JBL this morning announced a slew of Assistant products like new Bluetooth headphones and the Android TV-powered Link Bar. The brand’s latest device is the JBL Link Drive that essentially brings a Google Assistant microphone into any car via the cigarette lighter.
Google Assistant is already available in cars via several mediums including Android Auto on the phone, standalone/integrated head units, and even Google Maps. For those that don’t want to buy a costly aftermarket accessory or don’t like interacting with screens while driving, the Link Drive is a more smart speaker-like way to talk to Assistant.
This triangle-shaped car accessory plugs into your 12V cigarette lighter socket. It works with both Android and iOS by auto paring (and reconnecting) to the Google or Assistant app on your phone. Once setup, Assistant can be accessed through the standard “Hey Google” hotword with four indicator lights.
In addition to syncing with your phone, the Link Drive connects to in-car stereo systems via Bluetooth or the auxiliary outlet on older vehicles. This microphone essentially acts as a bridge device between the two and can remember multiple phones.
Dual-noise cancelling microphones on the JBL Link Drive tune out road, wind, engine and general driving sounds. “Radio Barging technology” will quiet music while users are issuing a command, with incoming phone calls also taking priority.
Users can ask for directions, traffic conditions, weather, or calendar updates. For users that don’t want to use the hotword, there is also a multi-function key that will begin listening with a short press, while a long one will mute the microphone, much like the switch on existing smart speakers.
The JBL Link Drive will be available this spring for $59.95.
This is a rather interesting new product category for Google Assistant that could particularly excel by being highly affordable. It takes a page from devices like the Home Mini, both on price and the convenience of not having a display. This new product class is likely the one we’ve been tracking in our weekly APK Insights of the Google app.