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Audi announces Android-powered Mobile Audi Smart Display tablet

Android Central @ CES

If you're in the market for a new Audi tablet, you might also be in the market for a new tablet. Audi's already announced their participation in the new Open Automotive Alliance with Google, and it was widely anticipated that they'd be announcing Android in the car at CES 2014. Well, they did, but not in the way you might have expected: it's a tablet.

The new 10.2-inch Mobile Audi Smart Display tablet is Audi's latest foray into electronics. Powered by a Tegra 4 chip, the Mobile Audi Smart Display runs Android underneath, but features a very heavily skinned launcher that is optimized for in car use. For passengers, not drivers. Audi's rolling out a new version of their rotary dial + touchpad MMI interface for drivers that integrates multitouch gestures and natural language voice controls (ala Google Now and Siri) for the drivers.

But back to the tablet. Shown off in video form at Audi's press conference this morning, the Smart Display is designed to work hand-in-hand with Audi vehicles, using in-car Wi-Fi and Audi's new LTE partnership with AT&T. It has a 10.2-inch "full HD" (hopefully that means 1080x1920) display housed in a brushed-aluminum case. Being that it's designed to be able to stay in your car (but can venture out if you so desire), the Smart Display is also designed to be durable and can survive the harsh temperatures that can be encountered in a car, especially one that's been left out in the cold or in the blistering sun. Audi quotes that the Smart Display can withstand temperatures between -40°C/F and 80°C/176°F.

That durability comes at a price, though, as the Smart Display appears to be slightly chunky. It has relatively thick bezels and looked somewhat thick front-to-back as well. Considering it's made for in-car use where you'll want a thicker bezel to grip in spirited driving (which Audi clearly wants to encourage).

The Smart Display does more than just utilize the car's hotspot, though. It's integrated with the car's infotainment system and can be used to control the audio system, navigation, and climate controls. Additionally, it can play back audio from the tablet over the car's speaker system.

Though Audi wasn't ready to show off the complete software that powers the Smart Display, Audi AG Head of Development Electrics/Electronics Ricky Hudi did at least state that it will run Android apps and include access to the Google Play Store. So while the tablet runs a heavily-customized interface, or at least has a dedicated app for in-car use, it also has accessible Android underneath. It's less like a Kindle and more like something from Samsung.

Google's been a long-time partner with Audi, with Google Maps and Google Earth providing navigation functions in Audi cars since 2004, and more recently adding voice point of interest search. Audi's still continuing their partnership with Apple, so complete iOS-integration will continue on in Audi vehicles.

What version of Android the Mobile Audi Smart Display runs, when it will become available, and how much Audi buyers will have to pay for the privilege of using a customized Android tablet in their car is still unknown at this point, but knowing Audi it certainly won't be cheap.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Wait... what? Why?
  • ^^So much THIS!!
  • Because MONEYCAR
  • Removable head unit... Only reasonable thing I can think of. Posted via Android Central App
  • This Android partnership has barely started, and it's already gone too far...
  • Favorite automobile manufacturer and now tablets! I'm here for it Posted via my oldie but goodie Nexii 4 using the Android Central App
  • I'm in the market for a new bicycle, and I'm so looking forward to Huffy's line of tablets with custom UI skin, optimized for use by passengers.
  • I just bought a new Audi A7 and, at first, I was a bit bummed that I'll miss this. But, I can't imagine that I would ever actually use a tablet (as a driver). And, I don't really want my passengers screwing with the entertainment or car systems. Maybe I'm missing something? The current MMI is pretty user friendly and offers most of everything that I want. The Tmo WiFi hotspot in the A7 powers my Nexus 7 but I rarely use that in the car either. I get music from the SD card in the car or stream from my Moto X. I guess it will be interesting to see this once it's fully baked and available in the showroom.
  • Ugh not was I was looking forward to. Was really hoping to see android powered in car dash system with Google maps and navigation. Ah that would have been perfect for Audi. Posted via Android Central App
  • Android sort of is via QNX. Posted via Android Central App on BlackBerry Z30
  • So does this mean it breaks down a lot and requires ridiculously expensive repairs? Posted via Android Central App
  • Like a Chevrolet?
  • 1.) It should be in the dash.
    2.) It's going to cost way more than its worth.
    3.) It's probably running 4.0 or 4.1. No thanks. Posted via Android Central App
  • You can say it's for passengers, but this will be used heavily by drivers. That terrifies me. Posted via Android Central App
  • I bet the writer did great on his SAT.