Gadget Review: Anker Innovations' Roav Bolt with Google Assistant

An easy way to get Google's AI in your vehicle

By , Columnist
If your vehicle didn’t come equipped with Android Auto but you’d like access to Google Assistant while you are driving, the Roav Bolt could be your answer.

This clever little gadget from Anker Innovations plugs into a vehicle’s 12V cigarette lighter socket and doubles as a dual USB adapter. The convex top of the Bolt has a row of small circles that light up when the Assistant is listening, and a finger tip-sized depression that you press to hear your notifications read out.

To hear feedback from the Bolt you need to connect it to your vehicle’s audio system. You do this by pairing it with a phone using Bluetooth. If your phone is already connected to your vehicle via Bluetooth, it will relay audio from the Bolt straight to the speakers. Alternatively, you can connect Bolt directly to your vehicle’s audio using a 3.5 mm cable, which plugs into a port in the side of the device. 

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Setting up the Roav Bolt out of the box is easy. Once you have plugged it into the lighter socket in your running vehicle, you go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings and look for 'Roav Bolt’ under the list of devices available for pairing. Pairing should just require one tap on the screen as the Bolt does not prompt for a pairing code.

If pairing is successful, Google Assistant will open automatically and you will be taken through a short series of steps that ensure the Bolt is connected to your audio system and its output is audible. If all goes well you will land on the Settings screen where you can say which apps you want to get notifications from and tweak the Bolt's other features.

Being able to hear notifications read out is a useful capability and may make the Roav Bolt it worth having even if you do already have Android Auto as that system doesn’t relay notifications on your phone. When a notification is displayed on your phone, the Bolt will tell you which app it relates to. Pressing the depression on the top is easy without taking your eyes of the road and will prompt the Bolt to the notification out loud, albeit in a robotic voice.

Aside from reading out notifications, the Roav Bolt does all the other things you would want a Google Assistant-enabled device to do. It will, for example, respond to voice prompts, play podcasts, read the news, save reminders, add things to your shopping list and allow your to make phone calls and send text messages. Being an in-vehicle device, it will also give you directions, albeit without being able to show you a map.

The Roav Bolt has also got one up on Anker’s Alexa-powered charger, the Roav VIVA Pro, because it will play music from Spotify and other streaming services, such as Google Play and TuneIn Radio. Initially I had some issues with this feature - it would tell me it was going to play the song I requested without subsequently playing it -  but suddenly, after about a week, it started working properly, streaming songs with little noticeable delay.

Although I was never able explain the streaming issues, the fact that they were ultimately resolved means this gadget comes highly recommended for anyone who wants Google Assistant on the road. I have tested both the Roav Bolt and the VIVA Pro and found the Bolt to have greater versatility and much better hearing (I often had to shout to get the VIVA Pro to respond to me). The PowerIQ-equipped charging ports with are an added bonus and help make the Roav Bolt good value for anyone who has bought into the Google AI’s ecosystem. 

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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