YBLTV Review: The Roav VIVA Car Charger (by Anker)
Smart technology is no longer a luxury add-on in today’s market, but a standard by which many mark their purchases. If our cars, homes, or phones don’t match up to the the industry’s “smart standard,” it’s seen as behind the times. Instead of gradually adapting to the smart-capable tech around us, we are constantly chasing after the next latest and greatest thing. However, there are many in the world – be it because of economic conditions or personal preference – stick to the basic standards on big-ticket purchases. I, for example, do not have a car equipped with satellite radio and smart settings; I was just excited when I found out my car had an AUX port for my music.
Smart technology has allowed for safer driving and more accessibility for those who need it. Our phones help us with voice-to-text and GPS features, but many cars on the road still don’t have the technology that new 2018 models boast. Many companies are seeing this gap in technology and are attempting to address it through accessories to assist the everyday driver.
Anker, a company best known for its charging accessories (and a much-loved company by this article’s author), has released the Roav VIVA car charger. Unlike it’s predecessors in the Anker family, the Roav VIVA is a 2-port, USB car charger that is integrated with Alexa-enabled assistance. This is meant to allow for hands-free calling and other voice-based directives, including directions and control over media being played through your car speakers. For set up, the Roav VIVIA can connect to the following: a regular hands-free system to incorporate Alexa as an addition to the system; a Bluetooth-enabled system; or through your phone’s connection to the AUX port in your car. In my case, I use a Bluetooth transmitter that is plugged into my AUX port to connect to the Roav Viva, so be warned that this is the experience I worked with.
The Roav VIVA is plugged into your car’s lighter socket to power the charger and initiate set up. You are then instructed to install the Roav VIVA app – from here, you can customize the commands and abilities of the actual device itself. I set my unit up to work with my Bluetooth transmitter as the intermediary between my phone, VIVA, and car audio.
The Roav VIVA has two charging ports, and the device itself has an LED border around the edge of the charger to indicate certain operations – green if making a call, blue if stationary, light blue if processing a command, etc.
- When I attempted to initiate hands-free navigation, the Roav VIVA seemed to require the secondary Amazon Alexa app to recognize my home address. I later realized that most of the customization that was available on the Roav VIVA was customized through the Alexa app. This isn’t a negative mark, since the whole point of the Roav VIVA is that it is Alexa-enabled, so it would only make sense that the Alexa app would be necessary. The only point I’m attempting to make is that you shouldn’t think that you can just plug in and go.
- Because my unit of the Roav VIVA was in beta, there were bound to be some bugs to work out. One of the issues I had with my unit is that, while listening to podcasts in my car, the Roav VIVA would often hear the voice on the podcast and register it as my voice. This would interrupt my podcast or music, only for Alexa to respond with “I didn’t get that.” I’m hoping that this will be resolved in the future, but as many are still having this issue with their Amazon Echos, I’m not sure how this would be resolved.
- The Roav VIVA allows you to control media through hands-free commands. I was a little disappointed that there was no support for Google Play Music or Soundcloud (my two most used stations for podcasts), there was support for Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, and Amazon Music. However, when I would request a station on Pandora, many times it would use the Amazon playlist. The secondary issue is that the app doesn’t open Pandora for navigation, but plays media off of the Roav VIVA app. Since I have pre-set stations, this was a bit annoying to me
- This isn’t a con, since you can change it, but if you have the “welcome message” setting on, and if you forget about it, it WILL scare you once it turns on. Trust me – I know from experience.
- Hands-Free Calls: While some cars already have this option, the Roav VIVA makes this easier for cars that do not have this option. Because of how sensitive the microphone pickup on the Roav VIVA is, making those calls is significantly easier than yelling at your phone.
- Hands-Free Media Control: Even though the Roav VIVA only supports certain media apps, I like the ability to control these available apps without having to look at my phone.
- Anker-Backed Design: I have mentioned in past articles my love for Anker products. Their designs are fantastic, functional, and their customer support is second to none. While there may still be some work to be done, I know that they stand by their designs while also really taking into consideration customer feedback. Anker is one of my top two tech accessory companies, so I cannot recommend them enough.
- Mute Button: While many people have issue with the constant pickup ability of smart technology, the Roav VIVA has a large mute button that is easily accessible. This allows for you to mute Alexa’s voice command when and where you want it.
- Charging Speed: The Roav VIVA has the PowerIQ charging technology backed by Anker, ensuring that you will have access to a power source, no matter where you’re driving.
- Price: At $50 (USD) on Amazon, this is (in my opinion) an excellent price for a piece of smart technology like the Roav VIVA. Since many,”normal” name-brand car charges run between $30 – $40 online, paying only $10 more for such a device seems like a deal to me.
- Need for Companion App: The Roav VIVA seems to work best with the Alexa App, which I wasn’t expecting to download. Since I’m someone caught in the Amazon/Google divide, using Alexa was a little unfamiliar to me.
- Doesn’t Replace In-Car Microphones: While the Roav VIVA can make hands-free calls for you, those calls are still dependent on whatever audio receiver is in your car. In my case, most people have a difficult time hearing me. While I don’t fault the Roav VIVA for this problem, I caution people that this is more of a smart assistant vs. an audio upgrade.
- Media Controls: From what I can tell, Roav VIVA doesn’t open a secondary app independently when you ask to play a station on, let’s say, Pandora. Instead, it will play Pandora through the Roav VIVA app. This prevented me from changing stations if the device got confused and didn’t register my command; I would have to open up the Pandora app itself. Additionally, even though it supports apps like TuneIn for podcasts, there are some podcasts that do not actually upload their episodes to TuneIn itself. I like to support podcasts on their main stations (or on apps where they confirm they are aware of), so this was a little concerning.
“In my personal opinon, the Roav VIVA by Anker makes hands-free technology accessible at an affordable price for those who are looking to upgrade their driving experience, while maintaining a flawless design aesthetic and simultaneously keeping their eye on their primary focus, Anker’s original roots – dependable, high-speed charging.” – Katie Hernandez, YBLTV Writer/Reviewer @khernandezybltv
Even though the Roav VIVA does have some current design flaws in its software, I found myself really loving not only the design of the charger itself, but the functionality and price. While this may not be totally necessary for newer models that have hands-free calling already, it allows newer cars to access Alexa capabilities (especially those who are firmly Team Amazon) and it allows older models to harness newer features that they previously did not have access to. I’m incredibly excited to see the what Anker is capable of in the areas of design and smart technology and I absolutely love the integration of Anker’s unique design aesthetic and Alexa capabilities. In my personal opinon, the Roav VIVA by Anker makes hands-free technology accessible at an affordable price for those who are looking to upgrade their driving experience, while maintaining a flawless design aesthetic and and simultaneously keeping their eye on their primary focus, Anker’s original roots – dependable, high-speed charging.
Disclosure of Material Connection: YBLTV Writer / Reviewer, Katie Hernandez received a Roav VIVA from Anker Innovations Limited in consideration for a Product Review.