What is it?
Anker say that the Roav Viva is a world-first. Although it looks like a fairly standard in-car charger it actually brings the Amazon Alexa assistant into cars for the first time.
The Roav Viva acts as a normal charger, with two high-speed USB sockets that support rapid charging for the latest handsets. But it also features Bluetooth and, via a smartphone app, allows you to use voice control to access Alexa while driving.
Anker say that this lets you bring the convenience of Alexa wherever you go.
What’s it like?
That comes down to how dependent you are on Amazon Alexa and how much you buy into its way of controlling your life.
As a device, the Roav Viva does its job very well. The unit is bigger than your average charger but doesn’t take up too much dashboard real estate. Two USB ports in the side provide rapid charging and the top is dominated by a single button and a microphone for voice control.
Once you’ve downloaded the Anker and Alexa apps a couple of minutes tinkering with your Bluetooth settings will have everything connected and the apps, your phone and your car’s Bluetooth system talking to each other.
That’s where the good news ends, however.
As an in-car assistant Alexa is irredeemably hopeless.
You are so tied into Amazon’s ecosystem it renders half of the functions on your phone useless. You can’t send messages to anyone unless they have an Amazon-connected device, you can’t play media stored on your device, and you can’t make a hands-free phone call.
In comparison, a quick “OK Google” and I can send a message to whoever I chose via whichever app I want, I can play a podcast or tune via my chosen player rather than the handful of streaming options Alexa offers and I can phone my mum without having to touch the phone’s screen – which Alexa is incapable of.
If the point of an in-car assistant is to make live easier, Alexa fails at every turn.
As well as failing to offer basic functions and apparently forgetting pre-set information such as my commuting route and morning routine its voice recognition is shocking. After asking for directions I was given the dictionary definition of the word winkle. An enquiry about the traffic conditions got me the Wikipedia entry on Columbo and asking where the nearest petrol station was got me an update on a random second-division German football team.
For drivers, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri, which are baked into Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, are more flexible, more useful and just plain better.
If you can get Alexa to understand you and find knowing the bus times in Ulaanbaatar more useful than send a Whatapp or making a hands-free phone call then the Roav Viva is an elegant solution to bringing Amazon’s home assistant to your car.
However, from my experience you’d be better off saving £30, buying a regular Anker PowerDrive Speed 2 charger and using the far superior assistants already built into your phone.