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Topic # 199062 3-Aug-2016 11:00
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While I'm aware there are some threads already about head units (most recently from @Lizard1977) I would like to discuss more generally what GZers have done to make their dumb cars smarter. This has been prompted by me both modifying my existing 2004 Nissan Maxima and looking to replace it.

 

The Maxima (NZ new) was reasonably well specced when it came out, climate air, cruise control, etc, but no Bluetooth, reversing camera or navigation. Having bought the latest gen Ford Focus with Synch 2 I have discovered how useful all these extra features are. But an all-in-one aftermarket solution for my Nissan doesn't exist. That is partly to do with the Bose system fitted and the way the climate controls are integrated into it. So after much searching I ended up installing a product from Xcarlink that linked into the multi CD changer port on the back of the oem headunit and provided Bluetooth connectivity using the headunit buttons for control. So can now make/receive calls and play music from my phone, but there is no useful info displayed on the car's screen.

 

The next step was for a reversing camera, once again no way of integrating it into the oem system, and at the time, ones built into a rear view mirror were clumsy and expensive. Having a standalone monitor just for the camera seemed a bit redundant. So I tried a wifi camera that linked to my phone, but it's performance was patchy and it refused to work completely with an android phone with lollipop or later (app software abandoned by developer). So I decided to go wired and got a camera with built in reversing sensors off ebay (China). It ended up being surprisingly easy to run the av cable through to the front of the car. I printed a self designed mount for my phone which incorporates a wireless charger and connected the camera via a USB dongle and OTG cable. I use google maps for navigation (or Here Maps offline). I was considering adding an OBD II adapter as well but have decided after all that that I would like to update the car completely.

So then I started looking at newer family sized cars. I can't afford brand new, so have been looking at approx 5 yo. Most NZ new models are very limited in the tech they have in that era and the JDM imports have all the smarts, but are only useful if you read and speak Japanese, and want to drive around Tokyo.

 

I have had a good run out of my Nissans, but their insistence on integrating their navigation, entertainment and climate, makes them virtually impossible to 'smarten' or convert from Japanese. So you are left with a display that yells at you in Japanese and is only any use as a reversing camera.

 

For that reason i started looking at Mazdas and Subarus. Both have separate climate controls and have aftermarket head units available that provide navigation, Bluetooth and reversing camera. There are ones that appear to replace the oem units exactly, as they have the front face the correct shape and rake angle rather than having to fit a dash kit. Most seem to run Windows CE 6.0 although some now run Android 4.4 and even 5.1.

 

Some of the imports I have viewed have a Pioneer Carrozzeria head unit fitted. Once again JDM so useless here, and they never seem to sit correctly in the dash (rake angle wrong), but I would guess you could easily change it out with a mainstream brand double din unit (easiest option). I like the idea of Android for the OS to be able to add things like Torque to it and the ability to use Google maps for navigation.

This post is getting a bit long now but I am keen to hear what GZers have done to make their cars smarter.





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  Reply # 1603430 3-Aug-2016 11:18
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I have an 07 Mazda Axela (Mazda 3).

 

It has a Bose Audio system, but no screens/info displays.

 

I added Bluetooth in the same manner as you (adaptor that connects to CD changer port on the back of the OEM unit). It works great for music and calls (doesn't always re-pair with phone properly, but turning BT off then on on phone repairs it).

 

The next iteration of the Mazda 3 has infotainment screens I think, which is a reason I stayed with this one (had only done 65k when I bought it). If I was to go newer with JDM, I'd look for one witha  double-DIN slot and replace with a NZ brand with screen and CarPlay/Android Auto.


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  Reply # 1603438 3-Aug-2016 11:33
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I have one 2003 "dumb" car and one 2015 "smart" Nissan Qashqui that has things like phone integration. The only thing I use on the new car that's really useful is the reversing camera, and even not that all the time. The Nissan phone integration and maps is completely worthless (other than bluetooth calls, which I don't use either), the only apps are Pandora and a cut down maps app, a phone does a better job in all cases. So all in all I'm happy with my dumb car and don't see any point spending money on it.





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  Reply # 1603465 3-Aug-2016 11:54
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That's why I kind of like the idea of the Android based units. Because you can add so much more to them. This is geekzone after all!




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  Reply # 1603466 3-Aug-2016 11:56
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The only smart upgrade I would consider is an android device. And then putting my phone in a holder gets me almost all the way there except the reversing camera. I only need that in the falcon since its the only car I tow with, and the wireless one to a mirror with a TFT in it works fine. The flippy thing on the mirror points it away from the window and down towards the back seat which is dark which makes it much easier to see in daylight.

 

Factory maps are IME worthless as they do not get updates like google does. At best its a dealer upgrade in new cars, then after a few years forget about it. Google maps is always updated.

 

Bluetooth calling integration only works with the phone app, not messanger or skype, so again pretty useless.

 

Apps to play music on your phone seem to have terrible slow navigation and are no match for the display on the phone.

 

I have had a quick play with an android car system and dont think it adds any value over using the phone itself.





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  Reply # 1603468 3-Aug-2016 12:00
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I have a BT-to-FM adapter which I'm happy with. No problem pairing my phone to it. I could have got a BT-LineIn adapter, but my car's LineIn is in the glovebox (WTF? 05 Mondeo, NZ new) with no USB or 12V power there.

 

I wouldn't want a nav app built into the car... you then have to download new maps periodically, and have some mechanism for real-time alerts. A phone with a touchscreen is vastly better IMHO. It can download maps automatically when in WiFi range.

 

If I was going for OBD II, I'd get a BT adapter to output to an app on my phone.

 

Maybe smarter would be to have a WiFi AP in the car, connected to the world by cellphone tethering. Could then have a NAS for music, videos for the kids, reversing IP camera, or whatever.

 

I haven't finished my phone wireless charging mount yet. I plan to use some kind of sensor (magnet, or maybe just the fact that it's on the charger) in my phone so that when it's dropped into the cradle, it automatically switches itself to "car" mode (play music, map screen on, etc).

 

 




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  Reply # 1603469 3-Aug-2016 12:01
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Yes. Like the idea of two way mirror link to achieve a bunch of stuff. A 7" touch display in the dash is easier to use than a 5" phone display.

And I use tasker to sense wireless charging + connection to car Bluetooth to switch phone to car mode.




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  Reply # 1603475 3-Aug-2016 12:11
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Wonder if you could do that thru MHL to another screen and have touch passed back over USB? Certainly would have a chance of being usable, unlike screen mirror over wifi which just makes a blockey laggy mess.





Richard rich.ms



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  Reply # 1603476 3-Aug-2016 12:12
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richms:

Wonder if you could do that thru MHL to another screen and have touch passed back over USB? Certainly would have a chance of being usable, unlike screen mirror over wifi which just makes a blockey laggy mess.



Yes. The wired mirror link is what I mean. Certainly the demos on line look pretty stable.




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  Reply # 1603478 3-Aug-2016 12:15
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I upgraded my 2001 Commodores head unit to an Alpine Carplay unit with reverse camera input.

 

Everything I need is run from my phone and displayed on the screen.

 

Interface is Siri eyes free and works well, I can call, text and pull up maps.


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  Reply # 1603481 3-Aug-2016 12:16
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Can you go into reverse without the music stopping? A friend has some alpine thing with a camera fitted, and it turns off the sound when the camera comes up. So annoying.





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  Reply # 1603492 3-Aug-2016 12:33
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dickytim:

I upgraded my 2001 Commodores head unit to an Alpine Carplay unit with reverse camera input.


Everything I need is run from my phone and displayed on the screen.


Interface is Siri eyes free and works well, I can call, text and pull up maps.



Did you do the install? If so, easy or difficult? How do you find Carplay to use practically? I assume you are a citizen of the Apple world.




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  Reply # 1603495 3-Aug-2016 12:39
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Dingbatt:
dickytim:

 

I upgraded my 2001 Commodores head unit to an Alpine Carplay unit with reverse camera input.

 

 

 

Everything I need is run from my phone and displayed on the screen.

 

 

 

Interface is Siri eyes free and works well, I can call, text and pull up maps.

 



Did you do the install? If so, easy or difficult? How do you find Carplay to use practically? I assume you are a citizen of the Apple world.

 

Yes it is an apple unit, very easy to use, install was very easy with the right loom adaptors and facia kit, in fact I did it in my 30 min lunch break in the work car park!

 

The music stays on when reversing.




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  Reply # 1603499 3-Aug-2016 12:46
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dickytim:

Dingbatt:
dickytim:


I upgraded my 2001 Commodores head unit to an Alpine Carplay unit with reverse camera input.


 


Everything I need is run from my phone and displayed on the screen.


 


Interface is Siri eyes free and works well, I can call, text and pull up maps.




Did you do the install? If so, easy or difficult? How do you find Carplay to use practically? I assume you are a citizen of the Apple world.


Yes it is an apple unit, very easy to use, install was very easy with the right loom adaptors and facia kit, in fact I did it in my 30 min lunch break in the work car park!


The music stays on when reversing.



Does your commodore have steering wheel controls? Your example is certainly what I want to be able to achieve, though perhaps not with Carplay (don't have an iPhone).




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  Reply # 1603523 3-Aug-2016 13:13
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Yes but i needed an adaptor for that.

I think Alpine do an Android version as well.

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  Reply # 1603524 3-Aug-2016 13:14
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An issue with Android stereos with phone software is that Android expects to be the phone and it expects the device it is paired with to be the headset 

 

If your Android stereo expects to be the phone, and so does your phone, then you can have issues. 

 

These can be worked around with careful set-up and are absent with Android Auto.

 

So you have to shop around.  Personally I would be looking at an Android Auto compatible head unit if you have an Android phone.





Mike

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