09-29-2016 04:53 PM
34 12
tools
  1. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170035.jpg

    Over the past year and a half, Android has slowly been making its way from more places than just our phones and tablets. Android Wear was announced as a system to power smart watches, while Android TV is now embedded in set top boxes and smart TV’s. Perhaps the most surprising, Android Auto, debuted at Google I/O 2014 to power the entertainment system in our cars.

    “Power” may be a bit overzealous of a description. Like Apple’s Carplay for iOS devices, Android Auto projects an interface onto your vehicle’s head unit. The head unit will specifically have to support Android Auto for everything to project correctly, so you’ll need the correct head unit and wiring for things to work out.

    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170105.jpg

    I purchased and had the Pioneer 4100NEX head unit installed in my car two weeks ago, and I’ve used Android Auto every day on the way to work for music playing.

    If you buy a new car with an Android Auto compatible head unit, or have a third party unit installed, the setup process is fairly easy: dig into the settings on your head unit to pair your phone over Bluetooth, install the Android Auto app from the Play Store, and plug your phone into the USB port. You do get some extras if you get a new car with an Auto compatible head unit, such as using the car’s more powerful GPS for navigation and a hardware voice action button.

    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170628.jpg

    The display will only show a few apps: music, the phone dialer and maps. There’s a voice actions button for voice actions, but more on that later. I purchased the Pioneer 4100NEX, and it has physical volume, mute, home, mode, back, forward, and exit button. While running Android Auto, the home, mode, and exit buttons will take you back to Pioneer’s interface. While I’ve gotten used to the volume buttons placement well enough to change it without taking my eyes off the road, I would still have preferred a volume knob.

    The biggest interaction you’ll have with the Android Auto interface is with voice commands. If you buy a car with an Android Auto-compatible head unit, it will most likely have a physical voice command button, but if you buy a third party unit like I did, you will have to make due with the software button on screen. Again, it’s pretty easy to get used to where it is since it never changes place, and you can use it for anything from basic tasks like making calls and sending messages, to more complex actions like setting reminders and telling Google Play Music which playlist to listen to.

    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170212.jpg

    That is, if it can understand what you are saying. I would say 80% of the time, the system would understand what I wanted and everything would be peachy. 10%, it wouldn’t understand me and throw back an error. The last 10% was the most infuriating, as the system would attempt to understand what I said, then do some very odd actions. Random music would play, I would get strange reminders set, and worst (and most hilarious) of all, text messages that have nothing coming close to proper sentence structure would be sent.

    After a couple days of odd behavior, I took it back to the shop that installed the head unit, and everything checked out in terms of wiring and the microphone. It started behaving again soon after, but there will always be the worry that the system won’t understand what I want it to do.

    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170226.jpg

    Another issue I’ve had only twice in my use has been my music volume randomly getting much lower than it should be, with the head unit volume still showing it at a normal level. The first time it happened right as I was pulling into a gas station, so resetting it was no issue. The second time it happened as I was driving sixty miles per hour on a highway, and I did the terrible thing and unplugged my phone and plugged it back in while driving. I’m not going to come up with any excuses for my unsafe behavior, but I know I’m hardly the only person who would do that.

    Since everything on Android Auto is controlled through the Android Auto app on your phone, it’s very easy for it to get updated. Because the system is subject to safety regulations, don’t expect a whole new slew of features to come out every few weeks, but the ability to update things quickly from the Play Store should mean bugs get squashed quickly as well.

    My Android Auto Review-wp_20151202_18_50_29_rich-2-.jpg

    Onto the positives of the system, when everything works, it works beautifully. So long as you’re using the correct apps for music, navigation and messaging, getting it all running on Android Auto is as easy as plugging your phone into the USB cable. Only certain messaging apps that have been approved will read notifications and let you respond with your voice. One big missing app is Facebook Messenger, but there are other IM and SMS clients represented. Likewise, there are plenty of music apps as well, including Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music.

    If you receive a notification for one of the approved services, a card will display on the top of the screen, and tapping it will read the notification aloud to you. Once it’s done being read, you can tap the voice action button to speak your reply. There’s also a popup option to tell the recipient you’re driving. You can also initiate a conversation by saying, “Send a Hangout to Sharon Westrick and say ‘Hello.’” Selecting music is just as easy; you can say “Listen to The River and the Thread by Rosanne Cash” as an example for an album, or just saying an artist's name will start playing their tracks.

    My Android Auto Review-20151202_170145.jpg

    There are no options to change your dialer to a VOIP service like Skype or Hangouts, and there is no option to change navigation to anything besides Google Maps. Maps gives you all the same information it does on a phone, including points of interest, alternate routes, and icons for gas stations along your route. Calling someone is as easy as choosing music and sending messages; just press the voice action button and say “Call Home.”

    One feature I both love and hate is the automatic brightness and theming: if you don’t have your lights turned on, the screen is very bright and the entire interface has a white background. If your headlights are engaged, the brightness is turned way down and the interface has darker backgrounds. This is awesome when it’s night time, but makes the system very hard to use if you have your lights on because it’s raining or overcast. In the future, I hope there is an option to quickly disable the dark interface after engaging the headlights.

    My Android Auto Review-wp_20151202_18_50_30_rich.jpg

    With the exception of the incidents mentioned above, I feel Android Auto has made me a safer driver. I don’t (because I can’t) fiddle with my phone at stop lights, or try to type out a text while driving down the highway. When it works, the voice recognition is very easy to use, and lets me take care of a few personal things while keeping my eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. It’s also changed how I charge my phone, as the drive to and from my work is enough to get me through the day and night respectively, so I don’t need to plug my phone in overnight.

    However, the inconsistencies with voice actions are going to keep me from recommending the system for now. I get that no system will work 100% of the time, but it needs to be better than it is now. I’ll keep the system in because being able to see my navigation is really helpful, but if I’d known the voice actions would be this bad I wouldn’t have bought it.

    If you’re thinking of getting a third party system that is Android Auto compatible, you need to take a good, long look at exactly what you want it for, and how soon you plan on upgrading your entire car. I am coming from a basic CD, FM radio and Aux port factory head unit and I plan to keep my car for the next five-ten years before upgrading it. The full cost of the head unit and installation ended up being around $800 and for me, being able to actually see my route and points of interest while also doing some basic things with my voice (when that worked), and keeping my eyes on the road is very much worth it. If you already have a head unit that does calling and navigation, I don’t think it’d be worth the upgrade. If you are currently car shopping and want to get something with Android Auto, I think it would be worth the extra investment.
    12-03-2015 09:24 AM
  2. Kalnel's Avatar
    Nice review. I would note that some of the issues you're having, like the screen changing to night mode when your lights are on, are not true in my Hyundai. It seems to operate based on the ambient light, not whether the car lights are on. I haven't had any issues with the volume suddenly increasing, either.
    12-03-2015 09:43 AM
  3. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    Nice review. I would note that some of the issues you're having, like the screen changing to night mode when your lights are on, are not true in my Hyundai. It seems to operate based on the ambient light, not whether the car lights are on. I haven't had any issues with the volume suddenly increasing, either.
    Maybe the headlight issue is another drawback of getting a third party install over having it built into the factory unit. My interface absolutely won't change at dark if I don't have my headlights on.
    12-03-2015 09:47 AM
  4. biotron2000's Avatar
    You can set the dimmer to go on and off at specific times in the settings.
    12-03-2015 10:26 AM
  5. DLCPhototography's Avatar
    Very fair and honest review.

    I have had a 2016 Hyundai Limited with the built-in Android Auto, for about a month now, and just love it.

    For what it's worth, Voice Recognition with this car/hardware, has been excellent - extremely reliable and accurate, with only occasional misunderstanding of what I intended. So it may not be Android Auto per se with this issue, but the hardware that supports it.
    12-03-2015 10:30 AM
  6. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    You can set the dimmer to go on and off at specific times in the settings.
    Where is that option?

    Posted via the Android Central App
    12-03-2015 11:19 AM
  7. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    Very fair and honest review.

    I have had a 2016 Hyundai Limited with the built-in Android Auto, for about a month now, and just love it.

    For what it's worth, Voice Recognition with this car/hardware, has been excellent - extremely reliable and accurate, with only occasional misunderstanding of what I intended. So it may not be Android Auto per se with this issue, but the hardware that supports it.
    That's good to hear at least. Again, the shop that installed it insists the microphone and connection is all set up correct, so I have to use it as best I can.

    Posted via the Android Central App
    12-03-2015 11:21 AM
  8. Cant Miss's Avatar
    FYI... I have had NO issues using 2 different Moto X's and a Nexus 6P, so perhaps it is your mic's placement or phone that is causing the trouble with speech recognition.

    Also, it is a relatively simple and inexpensive project to install physical buttons in your car for a number of functions, including voice.

    http://forums.androidcentral.com/sho...d.php?t=540062
    12-03-2015 11:22 AM
  9. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    FYI... I have had NO issues using 2 different Moto X's and a Nexus 6P, so perhaps it is your mic's placement or phone that is causing the trouble with speech recognition.

    Also, it is a relatively simple and inexpensive project to install physical buttons in your car for a number of functions, including voice.

    For those with Pioneers, but no steering wheel mounted controls... - Android Forums at AndroidCentral.com
    That seems interesting. I've gotten used to wear the voice button is on the interface, so I'm in no rush to hack together a hardware button.
    12-03-2015 02:09 PM
  10. opg4759's Avatar
    I've had the 7100 for a couple months now and the only thing that drives me nuts is the destination navigation cards on the notification screen that can't be dismissed.

    In my FJ Cruiser I used the Metra Axxess ASWC-1 Universal Steering Wheel Control Interface to allow my steering wheel controls to work and to program a long press on one of the buttons to activate the voice commands. I also like that Metra has an android app that uses USB-OTG to allow programming the unit from a phone.
    12-03-2015 02:22 PM
  11. Err19's Avatar
    Great review. I live in NY and have not been able to find any information on what will happen if I drive from NY to Canada using AA. I would have it either in my car or a aftermarket unit. When i run out of service would the head unit GPS take over and any data services like traffic stop? If anybody knows please tell me!
    12-03-2015 03:09 PM
  12. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    Great review. I live in NY and have not been able to find any information on what will happen if I drive from NY to Canada using AA. I would have it either in my car or a aftermarket unit. When i run out of service would the head unit GPS take over and any data services like traffic stop? If anybody knows please tell me!
    Not sure about in Canada, but in the US you can download Google Maps to use offline, up to a certain storage amount. Alternatively, the more expensive model, the Pioneer 8100 has Nokia's Here Maps built in, so you could download maps to the head unit itself.

    Posted via the Android Central App
    12-03-2015 03:29 PM
  13. DLCPhototography's Avatar
    Great review. I live in NY and have not been able to find any information on what will happen if I drive from NY to Canada using AA. I would have it either in my car or a aftermarket unit. When i run out of service would the head unit GPS take over and any data services like traffic stop? If anybody knows please tell me!
    AA and the car's built-in GPS/Navigation system are completely independent. So if AA stops functioning due to loss of cell service, you'd have to separately program the built-in Navigation to continue.

    Google Maps does now have the option to download maps while you have a connection, so perhaps you could plan in advance, and have the maps available on your device. You would lose traffic data without an active connection.
    12-03-2015 03:31 PM
  14. razorsbk's Avatar
    How about Waze? Is it supported by android auto?
    12-03-2015 04:18 PM
  15. Cant Miss's Avatar
    Not yet.
    12-03-2015 04:20 PM
  16. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    How about Waze? Is it supported by android auto?
    No, but some of Waze's features are now present in Google Maps, for what that's worth.
    12-03-2015 04:33 PM
  17. Phil Nickinson's Avatar
    I very much doubt we're going to see Waze as it exists on the phone available with Android Auto. Too much flashing things to stab at, ya know?
    12-03-2015 06:39 PM
  18. Cant Miss's Avatar
    I very much doubt we're going to see Waze as it exists on the phone available with Android Auto. Too much flashing things to stab at, ya know?
    Nevertheless, Waze has said they're working on it, and it will be 'soon'.
    12-03-2015 07:27 PM
  19. Insp_Gadget's Avatar
    That seems interesting. I've gotten used to wear the voice button is on the interface, so I'm in no rush to hack together a hardware button.
    On my 8100NEX (which I installed myself in my 2006 Charger), if you long press the center button on the head unit it will activate voice command (regardless of whether you are displaying the Android Auto interface on screen or not). No need to install a hardware button for voice control.

    My car has steering wheel controls for volume, tuning, etc. (I installed the appropriate control relay to map the steering wheel controls.)
    12-03-2015 10:39 PM
  20. Steve Mancia's Avatar
    I'd be happy with just a display that casts video of my phone in landscape with all the apps available. I'd create a separate profile to keep my phone notifications private with passengers in my car. Switch at will.
    12-04-2015 01:15 AM
  21. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    I'd be happy with just a display that casts video of my phone in landscape with all the apps available. I'd create a separate profile to keep my phone notifications private with passengers in my car. Switch at will.
    This head unit also supports Mirror Link, which does exactly what you're looking for. Unfortunately, my Moto X doesn't support Mirror Link so I can't try that.

    Posted via the Android Central App
    12-04-2015 06:17 AM
  22. Tom Westrick's Avatar
    On my 8100NEX (which I installed myself in my 2006 Charger), if you long press the center button on the head unit it will activate voice command (regardless of whether you are displaying the Android Auto interface on screen or not). No need to install a hardware button for voice control.

    My car has steering wheel controls for volume, tuning, etc. (I installed the appropriate control relay to map the steering wheel controls.)
    Tried that on my drive to the gym. I think if it was instant I'd use it, but the software button is good enough.

    Posted via the Android Central App
    12-04-2015 06:48 AM
  23. OliverK's Avatar
    I have an AVIC-F70DAB installed in my car; that's the equivalent of the NEX7100 I believe with built in sat nav.

    I have been having some frustrations with voice commands.

    Randomly it will say "If you are speaking I can't hear you" (or words to that effect) when I press the mic button.

    It can sometimes be fixed by unplugging the phone or turning off the unit and other times it can't. It seems to do it for no reason either; it will be working fine then stop.

    I've seen similar behaviour with Siri in CarPlay; it won't hear anything. The thing is it isn't the mic as I can make a phone call and I come through loud and clear.

    Anyone else experienced this? Thanks.
    12-07-2015 06:22 PM
  24. Cant Miss's Avatar
    What phone?
    12-07-2015 07:11 PM
  25. OliverK's Avatar
    Nexus 6P (And my iPhone is a 6S Plus for CarPlay)
    12-07-2015 07:50 PM
34 12

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-03-2015, 04:30 PM
  2. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-03-2015, 12:17 PM
  3. My phone won't connect to wifi, how can I get it working?
    By AC Question in forum General Help and How To
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-03-2015, 12:08 PM
  4. My watch is on a different language. How do I get it back to English?
    By AC Question in forum General Help and How To
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-03-2015, 12:00 PM
  5. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12-03-2015, 09:09 AM
LINK TO POST COPIED TO CLIPBOARD