April 19, 2019
Google debuted the results of a partnership with Anker, releasing the $50 Roav Bolt, that brings Google Assistant to automobiles. Previously, consumers who wanted Google Assistant in their cars could purchase a vehicle with Android Auto or install the Android Auto app on their phones. The device fits into a car’s 12-volt port (the cigarette lighter) and features USB ports on the side for charging a phone, with an AUX jack as well. The user activates the device by saying “Hey Google” or pressing a physical button.
Engadget reports that the device also features four LED lights: “blue indicates pairing mode, orange is when it’s looking for a connection, green is for an incoming call and white is when it’s listening to you.”
The Roav Bolt, although it is easy to set up, only works with Android phones, although an iOS version is “still very much in beta at this point.” The Engadget reporter tested the device, connecting it to her Pixel 3: “The Google Assistant wizard automatically kicked in, and I followed the on-screen setup instructions.”
The Bolt is “on standby at all times, [which] means you don’t need to unlock the phone in order to utilize Assistant.” The Bolt also has “very low” battery consumption, “compared to having Assistant open at all times on your phone.” The device features far-field microphones with noise and echo-canceling abilities, which “allows for better voice pickup, at least if you decide to use the AUX connection.”
The reviewer calls it “essentially a more Google-fied version of existing Bluetooth dongles, with a greater emphasis on voice and the Assistant,” which means the user doesn’t need to rely on her phone and won’t need a car mount.
The reporter’s only complaint is that she doesn’t “have a screen for the step-by-step directions … but a Google spokesperson said that’s easily solved by investing in a phone car mount.” Otherwise, she was able to “play [her] favorite songs, use it for directions, make phone calls, read incoming messages, and add appointments to [her] calendar … [share] ETA with someone or [find] a nearby gas station while navigating … [as well as] use it to turn off the lights in my house, even while on the road.”
The Anker Roav Bolt is available at Best Buy locations as well as online at Best Buy and Walmart; it will eventually be sold in Walmart stores and Target. Other options include Anker’s Roav VIVA, “a similar product, but with Amazon’s Alexa on board instead,” although it isn’t compatible with Spotify and requires “exact phrasing for navigation to work.” Amazon also plans to release Echo Auto.