You’re driving along; you’re bored. The tin-pot local radio station you’re listening is pushing out clichéd chart music… perhaps you’re lost. Perhaps it’s time you relied on your Android device for entertainment, navigation and general in-car information?
Whether planning to use a phone or tablet, Android has a wealth of useful apps that you can use to stream music from the Internet, navigate your way from A to B and even manage fuel logs and mileage expenses.
Some apps, of course, are better than others…
Roadhouse Blues: Use Your Apps Safely!
Before we take a look at what’s available, let’s be crystal clear:
You should not touch your phone while driving!
As these apps can provide vital assistance or a bit of entertainment while you’re driving, it is important to maintain safety and to stay within the law – as well as to just be a generally decent person. So if you have passengers, rely on them to interact with any apps you have running.
If you’re traveling alone, cue music to run while your car is stopped; pull over to make amendments to your satnav app.
That is all. Just don’t do it.
Ultimate Motoring App: Auto-M8
Before you start your journey, you should have already installed Auto-M8 (free signup required), a superb tool for ensuring you have access to vital things like mileage tracking and accident assistance.
While many new cars have onboard Internet connectivity and push-button accident assistance options, most of us don’t drive such a car. Thanks to Auto-M8, however, such technology is now available, along with facilities to log your mileage and fuel use, find nearby filling stations and more.
There is a bit of configuration required behind the scenes to get the most out of Auto-M8, but this is an essential addition to any dashboard-mounted Android device and can turn a dumb car into a smartcar.
Currently, Auto-M8 appears to be UK-only. Find out more at www.auto-m8.com.
Satnav on Android with Google Maps Navigation
It is unwise to head anywhere new without first planning your trip. If you haven’t had time, however, you can make amends on the fly using Google Maps Navigation, the excellent satnav app for Android which is essentially an extension of the main Google Maps app.
Free, and perhaps already installed on your phone, Google Maps Navigation provides you with the tools to get from A to B.
If you haven’t already used Google Maps Navigation to guide you on your journey, our recent selection of 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips should help you on your way.
Of course there are other satnav apps (Waze is a good one – as you can read in our review of the iOS version – but its speed trap tool isn’t 100% reliable, based on the way the data is collected). Google Maps is already installed on your phone, though, so you can try it out first and see how it works for you.
First things first – if you’re using a dashboard mounted Android device, forget about online TV. While you might have tablets in the back of your car for younger family members to watch videos, this isn’t something you can expect to have in the front of your car, for obvious reasons of road safety.
However, there are several apps you can use to provide audio entertainment.
Spotify: the popular music streaming service is available on Android, and if you’re already using it on your PC you can simply sign in and start listening. You might also choose Rdio if that is your preference, although if you’re new to both you should see our comparison to give you an idea of what each brings to the table.
TuneIn Radio: if you want to listen to the radio, TuneIn Radio offers a massive selection of worldwide talk and music radio stations. This is a great way to catch up on overseas sports events, news, listen to music stations you wouldn’t normally have access to – it’s a great app that should be on your Android device already, but if not, install it in advance of traveling!
Beyond Podcast Manager: if you prefer podcasts, then this is probably your best bet on Android. You don’t need to mess about syncing podcasts from your PC – just subscribe to your favorite podcasts and they will be automatically downloaded.
If Google Play Music is available in your territory, meanwhile, you might use that; you may also stream audio to your device from your preferred cloud storage.
If you need help connecting your Android to your car stereo, we’ve got you covered already.
Voice Tools for Android
You’re driving; you don’t want to be touching your phone. But what happens if you receive a text message, or a phone call? How do you deal with other demands of making a call, or searching the web for a phone number without touching or looking at your phone?
The answer, of course, is voice recognition apps. Handsfree is a good option, enabling you to receive calls over a Bluetooth or wired headset, and answer calls automatically.
While, the most recent versions of Android have voice recognition and messaging transcription options in the shape of Google Now, if your phone doesn’t support this then you should perhaps try something like Sonalight Text by Voice which will not only read incoming text messages, put allow you to dictate replies.
Keep Your Eyes On The Road, Your Hands Upon The Wheel
We’ve already told you that you shouldn’t be using your phone when you’re driving unless you have hands-free tools and apps and/or have a companion on board who will do all of the tapping and swiping for you.
Please take heed.
The apps selected here have been chosen to give you the best digital experience when driving. They’re intended to enable you to enjoy the drive, arrive safely and have access to emergency and breakdown services as quickly as possible while also monitoring your fuel consumption.
Of course, these apps are our suggestions. What are yours? Please share them below.
Image Credit: Mike Babcock