With all the fuss about Apple CarPlay, I thought about what I truly needed for in-car entertainment, what I needed to be shown to me while driving and whether touching a screen is the best way to interact with the entertainment setup on my 2008 W204. Turns out that my Android tablet (Nexus 7 2013 LTE) and its plethora of apps has already taken over most of the functions I require on my car dashboard. For instance, I use Google Maps for navigation, Spotify for music, Pocket Cast for podcasts and Automatic app with its companion hardware OBD2 dongle for tracking my trips, fuel usage and driving patterns. By pairing my tablet to a Bluetooth audio receiver, which in turn plugs into the Aux port in the glove compartment, I was pretty satisfied with my setup, with the exception of the following:
Mounting the Tablet
- I tried mounting the tablet to the windscreen with a 7" Arkon mount. It works pretty well but having a 7" tablet blocking your view wasn't the safest option available.
- Poking at the screen with my fingers and aiming for those tiny music control buttons for Spotify to control the tracks was a rather awful experience, not to mention the potential danger of doing so while driving.
- When listening to Spotify, I like to know the song that's currently playing. Keeping the screen on would be great but also a sure-fire way to kill the battery. However, keeping the screen off and pressing the power button on the tablet every time a new song comes on sounded pretty hazardous as well.
So I started exploring new ways to mount my tablet on the dashboard, where it wouldn't block my view when driving. There are various projects that dealt with installing a tablet permanently into the dash, but those weren't suitable for me because I actually do want to use my tablet when I'm not in my car. Thankfully, I came across another forum thread here https://mbworld.org/forums/c-class-w...-solution.html
, which felt like an ideal mounting solution for me. Inspired by that thread, I ordered bunch of adhesive black rubber feet and pasted them along the screen recess of my W204. When that was done, I could slot in my tablet and it fit snugly between the rubber feet! Granted, the additional thickness of a TPU casing helped to increase the width of the tablet, making it a more suitable fit. In fact, as a bonus, I could still close the screen lid when not in use!
Remote-controlling the Tablet
Next, I had to find a better way to control the audio playback for songs and podcasts. Of course the best way would be direct integration with the steering wheel, but the lowly Audio 20 on my W204 had no such option. I certainly wasn't going to fork out several grand to get COMAND and Media Interface Plus installed just for the steering wheel controls. So I did a little more reading up and voila, I found this Satechi Bluetooth Multimedia Remote control http://www.satechi.net/index.php/blu...remote-control
that did everything I wanted! It could play, pause, skip forward/backwards, turn volume up/down and even had a Home button that brought me to the home screen. With a simple button layout, I could also easily press a button without taking my eyes off the road. I found a nice little spot on the armrest where I could easily access while driving and mounted it using velcro strips. With velcro, I could easily remove the remote and pass it to a passenger to act as the DJ too!
Displaying Song Information and other Notifications
Lastly, with the tablet taking the place of my Audio 20 screen, it had to show me the information I require whenever it becomes available. To do so, I placed a widget called NiLS Notifications https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...icationswidget
on my homescreen that would list incoming notifications and even turn on the screen for a short period of time every time a notification came in. This worked for track changes in Spotify/Pocket Cast too. One problem encountered was that Android would show a lockscreen each time the tablet wakes and require me to unlock the screen before showing me the homescreen. Using a combination of apps (Tasker https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ndroid.taskerm
and Secure Settings plugin https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ettings.plugin
), I was able to set my tablet to automatically disable the lockscreen in the car, thereby displaying the homescreen straightaway . The final piece of this puzzle was to get SMS notifications and voice call information from my phone to show on the tablet. Again, there's an app that does so called MightyText https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...=com.texty.sms
which forwards all SMS and voice call notifications to the tablet.
[Update: 9 April 2014]I just realized that voice control for some tasks can be performed pretty easily with my setup. With the Google Now Launcher https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...droid.launcher
installed on my Nexus 7, I could activate voice control by simply saying "OK Google". This only works when the screen turned on and positioned at the home screen, which can be done easily using the Home screen button on my Satechi remote. I tried saying "OK Google. Navigate to office" earlier today and it worked like a charm! Unfortunately, since the Nexus 7 doesn't have built-in telephony, I couldn't make a call or send texts using voice commands. Nevertheless, a full list of Google Voice Actions can be found here: https://support.google.com/websearch.../2842392?hl=en
Some examples are launching an app, playing songs, adding reminders, events, etc. Take that, Siri!
And that's it! Although I'm pretty satisfied with my current setup for now, suggestions on how to improve it further are certainly welcome!