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Want to use Android in your car Droid Your Ride - 3 Ways To Bring Android Into Your Car Droid Your Ride - 3 Ways To Bring Android Into Your Car Curious about setting up an Android device as an in-car entertainment system? Here's is everything you need to know. Read More , but aren’t able to afford the upgrade to a brand new vehicle with an Android carputer?

Fear not: a car mode app brings voice control, sat nav integration and weather information to any car, however old it might be. All you need to do is mount your phone on your dashboard and install a suitable app.

Several are available, and here we’re going to compare five of them: Car Mode Ultra, Ultimate Car Dock, Car Dashdroid, InDrive: Custom Car Home, and the HTC Car app found on HTC-branded devices such as the HTC One.

Comparison Criteria For Car Mode Apps

In order to accurately assess these apps, I’ve opted to rate them based on the following five criteria:

  1. Visual clarity
  2. User interface speed
  3. Voice control
  4. Information & weather
  5. Google Maps Integration

I’m also using HTC Car as my reference point. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is a polished app that certainly meets expectations. The other four apps should be able to match or exceed these.

Each criteria will be rated out of five, which should enable us to determine a clear winner.

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(Note that I’m not assessing media control options, as these apps can all support third party apps via customizable shortcut buttons. If you are looking for a way to play music from your Android device in your car, however, you’ll need to know how to connect it to your car’s audio system How To Connect Your Android Phone To Your Car Audio System How To Connect Your Android Phone To Your Car Audio System Most of us enjoy music while we’re driving, but often radio doesn’t play the right tunes. At one time the obvious choice would have been a CD, but of course these scratch easily. Fortunately mobile... Read More .)

HTC Car

It’s clear and has a fast, smooth user interface that is clearly part of the Sense 5 UI, but HTC Car isn’t by any means perfect. Although voice dialling is an option and the display will show you the time, your speed, and nearby weather, HTC Car doesn’t always launch apps setup with the custom buttons. It does, however, feature good navigation and Google Maps integration.

muo-android-nfc-car

HTC Car also launches automatically when used with the official HTC car dock, thanks to a small magnet that is built into the device, which activates a microswitch inside the phone when attached to the dock. The same effect can be achieved on the other apps using NFC tags and Trigger Achieve Android Automation Zen With NFC Tags Achieve Android Automation Zen With NFC Tags Want to live in a world where you can use your Android phone to unlock your front door or boot your PC? You can do this, and more. Read More .

Strictly speaking if you’re not using a HTC One with the original ROM (or a version with a few enhancements) then you won’t be able to use HTC Car (for instance, you might have flashed OmniROM 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device With a bunch of custom ROM options out there, it can be hard to settle on just one -- but you should really consider OmniROM. Read More ). Although there are APKs floating around online for HTC Car, they’re not entirely reliable, so chances are that you won’t be able to find a copy for your device. If you do, and it works, please share in the comments!

Overall: 3/5

CarHome Ultra

Available free on Google Play, CarHome Ultra combines Google Voice search, navigation tools, and a voice dialer along with 25 configurable single tap buttons across five screens. There are also six information tiles that can be displayed in three available slots.

muo-android-carmode-ultra

Perhaps it tries to cram too much in, but visual clarity suffers in the information tiles on this app. When I drive, I like to be able to see the time, and as my vehicle is currently a 15 year old seven-seat family car, I tend to rely on my mounted smartphone for this information as reading the dash clock can be challenging.

The problem here is that the clock is just too small, although overall the UI is good and works in both orientations. There’s also a night mode.

muo-android-carmode-ultra-night

I’ve found that the voice dialing doesn’t seem to work, which may be an issue with my contacts and not the app, although OK Google works without any problem. Weather and temperature information seem to be accurate, and the Navigation button integrates with Google Maps and your Android account history.

Overall: 3/5

Car Dashdroid

Looking very much like the lost default car mode screen from Google Android 4.4 KitKat, Car Dashdroid is simple and effective. Swipe left to make a call and right to find your eight custom buttons and use the main central screen while you’re driving. Here you’ll find the time clearly displayed alongside the current weather, and below this your current approximate speed.

muo-android-carmode-dashdroid

Voice activation integrates with OK Google, contacts can be launched quickly, and the navigation button is configurable so you don’t have to use Google Maps if you are using the TomTom app, for instance.

Car Dashdroid is a polished, slick, easy to use app that also features a comprehensive group of settings and a night driving mode with muted colours.

Overall: 5/5

Ultimate Car Dock

Perhaps trying too hard to squeeze in all of the perquisite features of a car dashboard app, Ultimate Car Dock features a clock that is too small, a ridiculous 24 custom buttons (you’re not supposed to use the phone while you’re driving, so why on earth would you need 24?!) and a battery meter on each screen of the app.

muo-android-carmode-ultimate

Where it does work well is with the Voice Command tool, but without built-in weather information (there is a speedometer, but this has its own screen) Ultimate Car Dock is really anything but. You’ll also need to upgrade to the paid version after 7 days. Given the limited featureset, this certainly counts against the app.

Overall: 2/5

InDrive: Custom Car Home

muo-android-carmode-indrive-landscae

Taking a more literal approach to the car mode app paradigm, InDrive has three seperate screens: GPS, which is pictured above and shows your speed, distance travelled, exact coordinates, and altitude — all customizable; Music, which requires the Poweramp app for the best results; and Apps, which includes an immense 30 custom shortcut buttons with vertical scrolling, although the shortcuts only support a limited number of apps that you have installed.

muo-android-carmode-indrive-options

With its clean UI and optional night mode, InDrive also features docking options, connectivity settings such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and a full car mode option to disable other features.

Sadly, there is no voice command system or weather information display built into InDrive, although the rest of the app works as you would expect, with Google Maps integration through the apps screen. Also, InDrive: Custom Car Home is no longer supported by the developer, but you’ll still need to upgrade to the paid version after the 30 day trial period is up.

Overall: 3/5

What’s Your Favourite?

Car Dashdroid is our winner. It has superior information options, voice control, fast Google Maps integration, and an attractive UI that presents all of your required tools and apps without any fuss.

However, you might well have a better suggestion. Perhaps you’ve been using a native car app, or you stumbled across one that is really good but doesn’t have too many reviews on Google Play.

Use the comments to share your thoughts.

  1. Paul Mann
    November 20, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I have tried all of these, but in some point I realized it's too complicated. I then searched for slightly different apps and i found autify app that's just awesome and the only thing i currently use when driving.

  2. Vince schatz
    May 24, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Automate hands down!

  3. Stewart Swift
    May 28, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I tried Car DashDroid because of your suggestion and I have to say you're wrong. Car Home Ultra is quite a bit better. Thanks anyway but I've gone back to CHU.

    • Randy Wolkens
      November 5, 2016 at 1:05 am

      I have to agree with you. I like Car Dashdroid, but I use Auto Sleeper to put my tablet to sleep when I turn off my car, and Dashdroid wakes it back up immediately every time. I have adjusted the settings on both apps many times to no avail. Gave up, and moved to CHU. I don't like how Car Home Ultra says that I am going 5 mph sometimes, although I am parked with the key off, and that I have to go all the way back into Pandora every time I pause music to restart it.

  4. BG
    January 31, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Why would I need to waste 1/4 of my screen space to show the damn weather? I can look out the windows of the car to see that! I would rather use that precious real estate for 2 more app buttons.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      It would be quite reasonable for me to reply: "you might be driving at night". But it's your phone, use the buttons that please you :)

    • Dan Saint-Andre
      March 4, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      I want the on-screen weather to tell me what the next 60-180 minutes of weather will be like in the location(s) surrounding where I am driving.
      In ancient times, I reported the weather outside my window as an AM Radio on-air person. Guess what!! Folks mostly wanted to know what the weather was going to do in the near future -- 4-8 hours or 3-7 days.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      It's certainly a strange attitude. Especially on a long journey, it is important to be prepared for weather taking an unexpected turn.

  5. Xavier
    January 14, 2015 at 1:55 am

    I love car dashdroid For me it's the best and has all features i want with one click away, the developer listen a lot of users and update frequently, the UI its awesome i love it, match with the material design so well

  6. Jack Nelson
    January 3, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    You fault carhome Ultra for providing many shortcut options, saying one shouldn't make calls from your phone, but your favorite has a dial pad! That seems inconsistent.

  7. Davin Peterson
    August 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Yesterday, it was announced that some new Toyotas will come the Nexus 7 tablet built in.

    • Anonymous
      September 30, 2014 at 1:14 am

      Yeah but it's still a nexus...a piece if junk

    • blake
      January 25, 2015 at 10:58 am

      The nexus is anything but junk, I have never had a single problem with my nexus 5. It is a great phone, even my friend who had the htc one switched to a nexus. I wish the price wouldn't have jumped so much with the nexus 6 or I would have bought one already...

  8. Rob joky
    August 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    the imagine of lovely face

  9. Anonymous
    August 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    its so many faces of

  10. Mark L. Ferguson
    August 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I've been using Car Home Ultra for well over a year. The creator of this app is constantly making improvements. I can't believe that your review of this app docked it for not having the time big enough! You seem to be really reaching to find the negatives in this app. I have never had an issue with the voice dialing using Google Now on this app. Perhaps you should go back and recheck your settings. The latest release has vastly improved this app...so I wholeheartedly recommend that you should go back and take another look at this app. I have tried all the other ones, to include the picked favorite here, and in my humble opinion, Car Home Ultra stands heads and shoulders above them all.

    • Edward
      November 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Mark,

      I agree with you. I have been using Car Home Ultra since LTE became available on Verizon. I love the App and continue to use it. It is very customizable also if you take the time to play with the settings.

      To the author,
      Adjusting the contrast will help with the clock.

      • Mauricio
        June 11, 2016 at 10:34 am

        I like CHU very much but I have one complaint: there's an annoying feature in this app. When a song is playing, many times it fades because of a notification sound from the app that I don't know what it is or how to disable it.

    • Avl Visionary
      March 25, 2015 at 2:51 am

      DRIVE EASY AMAZE : Car mode + Dash Cam + Auto Answer + More
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avlvisionary.drive_easy

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