The Treehouse Blog

Android Car Radio

on Apr.28, 2013, under Computers, Linux, Radio

Background

While shopping for my 2011 Toyota RAV4, I tried out vehicles that both had and did not have the factory navigation package. I decided that I basically didn’t like it. The one I purchased did not have the navigation package, but did have the “JBL” audio package and Bluetooth hands-free support, which seemed to work well.  After having some annoyance in mounting my aging Garmin nuvi (and having it stick properly), problems with the factory radio sometimes not working, and probably some pent up desire for a “project”, I embarked on finding a alternative.

Alternatives

I gave up on any cellphone-only solution since I needed to replace the factory radio anyway, and did not wanted a solution that appeared integrated (e.g., did not involve something with a windshield or bean-bag mount).

One set of options are the new head units that tether to your cell phone, allowing you to control your cell phone through the in-dash unit.  These generally involve HDMI output from your phone and use a Bluetooth connection for communicating touch screen interactions.  An example is the AppRadio series from Pioneer.  In researching this, it appears that the functionality is somewhat crippled out of the box, and that with a 3rd party app (ARLiberator).  I do think this notion has promise (and it did finally push me over the edge to buying the Slimport to HDMI adapter that works with my Nexus 4), but if I had to plug in my phone for each use, it mostly would be left undone except for extended trips.  This just did not seem to be the right answer.

The next option was a head unit that natively runs Android.  There brand name in this field seems to be Ca-Fi.  There are a number of knock-offs of this brand, the most common of which is being actively discussed on xda-developers.  I chose to get one of these units, and I will detail that adventure in upcoming articles.

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