Android Auto on Pioneer AVIC-7100NEX Review

Android Auto

As I talked about in my recent article outlining what Android Auto is, Google is hoping to make our roads safer by bringing a feature-rich experience to your car without causing you to take your eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel much longer than a single press-of-the-button. Pioneer gave me one of their AVIC-7100NEX units with Android Auto installed for me to use. Let’s see if Google’s idea was well implemented.

[df-subtitle]Setup[/df-subtitle]

I go through a lot of this in my “What is Android Auto, and how does it work?” article, so I won’t go into much detail about how to do it.

I’ll get into this more later, but the odd thing about Android Auto is this it’s so simple… it’s complicated. Plugging your phone into Android Auto for the first time takes quite some time to download the Android Auto app, run the app, and actually set up the phone. There isn’t a whole lot for you, the user, to do other than sit and wait.

I have mixed feelings about this, as first-time set up for just about anything takes longer than normal, but I suppose when I would like to get in the car and get going, my road rage kicks in early when I’m sitting parked in my car for 5-10 minutes.

The other thing about Android Auto is while Google is much more restrictive about how a third-party app is designed for the system, not every app works perfectly with the system, and they don’t exactly work the way a car radio might normally work.

For example, I enjoy listening to podcasts at times while driving. If I get in the car and open a podcast through a third-party app, I like to listen to the whole thing before playing something else. So you’d think that the next time I get in the car, Android Auto would know to pull up that app and start playing that podcast immediately.

Well, that doesn’t happen. The system seems to think I want to set things up differently every time. While theoretically the system isn’t supposed to know what I want to play at any given time, at the very least I’d like it so that opening up the podcast app begins playing the last thing it played.

But at this point, who is to blame here? Seeing as how Google is keeping the design of the app under control, and the ones who approve it, it could be their’s.

However, we all know one of the beauties of Android exists in the openness of the app ecosystem. So then is it the app developer? Either way, it would be nice to see Google encourage this sort of functionality, so that just like a normal car radio, I don’t need to fiddle with anything just to get audio playing.

On that note, I’d like an easy way to find apps compatible with Android Auto through my phone as currently there is no easy way to find them on Play Store. Perhaps a link to a section in the Play Store from the Android Auto app (while not connected to the car) would be useful similar to the Android Wear apps.

[blockquote author=””]Android Auto is leaps and bounds better than any other in-dash car software system.[/blockquote]

[df-subtitle]Usage[/df-subtitle]

Android Auto is a great piece of software… once you understand how it works.

Let me explain: Android Auto strives to keep things as simplified as possible, so that the driver won’t be distracted. Once you understand that, Android Auto works great. The problem is, I kept trying to complicate things. Rather, I kept trying to use it like an Android smartphone.

For example, when going to use Google Play Music, I wanted to select an artist to play. However, you can’t navigate to an artist’s page like you would on the Google Play Music app on an Android phone. Instead, you have to prompt Google with your voice, and say “Play *Artist Name*”. The only options you have by touch are “Listen now” (recommendations), “Recent playlists”, and “Instant mixes” (mixes based on your favorite artists & songs).

Point is, once you understand you’re not supposed to fiddle with the screen, using Android Auto is great. Navigating is fluid, animations follow Material Design standards, and compared to other car dash software, the performance is phenomenal. I felt like I had a smart car, being able to give it commands via voice with little-to-no hassle.

 

[df-subtitle]Conclusion[/df-subtitle]

I understand that this review seems pretty wishy-washy about my feelings for Android Auto. I suppose that is how I feel, wishy-washy. On one hand, Android Auto is leaps and bounds better than any other in-dash car software system. I feel like I’m aboard the Enterprise talking to the ship computer whenever I ask Android Auto to give me the best place for tacos nearby.

On the other hand, some of the things I would expect to be natural parts of Android Auto, aren’t. Also, seeing as how the entry-level price of Android Auto is the cost of a flagship smartphone (no-contract), it can be hard for the average user to justify spending that money.

But really, how can you blame the developers of Android Auto? For a first-time build, it really is beautiful.

But I’d really like it to work like my smartphone…

But… but…

  • Jimmy Hauser

    I think android auto is weak sauce. I understand they want to keep it simple, and that voice control is the future. But I am not talking to a machine. Pioneers own music player in that radio works much better. Even at a glance.