Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Android-Powered Head Unit

Parrot was the first to market with an Android-powered in-dash receiver for cars.  6.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, complete with multi-touch, navigation, a host of inputs and connectivity options, and an assortment of auto-focused apps. 

The double-din unit’s home screen is comprised of six large icons for navigation, telephone, music, apps, settings and the Asteroid Market. The navigation graphics aren’t anything to write home about, utilizing a standard sat-nav display that’s on par with automaker offerings, but pales in the visual flare department compared to the latest from Apple and Android.

You can pair up to 5 phones and sync their respective contacts – a boon for families sharing a vehicle – with support for both Android and iOS devices, along with a USB port for music storage or a Wi-Fi card, and an SD card reader for up to 32 gigs of onboard storage.
Data tethering is accomplished over Bluetooth 3.0 (or the aforementioned USB dongle (Verizon or Sprint), and provides access to a small but strong list of music apps, including Spotify and TuneIn. iGo Primo and Waze are the two navigation options at launch, and the former pulled up addresses and points of interest quickly, auto-completing the search before we got a few letters into our query.

Six RCA inputs, one video input and one video output round out the connectors in back, and there’s a video input specifically for a back-up camera, while the built in Wi-Fi allows for video streaming for the kiddies in rear seats.

Despite running Android 2.3, the Asteroid Smart speeds through locally stored music and maps with ease. The soft buttons on the left side are a bit too small and speak to the head unit’s Android roots, but little usability touches – like the ability to adjust the volume or skip tracks in the music app by simply swiping up, down, left or right on the screen – prove that Parrot is focused on making Android a viable solution for in-car entertainment.