your car has improved quite a bit in that time.

        What advantage does the Speak have over a 2009 Garmin, other than Alexa? And if Alexa is the only advantage to most consumers, why not just a smartphone app?

        Feels like Amazon built a device to fulfill their needs, rather than the consumer’s. That’s a viable strategy sometimes, “throw something at the wall”. They’ve probably learned a lesson or two from the Fire phone and will limit early production; too bad, because I might well pick up a Speak for $120, if it includes a free year of prime.

        • Reflex says:

          1) I’m not sure how smartphones overtaking GPS devices refutes my point that driving is less distracted the less you have to look away from the road.

          2) What advantage does the Speak have over a 2009 Garmin other than the one thing that is a huge advantage over the 2009 Garmin (Alexa)? I’ve tried to use my phone purely by voice on my modern infotainment system in my 2017 vehicle. It’s imprecise at best. Alexa, at least in my home, rarely misses anything. Obviously I don’t know how well they implemented it here and won’t until/unless I try it, but phones have set an incredibly low bar to this point.

          3) Amazon did not build this device, Garmin did.

          • Leo says:

            Sorry, I replied a bit too quickly, didn’t explain well.

            1) I simply meant the market already voted against stand alone GPS once in favor of device simplicity. I don’t disagree that dedicated devices fit specific jobs better, just that this was already “decided” by consumers, almost a decade ago.

            2) That’s interesting. My experience with Google Assistant doesn’t match yours (with either Google or Siri, I’m guessing). I’m not a huge user, but for controlling entertainment I find Assistant pretty flawless. My point here, though, was that an Alexa app on your phone would accomplish the same. Basically we’re back to: would you prefer one generalist device or two specialized devices. That’s all I meant in pointing out Alexa is the “only” new advantage that might catch a broad audience.

            3) Fair point. To restate: feels like Garmin built this device in partnership with Amazon to satisfy their joint needs, rather than the consumer’s.

            All of the above is just for intellectual fun, though. We’ll see how the market reacts in no time. For some people this could be a great product, but I’d be surprised if it catches on beyond a small base.

            At the end of the day, neither Garmin nor Amazon have much to lose if they’re careful in managing production costs.

          • Reflex says:

            1) The market as a whole certainly voted in favor of phone based GPS devices. That said, there is still a market for standalone devices, and I know many people who still prefer them. Garmin does not have to capture ‘the market’ in order to have a winning product, they simply need to find ‘a market’ for this device. This seems like a logical 2017 refresh of the standalone GPS concept, albeit not being truly standalone since it actually does rely on a external phone, mapping software and LTE connection so its more of a hybrid approach.

            2) The Alexa app on your phone does not give you visual and audio mapping features. This device is an attempt to merge GPS with Alexa style voice control.

            3) I am still not certain why you keep injecting Amazon into this. There are dozens of third party devices now that include Alexa. Amazon will help nearly anyone who wants to make a device, app or service based on Alexa since their goal is to bring Alexa to as wide an audience as possible.

            I sent some questions to Garmin recently as I have a niche use case of my own: I use a high security phone running CopperheadOS. As a result I do not have access to Google Play Services on my phone, including Google’s mapping API. This has resulted in no ability to use Google Maps. I reached out to Garmin and asked if their software had any dependencies on Google Maps or the Google Play API. They told me they did not, and that it would work with any mapping data provider that was set as the default on Android. I have installed HERE Maps and the Garmin Speak app on my phone, and will be trying out the device when it arrives tomorrow or Monday.

            We will see how it goes.

  3. BigAl says:

    I will only be interested when this will be available….”Alexa, I’m drunk….take me home”.

  4. Dan says:

    Garmin spark or speak? Why do i need this when all smartphone typically have navigation already, this device requires. A smartphone connection and i have an alexa app on my phone?

    • AFTVnews says:

      Doh! Thanks for catching that. It’s called the Garmin Speak. Not spark. Funny thing is I was calling the Echo Spot the Echo Spark just last week and caught myself. Now it bled back in with this post.

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