Logitech ZeroTouch review

Update: Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa has arrived for the Logitech ZeroTouch, bringing along its smarts.

This increases the value quite a bit, as you’ll now be able to do the following:

“To interact with Alexa all you need to do is hold your hand over the front of your phone to trigger the assistant. From there you can ask it the same things as you would with Amazon Echo at home.

That means up to the minute traffic reports, news bulletins and if the kids are misbehaving in the back you can always ask Alexa to “open the magic door” to keep them occupied with a choose your own adventure.”

Original review follows below.

Smartphone mounts are handy to have, especially if you rely on Google Maps for turn-by-turn navigation. You can buy basic mounts that do little beyond keep your handset from becoming a projectile, or fancier ones with integrated charging capabilities.

Logitech’s latest duo of Android smartphone mounts claim to add connected car capabilities to your exisiting car, so you’ll have in-car voice control capabilities without the need for a new car or upgraded radio.

While I’m still getting used to Logitech’s new consumer branding, the new ZeroTouch is a combination of a Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) connected car mount and a voice-controlled Android app, so you can use your phone’s navigation, music and messaging features without touching the phone.

Logitech offers two car mount options – air vent or dashboard. The ZeroTouch Air Vent simply clips onto your car vent, while the ZeroTouch Dashboard is available to stick on your dashboard or windshield.

The mounts aren’t completely new, however. They’re very similar to the Logitech [+] drive mounts, albeit with a few new tricks. Pricing for the ZeroTouch mounts is $59.99 (£49.99) for the Air Vent and $79.99 (£59.99) for the Dashboard, which is twice the cost of the similar Trip and Drive one-touch mounts.

It’s all about magnets

The mounts use magnets to secure your phone, but given that plastic and aluminum aren’t magnetic, Logitech includes two metal adapters to affix to the back of your phone. One is slender and rectangular in shape while the other is a larger, round disc.

Logitech suggests using the slender adapter for those that live dangerously and use their phones naked, like myself. The large round disc supposedly provides enough surface area to work through some phone cases. Each adapter sticks to the phone with very strong adhesive – I couldn’t force it off with my nails.

If your phone supports wireless charging, the adapter needs to be placed away from the inductive receiver. Unless, of course, you never use wireless charging, then you can place it wherever you want.

I attempted to affix the adapter to my Motorola Nexus 6, but the phone’s magnetic sensor and inductive receiver proved to be a challenge. You see, the Nexus 6 has a magnet sensor behind the M logo on the back of the phone, which shuts the screen off when a magnetic force triggers it.

The wireless charger receiver is located right below the M logo, which leaves the bottom of the phone as the only spot I could put the adapter, making the phone top heavy when attached to the mount. There’s also the curved back, which doesn’t play well with flat adapter plates.

Fortunately, I was able to borrow my wife’s Sony Xperia Z5 compact, which was better suited for the metal adapter. Both adapters affixed to the Z5c perfectly, but I stuck with the large round disc so it could work through her Sully silicon case.

How smart is it?

The mounts require an Android app download from the Play Store to take complete advantage of there capabilities. Both mounts have a battery powered Bluetooth LE controller inside with a sole purpose of telling the ZeroTouch Android app to launch and take control.

Logi’s ZeroTouch app is required to pair your smartphone with the mount. The cleverness of the mount resides with the magnet, which serves as an on/off switch for the Bluetooth LE function, so it only turns on when the phone is docked.

Expect two years of battery life from the mounts with two to three hours of use each day. The battery is replaceable by the user, too.

All the smart capabilities lie within the ZeroTouch app, which provides voice controls for texting, music, navigation and hands-free calling. The app uses the phone’s ambient light sensor to know when it should listen to voice commands – simply hold your hand about an inch away from the phone for a brief second, wait for the beep, and start talking to it.

While you’d think the ZeroTouch app would simply tap Google Now for voice capabilities, Logi uses its own cloud voice recognition platform. ZeroTouch does directly control apps, like Google Maps, Waze, Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Spotify and Deezer, but Pandora is oddly absent.

Is it any good?

Logi’s ZeroTouch has a very simple interface that lets you select which apps to use and a microphone icon. Voice recognition was able to interpret what I said and let me text my wife using voice-to-text. It felt awkward to high-five my phone to trigger voice commands, however.

Using voice search for points of interest (POI) was terrible. I asked the ZeroTouch app to “navigate to Best Buy” and it provided three options that weren’t the electronics store. Next, I tried “navigate to Best Buy electronics” and was presented with another three choices that were an hour away from my local Best Buy.

Google Now found the right location on the first try. So if the ZeroTouch app can’t find a simple, directly named location, I suspect it won’t be used often by buyers. I’d much rather use Google Now – frankly, ZeroTouch is more hassle than what is baked into every Android phone nowadays.

The silver lining

Logi ZeroTouch isn’t a great piece of software, but there is a silver lining. You can use the mount to launch BitSpice’s AutoMate, which provides an Android Auto-like user interface that takes advantage of Google Now features. It also uses Google Now voice search, which is superior to Logi’s.

AutoMate has an option that automatically launches when the phone connects to a specific Bluetooth device. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth hands-free, the Logi ZeroTouch mounts work great with it.

The downside is the ZeroTouch app has to be installed to pair with the mount, but the app runs in the background and shouldn’t conflict with AutoMate.

Final verdict

Logi leaves me conflicted with the ZeroTouch mounts. The physical mount is excellent and feels high-quality with its rubber texture finish, but the required metal adapter doesn’t work with all phones. My curved Nexus 6 with wireless charging capabilities is one of those phones, but the flat-back Samsung Galaxy S7 should be fine.

I’m not fond of the ZeroTouch app, which makes the mount “smart.” It has a spartan user interface and voice texting works well, but has trouble finding a simple retailer, which is unacceptable to me. The lack of Pandora support is odd, too. There are free apps that work better, like Automate.

The ZeroTouch app isn’t exclusive to the ZeroTouch mounts, either. It works with standard Bluetooth devices, like your car’s Bluetooth, so it can launch as soon you get in the car.

Since the app works with virtually any Bluetooth device, it makes it hard to justify the price tag for the ZeroTouch mount, especially since it doesn’t charge the phone. While I like the physical mount, I’d skip the ZeroTouch and pick up simpler the Logitech [+] Drive mounts for half the price instead.

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