As we all await Android Auto, let's take a look at what Honda has whipped up in the meantime.
After the fun and games of Mobile World Congress, Europe played host to another huge event, this time for the auto industry. The Geneva Motor Show is where the world's biggest car makers go every March to show off the latest and greatest that four wheels has to offer. Like Honda, with the new Civic. And it's got Android inside, don't you know.
The news isn't new, Honda actually announced it some time ago. Honda Connect is its name and it's got NVIDIA Tegra power behind it. But now we've had time to actually see the car and play around with the tech. And when Honda said it was using Android, it wasn't lying. Because its entire in-car entertainment system is built on Android. Exciting stuff, yes?
Well, perhaps not so much.
Where using Android Auto would have been presumably so simple, Honda has built an Ice Cream Sandwich based system that truthfully does not belong inside a car. At this point in time we'd probably say Ice Cream Sandwich doesn't belong in anyone's pockets, either.
So, what do you actually get? A low-ish resolution, but not-bad-looking 7-inch display, a grid of icons and a bunch of stock Android apps like the music player and browser (connect up using your phone). For a 2015-release car though it just feels old. It's been the same with car makers pretty much forever — we talked about that on a recent podcast — when it comes to in-car systems and honestly, Honda isn't doing anything to shake that image. It's pretty neat that you can install apps on it, but it could have been so much better. It's slow, it's clunky, it's basically the stereotypical in-car experience. But with Android. Including widgets.
We're waiting on the future of Android in the car — but this just feels like ancient history.
One redeeming feature that we did like, even if it has limited uses, is being able to mirror the screen of your mobile device. This doesn't use Mirrorlink or anything like that. No, it uses a HDMI output from the device into the car. That actually means you can "use" iOS applications in the car on your Android system, so long as it's not the driver that's doing the using. But we saw it demonstrated outputting a video file from an iPad into the car and it was as impressive as you'd hope it would be using a cable output.
The problem here ultimately is that it's just a poor experience. The fact it's running Android is a side product. Honda hasn't really done anything with Android to make it remotely worth getting excited about. In 2015 if you're going to put Android in the car, it really ought to be Android Auto. Otherwise you're doing it wrong.