Review: Android In The Car? Brilliant!

Written by Tony Ibrahim     20/06/2012 | 06:08 | Category name i.e.AUTOMOTIVE

HiTV has ported the Android operating system found on your smartphone into your car, but does the versatile OS deserve the full time gig?

It all starts with the notification light. Sure enough, I'll be well on my way and then I'll see the LED light blinking. All of a sudden, I'm compelled to juggle gear changes, the indicator stalk and my mobile, simply to find out who may have called or poked me on Facebook.  This behaviour is as bad as driving drunk, and that's one of the reasons why intelligent car management systems like the iDroid 8000 exist.

It's a device so versatile that it's hard to define. A stringent definition would classify it as a car entertainment console, but its webcentric persona imbues it with a social presence and a suite of Android applications that give it the leg up over its old fashioned rivals.

It runs an older version of Android (2.2), but one that has been set up for use when driving. Seeing as most smartphones in Australia run Android, you're intuitively informed on how the console works, bar the inclusion of a few custom applications.

There's a few applications endemic to Android that have always been optimised for driving, and Google maps/navigation falls under this category. Just as you'd expect, you can perform voice searches when you're on the go, or resort to input via the touchscreen. Google's GPS is amongst the best, masking incredible sophistication behind an easy-to-use interface, (it even alternates to a picture of your destination upon arrival).

Places is an application of note, empowering users by recognising 'places' of interests, and is superior to many GPS alternatives simply because it has Google's wits.

A third party application labelled SWC (Steering Wheel Control) will help this console naturally assimilate with your existing car by assigning functions to the controls located on your steering wheel. Up to 8 different steering wheel controls can be programmed to launch a detailed selection of applications.

Naturally, the console will mingle with your Bluetooth smartphones and replay your phone calls via the in car speaker system. An in built microphone can be located on its far left, marginally below the bespoke volume knob.

Riddled with connectivity options and peripheral support, the iDroid8000 features a concealed USB port on its front that allows you to manage the multimedia stored on your smartphone, be it Android or iOS. Furthermore, it'll let you browse the content directly from the console, rather than demanding you handle the device while on the go. 

To turn an ordinary journey into an adventure, there are detailed audio options. Although you can nominate which sound is being replayed via which speaker, it's laid out in a very easy to use fashion, as is the equaliser.

Music can be gleaned from a SD card, microSD card, CD, or via any device that'll plug into the auxiliary (3.5mm) input or USB 2.0 port found on the front.

While the music is cranking (and the car is stationary), you can skim through your Facebook or Twitter accounts, check emails and check weather forecasts. If you're free from social networks, but still longed to be entertained when stuck in traffic, there's Google's whole marketplace to browse.

Android has a capable browser and the iDroid 8000 makes good use of it, although we can't help but cry 'novelty' over the compulsion to surf the internet when driving. In any case, the feature is there and users have the option of tethering internet from their smartphone or plugging in a USB dongle into the dedicated USB port found at the back.

Retailing for $1,399, the iDroid 8000 is a pricey unit, but enthusiasts looking for an excuse to pick one up can hide behind its DVD player; an additive that helps entertain the young ones on long journeys.

There's no denying it's well equipped and versatile, featuring more tools than a Swiss army knife. Whereas Pioneer, Alpine and Kenwood all offer similarly priced alternatives, HiTV's iDroid8000 boasts Android's operating system, and that will be enough to sway most.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Webcentric; Detailed; Easy UI; Rich in connectivity;

Cons:

Expensive;