Car Computing with an Android phone, Part 1 – The in-car install

In-car connectivity or “Driver Connect” systems, like Ford’s SYNC, are huge in today’s automotive industry; allowing you to make hands-free calls, reply to text messages and Emails using on your voice, get voice guided, turn-by-turn directions and much more. These features are wonderful if you happen to own a vehicle that includes them, but what if you don’t? If you have an Android based phone you can not only replicate most every feature of Ford’s SYNC system, but do a lot more.

This article will be broken up into a 3-part series with each article focusing on a particular aspect of using an Android based phone as your “carputing” platform (this article would have been insanely long had I not broken it up). We’ll begin by looking at how to mount your phone into your vehicle in a manner that’s both safe and usable.

What will I need?

  1. An Android phone (with either A2DP Bluetooth connectivity or a headphone jack)

  2. A vehicle that has either a stereo system that accepts an AUX input or built-in Bluetooth connectivity (if you desire audio from anything better than the small speaker in your phone).

  3. A flat surface on which to mount your phone or an available air vent

Optional: An AUX cable if using the AUX input method

Mounting your Android phone inside your vehicle

The key to mounting your phone inside your vehicle is to do it in a way that doesn’t obstruct your field of vision when driving and won’t interfere with normal driving, but still allows you to physically interact with the phone when necessary. Typically, this requires placement on your dashboard or one of your air vents. Let’s quickly examine each method.

Method 1: Dashboard mounting

Dashboard mounting requires some sort of car mounting apparatus to stabilize your phone. Sometimes, such as in the case of my Motorola DroidX, device manufacturers offer official car mounts designed to secure you phone, and automatically launch the Car dock application, which features oversized buttons perfect for poking at while driving. If your phone manufacturer doesn’t offer a Dock or your more a DIY’er you can also build your own on the cheap.

Method 2: Air vent mounting

Another popular method for mounting your device is using your heating/cooling vents. This method of mounting is especially useful due to its lack of relative permanence. If you drive a couple different vehicles on a regular basis you can simply pop the mount off and take it with you, vehicle-to-vehicle. Like Dashboard mounts these can also be purchased or built cheaply.

Powering the phone:

This one is pretty simple. Purchase a car charger designed for your phone, plug it in and route the cable neatly.

Getting audio from the phone to your vehicle speakers:

To route audio from your phone through your vehicle speakers you can either plug an AUX cable into both your phone’s headphone jack and AUX jack found on your stereo system or pair your phone with your vehicle via Bluetooth. These procedures vary from vehicle to vehicle and are outside the scope of this article.

There you have it! You should now be able to mount your phone in your vehicle, route the cables neatly and route audio form your phone to your vehicle speakers. In part two of this series we’ll look at the best Android apps to use in your vehicle, specifically those that replicate features of in-car systems.


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