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Old 15th June 2016, 18:59   #1
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Default Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Background: Since last couple of years, I have been experimenting with using my Android phone as a primary device in my SX4 for navigation, music, OBDII reader/display app such as Torque Pro etc. My thread about those experiments is here: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/modifi...cessories.html (Review: My "Instrumentation" (Torque Pro/OBDII setup, TPMS etc.) and related accessories). With this set-up, I completely retired my MapMyIndia VX140 Navigator that had faithfully served me since 2010.

Although the above set-up worked well, it had two major flaws: 1. It of course looked totally after-market (which it was), and 2. The only phone holder which I found to work reliably well was also very bulky; it not only took a lot of space and looked ugly, but the phone mounted there also blocked AC vents, significantly reducing the airflow to the front passenger. Therefore, I started searching for something better - something that looked less after-market. Thankfully I came across the following threads that gave me motivation to order an Android head-unit, which solved both of the above problems.

I have now used this new head-unit for more than two months (including a few long drives), and therefore I thought this was the right time to share my experiences.

Acknowledgments: The following threads by "graaja" and "frankmehta" were the primary motivation behind this. Thanks a lot to both of them!Identifying and ordering the head-unit: A quick search on aliexpress for "Android head-unit Suzuki SX4" returned several products. Thankfully, the Maruti SX4 has the exact same interior trim and fit as that of the Suzuki SX4 2006-2010 (before it became S-cross internationally), and hence I could just buy something that was meant for Suzuki SX4 and trust it would fit our Indian version - Maruti SX4. And it did! After comparing several different products, I chose this: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Quad-...8-2aa232e11a53

It has 8" 1024x600 resolution display, capacitive touchscreen, Android 4.4.4, 1.6GHz quad-core ARM A9 CPU (Rockchip 3188 SOC), 1GB RAM, 16GB flash NAND etc. I also ordered a cheap USB dash camera (listed as optimla extra in the product page) that works with this system (it has built in app for dash cam and that supports a plug and play USB camera).

Installation: I got it installed by a trusted installer at a friendly neighborhood accessories shop. For a professional installer like him, the installation was pretty straightforward, and took less than two hours. For those looking for DIY installation, the thread by "graaja" mentioned above is an excellent step-by-step guide as well as reference manual.

In the next post, let me show the pictures of the head-unit and a few screen shots, and then I will describe my experiences with this system, including what works and what does not work.

Last edited by Dr.AD : 15th June 2016 at 20:17.
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Old 15th June 2016, 20:06   #2
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Default re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Unboxing the package:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0001.jpg


Contents of the package (note: the OBDLink LX OBD Bluetooth adapter was not part of this package, I had ordered that separately earlier from the OBDLink site in the US. I included this in the picture just for the sake of completeness, since this OBD reader is an important part of the whole set-up):
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0004.jpg


The head unit:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0008.jpg


The wiring diagram printed on the head-unit:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0009.jpg


The new vs. the old:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0010.jpg


BEFORE: OEM head-unit that came with the SX4:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0007.jpg


AFTER: And now replaced by this new Android unit:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0029.jpg


The external GPS antenna (part of this package) mounted in the corner near the A-pillar, seen behind my TPMS display (not part of this package - this is an independent system that I have described in my related thread mentioned earlier):
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0030.jpg


The familiar Android look when in operation (it looks just like any other Android phone/tablet, and that's the beauty of it!):
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0041.jpg


Torque Pro app in action:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0044.jpg


Google maps navigation in action:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0157.jpg


The UI of the default radio app:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0154.jpg


How it looks in the night (this is my night theme for Torque):
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc02564.jpg


The color of the backlit buttons exactly matches the OEM back-lighting for other switches:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc02562.jpg


How it all looks in the night from the driver's position:
Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc02567.jpg

Last edited by Dr.AD : 15th June 2016 at 20:09.
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Old 15th June 2016, 21:07   #3
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Default re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

What I like:
  • It looks totally OEM. Fits perfectly well and gels in with the interiors of SX4.
  • Serves as a truly integrated system for all car Audio/Visual/Navigation needs. Being an Android system, tons of apps are available and the scope for customization/personalization is immense.
  • The steering mounted audio controls work perfectly! And by using the RK3066 app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...cservice&hl=en) available on google play, I can use the steering controls with third party apps such as Poweramp as well. RK3066 app also opens up other very useful features such as speed dependent sound level adjustment. Very useful, and works well (it works well although this head-unit has RK3188 SOC, and not RK3066).
  • The 8" display is large enough to clearly see important details (e.g. navigation directions and distances) in a quick glance.
  • The screen resolution of 1024x600, while being lower than most top end phones, is still much better than most OEM head-units in under Rs. 20L cars, and some of the more expensive ones as well. The same is true with capacitive touchscreen (many OEM units still use resistive touchscreens).
  • Most of the frontal area is taken by the large 8" display, with small buttons on both sides. This compact button arrays liberates space for 8" display as compared to some other 7" systems available on Aliexpress.
  • Hardware buttons for key functions, navigation being one of those.
  • Bluetooth telephony works quite well. I can hear the call very clearly, and nobody has complained about not hearing my voice well when I talk to them while driving. (I am using an external microphone that came with the system. I have mounted that just behind the steering wheel).
  • Torque Pro works perfectly well, and so does the OBDLink Bluetooth adapter. No problems whatsoever with simultaneous Bluetooth connections to phone and the OBDII reader. Torque running on this large 8" screen looks lovely, and that is my main screen most of the times.
  • Amazing levels of automation and customization possible with an app like Tasker. For example, I use Tasker to open Torque whenever the system is switched on, select the right Torque theme based on time of the day (day/night), and open the Torque dashboard as my default display. Thus, when I am not fiddling around with anything, Torque dashboard is always on and it looks awesome! Similarly, I use Tasker on my phone to switch on the portable hotspot whenever the phone is connected to this head-unit (and switch it off on disconnect), and thus this unit gets seamless internet connection while on the move. The whole thing works like a charm!
  • 32GB SD card support - enough to carry my entire music collection. It has two SD card slots. One for this 32GB card, and the other slot for another SD card that can be used by GPS app (stored offline maps), DVR app (to store dashcam recordings) etc.
  • The wired USB port (I pulled it out very close to the cupholders - very convenient location) can be used to charge other devices (thus I got an additional charging port) as well as to connect pen drives or other storage devices, and to connect phone in MirrorLink mode! Very useful and convenient.
  • It has an optical drive to play CD/DVD etc. - something that is quickly becoming obsolete or conspicuous by its absence (depending on your point of view)
  • It is linked to my google account - the same one I use on my phone. Thus, if I search a place on Google Maps on my phone and save it, it automatically appears on the maps on this unit. I love it. Very useful feature on those long road trips. I like to use my phone to research the routes and places when I am in my hotel room or in a restaurant having lunch etc. This is far more convenient than exploring maps on the head-unit directly. And then when I switch on the car system, the routes saved on my phone appear there.
  • Google maps navigation works very well. In addition, I have purchased the NaviMaps app by MapMyIndia, which is an offline navigation app (all the maps are downloaded and stored on the SD card). NaviMaps also works perfectly well on this system. Thus, I am well covered by online as well as offline maps on those remote road trips.
  • It allows plug and play support for a USB camera and one can use any dashcam app (with features such as loop recording, automated recording on/off with system on/off etc) of their choice. Thus, all you need is a tiny USB camera mounted on the dashboard. No need to have another full-fledged dash cam.
  • Although I don't feel any need of reverse parking camera (I am very happy with the parking sensors that the dealer gave me with the car, and the ones I am happily using since 2010), if I need one, this system easily supports that. All I need is to install a camera and hook it to this system.
  • It is very easy to root the system. All you need to do is to enter the publicly available root password and the system can be rooted immediately. This opens up many more possibilities for customization and modifications/upgrades etc.
What I don't like:
  • The sound quality is not that great. Someone told me that the output voltage levels for this system are low and maybe using an amplifier might help in bringing out the details in the sound. I am not at all an expert in sound, and hence I am not sure. For now, I am living with this, but someday I need to figure this out and improve the sound quality.
  • The start-up time (about 15 seconds) from a cold start can be an irritant sometimes. However, there is a setting to set the time limit (from a few minutes to a few hours) for the system not to go in a complete shutdown mode. I have kept this to 30 minutes. If I start the car again within 30 minutes, the system comes to life instantly. After 30 minutes, it goes into proper shutdown mode, and takes about 15 seconds to come up again.
  • Although the display quality (clarity, color reproduction, vividness, brightness etc.) is pretty good (and much better than most OEM head-units I have seen), it still is not as good as a top-end phone. When I look at the same scene (e.g. a map) on my Sony Xperia Z3, and then look at the same thing on this head-unit, I can immediately see the difference. The colors, vividness and brightness are nowhere close to that of the brilliant Sony display. Maybe I am nitpicking here. If I don't compare with my phone, and just use this system by itself, the display is not that bad.
  • There is no ambient light sensor to allow automatic brightness adjustment. There is an "auto" mode under brightness setting, but all this does is to go into a dimmer mode when I switch on the headlights (it is connected to the headlight switch). Thus, there is a binary adjustment - one light mode and one dark mode. The gradual adjustment to brightness upon ambient lighting is missing. This can be annoying - each day and night I have to manually set the appropriate brightness.
  • The USB dash camera that I ordered as an "optional extra" is really pathetic. It is practically useless, except for the "demo purpose" to show it to friends. I need to buy a better camera.
  • The factory ROM has a 1GB partition for installing apps. This is too low, and I have already reached a point where I can't install new apps because of lack of space. This problem is well discussed on a variety of forums. I will have to try the workarounds given there.
  • I don't see any chance of upgrading from Android 4.4.4. Unlike other branded devices, whoever manufactured this is unlikely to release system updates for this. If I really need, I will have to be brave and find some custom ROM with support for later versions of Android, and figure out how to get those working on this. Without any such efforts, I am stuck with Android 4.4.4.
Issues faced/problems/workarounds etc.
  • The stock music app is pathetic, and one would like to use one of the much better apps such as Poweramp or Google Play Music instead of this default app. Unfortunately, the steering mounted audio controls only work with the default music app. Thankfully, the RK3066 app solved this. RK3066 allows one to extend the steering audio controls to third party apps. I used this app and the problem solved for me. Now I use Poweramp for music, and my steering controls work with that!
  • I am facing occasional screen flickering. The problem of screen flickering on these head-units is known (I found some mentions of this on Googling), and apparently the fix involves opening up the unit and tuning some component. Although sounds simple, it involves opening up the HU and still keeping it powered on - something that is not so trivial. Anyways, this problem is very minor as of now, and I am living with it. If the flickering increases in future, then I might try this fix.
  • Google maps navigation exhibited a weird problem initially. Whenever I took even a slightly different route or a different turn than the route given by this app, it would go into a "rerouting mode" and would never come out of this. Usually this rerouting happens in a second or two, but here, it would get stuck into this rerouting for ages. After some Googling, I found that this was because the firmware was not supporting well the latest versions of Google maps (I had updated all apps to their latest versions as soon as I installed this system). The fix was to delete all updates to the maps and go back to the factory version. I deleted all updates and now the navigation works perfectly. So the problem solved, but this also means I have to live with an older version of Google Maps, and I will continue to miss out of newer features. As of now it is fine though, since the version I am using has most of the critical features, and I believe is still a better navigation app than most custom/proprietary navigation apps that come with OEM head-units. Overall, I am pretty happy with how well Google Maps work for me now on this system.
  • And then this one is almost a comical problem. I have mounted the GPS antenna near the A pillar, where it is open to the sky (and this is the recommended position). Unfortunately, here it is also open to the sun. My car is parked outside all day, and the hot sun of May almost melted the antenna. See this picture below of it looks after one month under the May sunlight. Thankfully, now the temperatures are much cooler in Bangalore and the skys have become cloudy, so no more melting happened. And it stil works perfectly fine with whatever degree of melting that has already happened. So I am fine for now, but maybe by next summer I will have to start looking for a replacement antenna or find out a different location to mount it (or keep it is it is and eventually find out if a molten GPS antenna still works well enough...) Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4-dsc_0050.jpg
Summary: In spite of these (mostly minor) issues, and the minor dislikes, I am very happy with this system. The advantages of this far outweigh the disadvantages. The joy of seeing the dials of Torque displaying live data as you speed across a national highway is truly great. And seeing the Google Maps on this large 8" screen makes navigating a joy. And above all, this is a perfect example of something that keeps my interest in this six year old car alive!

Thanks for reading. I will be happy to answer any questions or provide more information as needed.

Thanks,
-AD

Last edited by Dr.AD : 15th June 2016 at 23:03.
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Old 16th June 2016, 07:35   #4
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Default re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th June 2016, 15:21   #5
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

great work Dr.AD! Reg. the audio output, the culprit here might be the low current output under load. If your audio input is through phone or Ipod, I would recommend Fiio amplifiers. They use mp3 jacks on either end, so no fiddling with the fixed hardware. The output quality I hear is surprisingly good. The good ones come at around 4k. No affiliation to Fiio whatsoever.
And I'm curious to know what are the fixes you've read about for low ROM?

Last edited by GTO : 17th June 2016 at 15:22. Reason: Typo
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Old 16th June 2016, 15:30   #6
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Looks way better than the OEM HU, plus lots & lots of added features, I believe its totally worth it.

Android makes its sweeter & the catalog of apps in the play store makes it a virtual smart phone.

Any plans for a reverse cam?(if you don't have one already).
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Old 16th June 2016, 16:57   #7
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruchitya View Post
great work Dr.AD! Reg. the audio output, the culprit here might be the low current output under load. If your audio input is through phone or Ipod, I would recommend Fiio amplifiers. They use mp3 jacks on either end, so no fiddling with the fixed hardware. The output quality I hear is surprisingly good. The good ones come at around 4k. No affiliation to Fiio whatsoever.
Thank you. And thanks for the suggestion on Fiio amplifiers. However, when I said sound quality was not that great, it was not necessarily for phone input, but for the HU sound itself. For example, when I hear my stored music or even radio, I felt that something was lacking in the sound quality. It sounds a little bit too "tiny", so to say.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruchitya View Post
And I'm curious to know what are the fixes you;ve read about for low ROM?
Those fixes involve using custom ROMs. Since I have already rooted the system, it is possible to install custom ROMs available online. Apparently there are some custom ROMs which have a 2GB partition for apps, and getting that is the primary fix. Without using custom ROM, the only solutions (temporary solutions, I would say) are to keep cleaning the junk files and keep moving app/data to SD card whenever possible. I use the "Clean Master" app which helps me in cleaning the junk as well as moving apps to SD card.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Venkat_Figo View Post
Looks way better than the OEM HU, plus lots & lots of added features, I believe its totally worth it.

Android makes its sweeter & the catalog of apps in the play store makes it a virtual smart phone.

Any plans for a reverse cam?(if you don't have one already).
Thanks! No plans for reverse camera on this car. As I mentioned, I am happy with the reverse parking sensors system (which has a small unit inside for audio signals - beeps - as well as a small display to indicate distance) that I suing since I got this car. Given that I am so used to reversing this car now, I know the distances quite well, and the system I have is very useful anyways, I don't see any need whatsoever for a reverse camera for me. However, this head-unit does support a reverse camera if someone wishes to hook that up to this system.
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Old 16th June 2016, 17:44   #8
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post
When I hear my stored music or even radio, I felt that something was lacking in the sound quality. It sounds a little bit too "tiny", so to say.
In that case, an amplifier could at most widen the soundstage, but not more than that, since the purpose of an amplifier is to amplify all frequencies equally. PM if you can specify what you need out of the audio output. My knowledge is limited so I'll tell what I know

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.AD View Post
Those fixes involve using custom ROMs. Since I have already rooted the system, it is possible to install custom ROMs available online.
Haha you were speaking of those ROMs! My electronics mind went to this article where a guy soldered extra ROM(Memory) to his phone to increase capacity. I was under the impression the internal memory itself was insufficient.
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Old 16th June 2016, 17:52   #9
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruchitya View Post
PM if you can specify what you need out of the audio output. My knowledge is limited so I'll tell what I know
Thanks a lot for your offer to help me! Really appreciate it. My knowledge about sound and audio is close to zero, so whatever you can tell me will be of high value. I will PM you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruchitya View Post
Haha you were speaking of those ROMs! My electronics mind went to this article where a guy soldered extra ROM(Memory) to his phone to increase capacity. I was under the impression the internal memory itself was insufficient.
I know I am not using the precise terms. I just used the terms commonly used on the android forums (or the subforums related to such headunits, which I have been reading for a while), where they refer to the firmware as ROM :-)

To be more specific, there is no problem with the actual physical memory available. It has 16GB NAND flash internal memory (and a 1GB DDR3 RAM), which should be more than enough for both OS and apps. However, for some strange reasons, in the OS installed by the vendor, they have done a partition of this memory and gave only 1GB partition for the apps. So this is partitioning (software) problem rather than the actual memory size problem.

If I use custom firmware that uses 2GB partition for the apps, the problem will be solved.
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Old 17th June 2016, 10:26   #10
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

If you want to hide the GPS antenna, you can do it by keeping the antenna under the dash itself - the antenna comes with a magnetic base and it can be affixed to any metallic frame under the dash (there are cross members to mount the dash itself. The metallic frame increases the chance of signal reception from all the sides. I have done it and experienced GPS signal locking times within 60 sec, which is good enough.
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Old 17th June 2016, 10:42   #11
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Awesome find! I loved the way you have done your research and the installation looks picture perfect!
I downloaded the Torque App (Lite version just to check if it works properly and then will buy the Pro) to my mobile. Do I need to buy an OBD bluetooth dongle and fix it to my OBD port and then pair it with my mobile? By the way I use the new generation scorpio and I have a Pioneer AVH 289 BT ICe installed.
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Old 17th June 2016, 11:20   #12
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Sleek unit, but surprised to learn the sound quality is not upto the mark even after spending over $300. Have you used a sim card for data or some other means to connect to the internet? Also are there any systems which have android auto rather than Kitkat which is like 4 years old I guess.
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Old 17th June 2016, 12:12   #13
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

This is an awesome accessory upgrade AD! And I can tell you by far it is the best - even in my erstwhile SX4, the Caska unit did not feel so upmarket and utility. The ability to install extra apps and put it in there at your will is too good. A good slim amplifier would do jus fine to improvise the quality of sound.

See if you can save the settings of the unit to cloud/ SD card (as standard backup) just in a case if you have to reconfigure this for anything including hard reset.
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Old 17th June 2016, 14:43   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salbin View Post
If you want to hide the GPS antenna, you can do it by keeping the antenna under the dash itself ... The metallic frame increases the chance of signal reception from all the sides.
Thanks for this suggestion. I had read about a few others putting antenna under the dash, but I was worried about the signal reception. Since your experience is positive, I will give it a shot. Thanks again!

Quote:
Originally Posted by vprajagopal View Post
Awesome find! I loved the way you have done your research and the installation looks picture perfect!
I downloaded the Torque App (Lite version just to check if it works properly and then will buy the Pro) to my mobile. Do I need to buy an OBD bluetooth dongle and fix it to my OBD port and then pair it with my mobile? By the way I use the new generation scorpio and I have a Pioneer AVH 289 BT ICe installed.
Thanks! Yes, you need a OBDII adapter, which will connect to the ECU (through OBD port of the car), and send the data to your phone either by bluetooth, WiFi, or USB cable. You get different adapters based on your preference for communication mode. The most common and most popular are the Bluetooth adapter. ELM327 Bluetooth adapters are commonly and cheaply available. For example, here is one: http://www.amazon.in/Elm327-Bluetoot...eywords=ELM327

Once you plug this adapter into the OBDII port of your car, you can pair this with your phone just like any other bluetooth device pairing. Then the Torque app will start reading this data and start displaying it in real time for you. It should work fine with the new generation of Scorpio.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mxh View Post
Sleek unit, but surprised to learn the sound quality is not upto the mark even after spending over $300. Have you used a sim card for data or some other means to connect to the internet? Also are there any systems which have android auto rather than Kitkat which is like 4 years old I guess.
Thanks! I use my phone as portable hotsport. I use the Tasker app on phone, and I have created a profile that switches on the portable hotspot on connection to this system, and switches off on disconnect. On this head-unit, I keep WiFi always on, and thus, the moment my phone is connected, the phone acts as a WiFi router to which this head-unit connects. Since I have a 4G phone, the data speeds are very good and overall, this arrangement is working great for me. The whole thing works smoothly without any intervention from my side, thanks to Tasker! This head-unit also supports a 3G dongle, but I haven't even tried it since the above solution is working perfectly for me.

When I searched again now, I do see some systems with Android 5.1. So that is pretty much the latest you can get. However, Android auto is a different game. Neither did I see anything available with that, nor do I see a need. The way I understand it, if you have a full-fledged Android device in your car, then it is much better than Android auto. Android auto is a subset of Android functionalities, and it allows you to port some Android functions on your head-unit. But if your head-unit has the full-fledged Android running on it, and it is already synced to your Google account, Android auto has already become irrelevant for you at that time.


Quote:
Originally Posted by abirnale View Post
This is an awesome accessory upgrade AD! And I can tell you by far it is the best - even in my erstwhile SX4, the Caska unit did not feel so upmarket and utility. The ability to install extra apps and put it in there at your will is too good. A good slim amplifier would do jus fine to improvise the quality of sound.

See if you can save the settings of the unit to cloud/ SD card (as standard backup) just in a case if you have to reconfigure this for anything including hard reset.
Thanks a lot, Avinash! Yes, I agree with you regarding a good slim amplifier. I will show my system to some Audio Gurus for their feedback/suggestions, and get a good amplifier, and with some other tweaks with the help of the gurus, I think I can fix the sound quality issue.

Good suggestion about saving the settings. Thanks for that. I will certainly do that since I never know when I will have to reset/factory reset this system. The reliability of these systems is still a completely unknown factor.

Last edited by Dr.AD : 17th June 2016 at 15:02.
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Old 17th June 2016, 14:55   #15
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Default Re: Review: Android Head-Unit in my Maruti SX4

Thank you very much for your suggestion. I am also trying to check if i can buy an OBD II bluetooth dongle with an on/off switch so that it does not always drain the battery. I did spot a few models and have sent my queries to the seller just to get clarity. In case you know any proven dongle, please do let me know. Thanks again for your response.
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