Sunday, 20 July 2014

Forget the Android Auto Alliance and Apple CarPlay: Get a connected car now!


Forget the Android Auto Alliance and Apple CarPlay: Get a connected car now!

Google, Apple and Nokia have spent the past few years working on the ultimate connected car, but you don’t need to wait years to kit your car out with gadgets and apps. There are loads of things you can do to make your journey better, from stereos that sync effortlessly with your smartphone to apps that turn your phone into music streaming sat-nav device. Read on to find out how to get CarPlay-like tech here and now!

Oxygen Audio O Car head unitThere are loads of car stereos out there that hook up to your smartphone wirelessly, but not many ditch a screen completely in favour of your handset. The Oxygen Audio O Car stereo does just that, with your iPhone clipping into the head unit and a companion app letting you control the stereo from the phone’s touchscreen. It may not be quite as elegant as CarPlay or the Google Auto Alliance, but it’s not far off!

The in-car personal assistant

Last year we showed you ways you could control the tech in your car by voice alone, but things have come on in leaps and bounds since then. If you want to use your smartphone, you’ll now be able to choose from other digital assistants as well as Siri, with Cortana on Windows Phone and Google Now on Android both letting you make searches, send text messages and a whole lot more all without touching a button on your phone.

The perfect Car App

If you have a Windows Phone, there are few apps better suited to driving than Nokia Car App. One of the simplest and easy to use apps we’ve ever tried, Nokia Car App removes all the clutter, setting up a faux Start Screen with just three buttons on it. Even when you’re driving along, it would be easy to tap a button to launch Spotify, HERE Drive or any other Windows Phone app, without worrying about hitting the wrong one or needing to take your eyes off the road for precious seconds.

Find your way home

Whatever phone or tablet you go for, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to sat-nav apps from Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Go for a smartphone like the Nokia Lumia 930 and you won’t even need to download additional apps – HERE Drive is included as part of the package, and you can add free offline mapping for anywhere in the world. Both Apple and Android offer free turn-by-turn navigation apps as well, in the form of Apple Maps and Google Maps, respectively, and there are also plenty of paid for options too. If you don’t mind paying, apps don’t get much more comprehensive or easy to use than TomTom’s smartphone packages.

Apps apps apps

Connected tech like CarPlay promises to bring a host of prominent apps to the big screen in your car, but they’re all apps you can already get for your smartphone and tablet. All you need is a universal cradle to hold your device in place, a suitable means to charge your phone or tablet on the go, and a regular car stereo with Bluetooth or an Aux-in lead. Once you’ve connected your smartphone to your stereo, you’ll be able to stream music using Spotify and other services, listening to your favourite tracks through your car’s speakers! With audio streaming through your speakers, it’s even easy to set up a mini cinema in the back of the car for the kids, with apps like iPlayer and YouTube perfect for watching video on the move. Who needs CarPlay now?

Smartphone breathalyzer

Turning your car into a mobile tech fest doesn’t have to be restricted to entertainment either, with loads of cool gadgets out there that can help to keep you safe. Like the MobaBlow Bluetooth Brethalyzer, a Kickstarter gadget that works alongside your smartphone to help tell you when you’re OK to drive, or if you had a couple too many the night before and need to put the keys away for another couple of hours. And if you have drank too much, the accompanying app offers some nifty features like ‘Call a Cab’, ‘Call a Friend’ and even a ‘Find me’ feature!

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