At the beginning of the year, we reported Spotify was working on a voice-controlled in-car music-playing gadget, which would connect to the car via Bluetooth to stream your favorite tunes. Today, the company confirmed such a device exists, but it's actually a prototype designed to learn how people listen to music while driving, meaning it won't be commercially available.
Just a couple of days ago, we reported on a new "car view" mode being tested by Spotify, which (as the name might suggest) optimizes the app's interface for use in a car by making everything a whole lot bigger. Turns out, that might not be the company's only plans when it comes to in-vehicle entertainment. Financial Times is reporting that Spotify has hardware goals, planning what it calls a "voice-controlled in-car music player."
OnStar, GM's connected car service, has been standard on all of the company's cars and trucks for years. The basic functionality includes remote access, vehicle diagnostics, and some other simple connected features, with more advanced fare like GPS navigation and theft protection hidden behind paid tiers. For the last few years Chevrolet has also offered in-car Wi-Fi hotspots powered by the OnStar system, connected to AT&T's LTE network. Following the latest tweaks in AT&T's unlimited plans for smartphones, the companies are now offering unlimited data to cars, too.
Are all the newer cars on the street making your ride jealous? Okay, your car doesn't have to be old to lack the OnStar functionality that some vehicles offer, allowing owners to track stolen vehicles or determine why their Check Engine light is on. Regardless, there are ways to give your car these features, and one of them now comes from Verizon.
Today the carrier has announced Hum. For $15 a month (and $13 for any additional vehicles), Verizon will send you a two-piece kit with built-in GPS that can help law enforcement find your stolen vehicle or point you towards your last parking spot.
Google is working on its own in-car Android experience that's only just now starting to trickle into vehicles. The downside is that it's going to cost you either the price of a new car or something in the vicinity of $1,000. Some folks would prefer something cheaper, more hands-on, if you will. This one guy has taken to Reddit to show off the experience he's managed to throw together in his Toyota Prius using a 2013 Nexus 7.
Let's point out the obvious first. No, the hardware isn't as smooth as Android Auto. The Nexus 7 covers up some of the vehicle's buttons, and the charging cable is clearly visible.
Not too long ago, I took a look at the Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth dongle. It was a solid product that delivered on its goal of allowing people to connect over Bluetooth in cars that don't have the functionality built-in. But at $49.99, it's a little on the pricey side. For that cost, you can get a Kinivo BTC455 that not only delivers the same capability, it supports two devices at once, hands-free calls, and controlling music playback. Frankly, it's more bang for buck.
That said, after trying out the Kinivo BTC455, I occasionally longed for the Griffin iTrip AUX. Let me tell you why.
Seeing which manufacturers will bake Android Auto into their latest models is cool and all, but I'm looking to see which third-party options start appearing on store shelves. After all, I bought my vehicle in 2013, and I'm not looking to replace it in the next couple of years. Fortunately Kenwood has come to CES with one that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the DDX9902S.
Out of the box, Kenwood's unit has a tacky interface that perhaps only a car enthusiast could love. But once you plug your Android device in, the interface switches over to the one we're actually interested in.
Earlier this month, when we recapped all the rumor and leak posts we had published leading up to Google I/O, hands-free functionality called Android Eyes-Free (codenamed KITT) was marked as "partially live." For those in need of a refresher, our post outlined in-car functionality that would carry a stripped-down interface, notifications read aloud by Google, and a new hand-waving gesture used to wake the device.
While the hands-free hotword functionality has already debuted, the dedicated in-car interface, void of any visual chrome, has yet to be revealed (or even really hinted at) by Google.
But a small tidbit spotted in one of Google's promotional gifs today might give us just a little more hope that the functionality is still in progress.
Amid all the gadgets and gizmos at CES, Sony has quietly announced a new in-car entertainment system, the XSP-N1BT. It was announced so quietly, in fact, that everyone seemed to miss it until @evleaks pointed it out. It seems like Sony should have made a bigger deal, because it looks neat.