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It’s not unusual to find a smartphone hooked up to a car, but in the vast majority of cases this is only done to make it easy to make or answer calls, use a navigation app, or play music.

There are many other ways that you can use Android in your car, however, from providing entertainment to your passengers to monitoring your vehicle’s performance.

Mount Your Android Device

If you’re planning to make Android a permanent addition to your car (and several motor manufacturers are, such as Audi, Honda and Hyundai), the most important thing you can do is mount it correctly.

To droid your ride with an Android smartphone, all you’ll need is a suitable dashboard or windshield mount tailored to your particular device. When it comes to tablets, however, things are a little trickier.

muo-android-nfc-car

One popular option is to connect your tablet to an adjustable stand that connects to the in-car charging port; however, these can prove unreliable while in transit. Dashboard or window mounts are also an option, but can take up too much space. They also draw attention to your tablet, potentially making your vehicle a target for thieves.

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Perhaps the best option for an Android tablet to be mounted in your car is to fit it directly into the facia, perhaps replacing your in-car audio system.

Setup Your Android Carputer

If you’re opting to install a tablet in your car as a permanent (but removable) new feature, there are several things that you will need to do, such as sort out a power source and Internet connection. One huge benefit of a connected carputer is that you can stay in touch with events on the road, such as traffic jams and accidents, use satellite navigation, etc., so having a mobile Internet connection is a good idea (although by no means mandatory).

You’ll find many guides online explaining how to setup an Android tablet carputer. Problems can occur if you’re unprepared, so we would recommend that you spend time researching how to setup your tablet correctly. The following video concerning a Nexus 7 car install is a good illustration of the various pitfalls and problems you might face.

Choosing the right apps for your carputer is important. Although you might use a custom ROM for the interface, having a single app to provide single one-touch access to in-car services is a much simpler option. Car Home Ultra is a good option here, although your Android device may already have a suitable app pre-installed, such as HTC’s Car Mode.

In-Car Entertainment For Your Passengers

Depending on the number of passengers, you might also like to use your Android carputer as the hub of a car-wide entertainment system, using an app like AllCast to send the video to the handheld device of a passenger. Naturally, you won’t be able to use the system to watch videos yourself, as such a distraction would be dangerous while driving. As such, you might encourage your passengers to use headphones.

muo-android-car-passenger

Alternatively, you might prefer to restrict your in-car entertainment to music only. We’ve previously looked at the many ways you can connect an Android device to your in-car 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 , from Bluetooth to short-range FM transmitters and Bluetooth dongles.

Monitor Your Car’s Performance With Android

OBDII is an on-board diagnostics system found in almost all cars manufactured after 1996, and it can be used to display information on an Android carputer using an inexpensive USB or Bluetooth device.

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With this device connected to your Android carputer you can use an app such as Caro0 Pro (shown above) or Torque Pro to monitor car performance and diagnose issues.

The benefits of this approach speak for themselves — up-to-the-minute monitoring of your car’s status that can help you spot any faults before they develop into problems and a possible breakdown.

You Don’t Need A New Car!

As mentioned earlier, major car manufacturers are beginning to introduce Android as an in-car entertainment management system with other carputer functions built in. Apple is also reported to be providing a new version of iOS specifically for cars.

Along with wearable technology such as Google Glass Is Google Glass the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? [MUO Debates] Is Google Glass the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? [MUO Debates] Join us as Justin and Matt face off in a debate about whether or not Google Glass is the next big thing that's going to transform the world of technology and mobile applications. Read More and smartwatches Should You Buy A Smartwatch Now, Or Wait? Should You Buy A Smartwatch Now, Or Wait? Everyone is talking about smartwatches and other wearables as "the next big thing." So, should you buy a smartwatch today, or wait for the smartwatches to come? Read More , official carputers are expected to be a big new market in the coming months and years. The truth is, however, that you don’t need to spend thousands on a new car to take advantage of this — the hardware, apps, and peripheral devices already exist.

Are you using Android as a carputer, or have plans to do so? Share your thoughts in the comments box!

Image Credit: Boy in car via Shutterstock

  1. whatdoctor
    July 22, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Connect to Internet by making your mobile phone a hotspot and connecting your car's Android device to your mobile phone.

  2. Iannis
    November 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Have a look at appyourcar.com. they found a way, to control your Android-Phone in a save and easy way. Not sure if this gadget is already available, but sounds interesting.

  3. Joey Brewer
    August 1, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I'm not sure why more people don't know about this, but windshield mounts and ac mounts can't compare at all to a custom mount to fit your specific vehicle and device from proclips USA. I've been using them for years for all my phones in both mine and my wife's cars. It's a two part solution and as I said before specific to your vehicle and the other part to your device. I've never seen anything sturdier and more professional looking than these.

  4. Lisa
    July 30, 2014 at 6:51 am

    If you decide to mount a phone or tablet to your dashboard or windshield, you may want to check local laws. It is illegal to do so in California. Although not enforced often, it's a risk.

  5. Martin K
    July 30, 2014 at 12:16 am

    I've been running Torque Pro in my Prius for a while now. Great app! Runs through an ELM327 Bluetooth OBDII adapter and it very comprehensive.
    If you're in the know, writing your own software for it (or download someone else's csv file) really expands it's versatility as well.

    • IDontwanttoliveonearthanymore
      March 5, 2016 at 4:51 am

      Why the hell would one bother using Torque Pro with a Toyota Prius. Face Palm!. Just ride a bicycle yah poor excuse for a human.

  6. Pugwash
    July 29, 2014 at 7:47 am

    I'm trying to use a Pioneer AppRadio2 headunit connected to my phone with a slimport cable, and running an "unchained" app on my phone to unlock the full system rather than the limited apps Pioneer want you using whilst driving.
    The problem so far is finding a slimport cable that doesn't go snowy with vibration. Also it means having to connect my phone every time I want to use it.
    The 7" tablet install is a great idea, especially as I picked up an Asus MemoHD7 a few months back for £60.

  7. pandu
    July 29, 2014 at 2:56 am

    I have obd installed and I bought Bluetooth receiver from groupon for 10 bucks. And I have a Bluetooth headset, I control pretty much everything from on Bluetooth headset which is jawbone era. From making phone call, opening application, taking picture, search for music. Everything is done without a touch. Oh I also have an nfc sticker in My car, I swipe My phone against it, and it changes My phone setting to be always on, because when The screen is off, The phone won't hear My voice commands.

  8. Ben S
    July 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I'm not running a sophisticated setup - just a $5 clip holder for my phone, a generic OBD II device, and the free Dash app, but I still like it. Dash is nice for knowing how much you spent on gas in a trip, or quickly checking out why your check engine light is on. I don't care about the social stuff, but it's a polished app overall. Just wish it didn't drain battery as much.

    If I had more money and hands-on skill, I'd love to put Android in my car even more. Maybe in the future : )

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