Typically, whenever you plug a USB charging adapter into the 12v outlet of your car, you are doing nothing more than looking to get some power to your phone or other devices. The adapter itself is usually nothing more than a wall adapter you’d use for the exact same task. However, what if you could do more with that adapter?
ROAV, a series of products by the company Anker, has an adapter called “VIVA” that does exactly this. It is a charging adapter that provides two PowerIQ equipped charging ports for all of your devices, while also acting as your source for integrating Alexa into your car. So, that makes it a “smart charger”.
It features a design familiar to a number of (normal) car chargers, with a large head connected to a 12v adapter. It has the two USB ports on the bottom side that can keep up with your hungriest devices, and the face of the unit features a centered microphone button, surrounded by an LED ring similar to an Amazon Echo device. That’s it–pretty simple in looks.
The button on the front simply allows you to mute (or unmute) the microphone so that you know it is only listening when you want it to. Just in case you don’t want to activate anything at the moment, you have someone named Alexa or Alexis in the car with you, or you are a strong conspiracy theorist hell bent on the idea that big brother is recording everything you say.
Setup is simple, but does require you to register an account using the app. You start off by plugging it in and waiting for it to boot up (the LED ring will begin to spin, showing that it is ready to connect). You would then download the app to your mobile device by searching for “ROAV VIVA” within your app store of choice (iOS or Android). It will walk you through logging in or setting up a new account. When it is ready to search for the VIVA, simply select the unit on the screen to add. Then you add your Amazon account to your profile, and you are ready to “Alexa”!
VIVA depends on your phone for connectivity in order to work and needs to be connected to the app. So it will only work if you have your phone with you. The phone does not seem to require being unlocked or out of your pocket (we have tested on Android thus far). You simply treat it like any other Alexa-enabled device, and go to town.
It features an on-board noise cancellation chip so that it can properly focus on your voice. This helps to limit false positives and hear you even if you have music running. It was also designed to withstand pretty much most of your weather situations, covering for most of your cold regions as well as anywhere it is hotter than (you know). It can withstand anything between -4°F to 257°F temperatures, giving it the durability you need to leave it in your car and forget about it.
When you car powers on and the device boots up, it should automatically connect to the app. If your car doesn’t power on/off your 12v outlets with the car, you will have to remember to manually remove and replace the adapter each time (as you would anything plugged in). However, if your car does power your 12v outlets on/off with the engine, then you can leave it there and it will always be there for you when you need it.
We did find that the app does drain battery (doh!). Once installed, the screen will flash on and off every few minutes, apparently having to wake to the lock screen in order to achieve something (scanning for the VIVA possibly?). At first we pondered what was driving down the batteries of the phones we tested it against, until we noticed the screens doing that as they sat undisturbed on a surface like a desk. Uninstalling the app put an end to this. So, obviously there is some work that needs to be had on the app for a perfect scenario. They might want to see how Android Auto pulls all of this off without draining the battery when you aren’t in the car.
There is a battery saver mode in the app that disables the live monitoring apparently, however this forces you to have to manually open the app each time you get in the car for it to connect (and the app still seemed to be drawing down the battery).
This category would be best described as “awesome” since the ROAV VIVA performs exactly as any Echo device would, delivering all of the expected functionality, and can interact with your smart home gadgets all the same. The microphone reacts great despite most of the scenarios we threw at it, and the latency wasn’t any different from using an Echo at home.
Once you have it all setup, the whole experience becomes quite use-friendly. You can open the app and customize it a little (ie, you can dim the LED light if you find it is too bright for you).
There was a moment where we had a lapse in brain power. At first, we thought the volume of Alexa was too low (compared to everything else the phone was streaming). The app didn’t offer any option to increase the volume, which through us off for a moment. However, seconds later we remembered that this is Alexa (duh). All you have to do is say “Alexa, set volume to #” (# = 1-10). So everything was completely fine.
What’s in the box?
Nothing really, outside of the unit at least. There are some simple instructions, as well as a few cards that demonstration some of the things you can do with your voice.
This is a fantastic way of bringing Alexa into your car. It responds perfectly to your voice just like Amazon’s speakers do in your home, and seems to be just as quick reaction-wise. It sounds like it will live up to nearly any temperature situation (outside of extreme colds), and the entire idea is great. The price is a little high when compared to something like a n Echo Dot (when comparing what’s in side), but the only thing really affecting the score beyond that is the app, which needs a little work so that it doesn’t drain your phone’s battery. Beyond that, if you are looking to get Alexa into your car, here’s a great way of pulling it off!
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