By on December 9, 2014

 

p0wnage. (photo courtesy: Facebook.com)

I’ve been accused of Automotive Hipsterism for bragging about my bare bones Ford truck instead of aspiring to expensive vehicles. It used to be different, back when top-drawer dashboards were more Malevich and less Pollock in design. Because good design embraces Less is More, while poor design over thinks the solution.

Speaking of hipster, witness the design backlash on Gillette’s Facebook page, especially the red box.

While automakers shall never receive such a public drubbing, In Car Entertainment (ICE) scope creep is an ergonomic nightmare. I reckon rising purchasing prices encourage a blank check for ICE overreach. People gladly buy the stuff, the technology is readily available, so why not include everything but the kitchen sink?

Because the added value is an ergonomic liability: we got problems when Audi’s handwriting recognition is an ICE-reality.

cnetcom

…two steps back. (photo courtesy: cnet.com)

The folks at Car Design Research highlight In Car Entertainment’s problem and offer a solution: via contrasting the new S63 AMG and two entry-level vehicles outside of America’s reach. Make note of the quote:

“Spend time in the cheapest cars available today, and what you realise is that much of the complexity and feature set added into expensive cars actually provides little functional or emotional benefit. It’s a five-percent ‘nice to have’ or ‘wow’ style feature, that looks impressive in the showroom but then you never use out on the road.”

 

Leveraging the Killer App. (photo courtesy: Car Design Research)

The “bottom up” notion that Car Design Research suggests is fine example of Less is More. Why spend hundreds for navigation thousands for a technology package that uploads Google directions when the FREE Google Maps App does more with less?

Not to mention every other smartphone app maker that’s years ahead of automaker’s tech, but let’s dig deeper into Google Maps:

  • turn by turn navigation
  • real-time traffic re-routing
  • points of interest
  • store contact information
  • hours of operation
  • customer reviews
  • a “see inside” virtual tour, finding the most romantic table before you pick up your date

Let’s also note that Google’s app is regularly updated for free, sans dealership visit or hardware upgrade. In Car Entertainment needs a reboot, and the smartphone is the source: witness Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The dashboard is the secondary display. So what’s stopping this from becoming an ICE reality?

Privacy, durability, usability, API availability, crash testing, litigation threats or IP concerns?  

You tell me, Best and Brightest: because Less is still More.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

114 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: Less Is More with In Car Entertainment...”


  • avatar
    furiouschads

    Use a hunk of 10 AWG wire to make an iPhone cradle. Stick a loop of it in your CD player slot. Bend for best angle. White wire for bill blass, black for LSC, red for GTI. 8 AWG for iPad. Can I have my grade now?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    To be perfectly honest, having my iphone connected via bluetooth is enough. It will lower the music volume, read the turn direction, and raise the music volume back up. If I leave the phone locked but somewhere in view, the turn will pop up on the lock screen. Sure, the built in nav on my wife’s Rav4 is nicer, but it just doesn’t have the same flexibility, ease of use, or POI database that the phone has.

    I do love the touchscreen interface for music, though. It works very well in our Rav4 and FR-S.

    • 0 avatar

      My iPhone works brilliantly with the RCD-510 system in my VW. Annoyingly, though, the voice commands suck. The car asks for clarification on simple names like “Cody”, “Sarah” and “Dad”, and I speak very clearly and have no regional accent.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I have always struggled with using a phone as my entertainment interface in a car. I get the ease of use, but I always found it more distracting to try and operate a phone while driving versus just using my car stereo to run an iPod or nav to get directions. I acknowledge that many don’t have those features in their car, but I just don’t see how choosing a phone over an integrated system is a safer choice?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        My idea is for the phone to be an integral part of the system by offering a clip to hold the phone on the dash and using voice and steering wheel controls to use most of its features. By having a brand- or even model-specific app on the phone, it can be upgraded online and almost completely replace the big-screen head unit now in the center stack except perhaps for the rear-view camera.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I don’t use the phone as my main interface. It is generally in my pocket. My FR-S has a touchscreen that shows the artist, album, and track. I can browse through the head unit if I want (which I usually just hit the first song on shuffle and let it ride). The previous and next track controls on the head unit work to control the phone. Bluetooth has come a long way since it first came out. If I’m searching for a specific song or want directions somewhere, I tend to use Siri and she usually figures out what I’m asking.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I agree – automakers are overcomplicating, as witnessed by the recent quality surveys that ding manufacturers for ICE, but generally have few issues with the mechanical aspects of the car.

    Ford seems to have recognized this and is making changes by re-introducing switches and knobs back into their ICE due to pushback from consumers over MyFord Touch.

    Audi’s MMI system is fine, but I routinely find myself resorting to my iPhone for directions instead.

    Automakers need to recognize that there is a TAP for everything (Time and Place), and I agree with the author: looks cool on the showroom, but in daily use is oftentimes problematic. Touchscreens are great for some items, horrible for others. Microsoft learned a similar lesson with Windows 8 when they tried to shoehorn a touch interface into the whole desktop user interface. Not good.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    ALL manufacturers need to do is provide head units with big screens and screen mirroring. Keep buttons and knobs for HVAC. Simple simple simple.

    Most high end cars are just bought to be seen in and tossed once the lease period is up anyway.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    “Spend time in the cheapest cars available today, and what you realize is that much of the complexity and feature set added into expensive cars actually provides little functional or emotional benefit. It’s a five-percent ‘nice to have’ or ‘wow’ style feature, that looks impressive in the showroom but then you never use out on the road.”

    I don’t agree with this statement. I acknowledge that it is likely true for many. There are plenty of people that want technology and are happy to pay for it. This is an oversimplification and sounds like it is written by someone from Consumer Reports. My parents and grandparents use this same language when talking about cars. I am certainly not going to say that manufacturers have integrated this well over the past few years and I’m not defending some of the technology silliness (trackpads, scented interiors, natural breeze vents, etc.), but to imply that the cheapest car today provides a rewarding experience and that technology add ons in expensive cars today provide no emotional benefit sounds like it comes from someone that has never driven an expensive car. I’ll take the interior feature set of my 911 any day over a Yaris.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Screen mirroring or some form of input so that even if there is some sort of ICE with the car, you can just ignore it. Owning a 10-year old car with a primitive form of ICE, I would be happy if I could just turn it off. It dates the car and at this point isn’t very useful. If you thought the first generation of iDrive was bad, well, it still is but 10 years later it certainly hasn’t gotten any better! Coupled with DVD-based navigation which is slow and out of date, it’s just not reasonable to keep these systems useful as time marches on.
    The only thing that my phone can’t do is pick up FM signals, but beyond that I’d be very happy to ditch the permanent ICE.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, absolutely. Honestly, even the oldest versions of iDrive, like those in the 2002 7-Series and 2003 Phantom look passably modern. But the system that VW used in the Phaeton and Continental GT/Flying Spur looks horrible these days…and that one actually continued into 2010 with the Continental. Then again, Bentley was using a 1998-era navigation system in the larger Bentleys (Arnage, Azure, Brooklands) that you needed a remote-control to use…so the one in the Continental was cutting-edge by comparison.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    All I want to do is mount my (Android) smartphone to my window, have it stay charged, and use it to handle my nav and entertainment. And play everything through the speakers. Unfortunately technologies like AndroidAuto and MirrorLink are being adopted at a glacially slow pace by automakers.

    Consider my beloved Mazda3 for example…I can’t even do the above because the only power point is in the armrest. Otherwise I’d load up with FLACs, play those in the background while Waze guides me around traffic. In comparison, Mazda’s music system won’t play lossless, and is unstable with MP3s (I load an iPod with ALAC-converted FLACs and play those), the nav system is reasonable but all my destination addresses are in email and calendar, so I have to hand-type them instead of poking a link. And as far as traffic and weather updates….Mazda shut the service down, so there isn’t any anymore.

    I may be getting a MINI next…the main selling point? A power point in the dash. And I’ll just use my 5.2 inch smartphone for everything, because it’s smarter than any OEM infotainment system. All many (not all but many) of us want is a way to use our existing tech in the car, not for them to reinvent infotainment.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      I have a 2010 Mazdaspeed3 and my setup includes a Mountek nGroove magnetic CD-slot phone holder, and 4-6 ft power and audio cables routed along the side of the console.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        I have the 2014, it’s all in the armrest…not too excited about running a cable that far. Though I may have to.

        • 0 avatar
          rodface

          The 2012 has an always-on power point and aux port in the armrest (the other power point is behind a door above the shifter and only provides juice when the car is running). I’ve considered lifting up the plastic covers between the seat to run power/aux cables from the connection points in the armrest; I may need to cut a hole somewhere in the plastic to allow the cables to come out. Perhaps you could try something similar.

          I recently rented a 2014 3 and was pleased with the addition of the USB port (I also like the new storage tray). Unfortunately, I don’t find the re-shaped armrest to be very comfortable, and the new location of the CD slot means that my Mountek holder would no longer fit.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Could not agree more, Sajeev.

    Vehicles as rolling mini tablet/phablet demonstration of technology dens turns me ill.

    I can do ANYTHING that I could possibly want or need, in terms of technology, on my 3.4 ounce smart phone, and automakers can shove all the upsell (and many even standard) techno-gadgetry stuffed into every inch of dash space right up their collective a$$.

    Let me fukkin’ drive without cluttered, distracting, bleeping crap.

    Driving used to be Zen.

  • avatar
    redav

    I don’t believe “less is more.” Rather, it should be “simpler is better.” This can be illustrated with my gripes with touch screens: Touch screens have fewer buttons (less), but that makes them harder to use since they resort to menus (added complexity) to maintain functionality. CR has received a ton of flack for dissing infotainment systems, but they made a video demonstrating actions that used to take one action–turning a knob–now can take 6 or 7 actions–accessing a mode, accessing a menu, scrolling, accessing another menu, selecting a feature, etc.

    The point is new technology should make performing tasks simpler, quicker, with fewer actions. If the number of actions is already 1, don’t change it. If the action is long and tedious, then go ahead.
    – Manually tuning the radio? Leave it as a knob.
    – Entering an address? Add voice functionality using a single command, e.g., press button, speak: “Navigate, address ________,” receive confirmation.
    – Adjusting HVAC? Leave it as a knob.
    – Want to play a specific song from the thousands on your USB/phone? Add voice functionality using a single command, e.g., press button, speak: “Play, USB, song __________,” receive confirmation.

    Added functionality is great, so long as it is actually ‘functional’ and remains simple. I saw a national weather map through MFT. That’s not functional–that’s bloat. Routing AC controls through the processor that runs infotainment (although separate, physical AC controls still exist) so that when the infotainment crashes, the AC goes haywire & is unresponsive? That’s just complex, bad design.

    We see this just about everywhere. Companies added features to add a line item to their datasheet, not to make it better. They concentrate on the number of features, not how to use them. That’s bad design.

    (And I would have thought you were branded a hipster for the panther fetish, not for liking a truck–that’s much more hipstery.)

  • avatar
    carguy949

    I don’t agree with the blanket statement. Some expensive cars may be overly complicated, but the Tesla interface is wonderfully straightforward and intuitive. Also, Tesla uses Google Maps for its navigation.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    This article does point out an interesting issue; automakers are trying now to offer smartphone-like capabilities on their infotainment systems as well as trying to interface with those same smartphones. It seems to me that a certain level of compromise is in order.

    More than one TTAC article has discussed how infotainment systems are difficult to use. Commentary on these and other TTAC threads have emphasized that the majority of the latest “reliability studies” have centered around this difficulty. Interestingly, having installed an aftermarket stereo in my old F-150 when I bought it and more recently buying a Fiat 500 with a more basic radio system in it (but still with Bluetooth) I think I see where the compromise should be, though it needs a little fine-tuning. But before I go into detail I need to address one point.

    Yes, the majority of people, at least here in the US, now use smartphones of one brand or another. But that also means that there is still a percentage–somewhere around 25%–of people who refuse to use smartphones for various reasons. These are also the people likely to be most confused and most upset by these modern infotainment systems. With their smartphone-like controls and often menu-driven access, these infotainment systems are too complex for everyday use–especially by people used to one or two dials and a single row of 5 to 7 single-purpose buttons. As such, the infotainment stack needs to be as simple as possible for the less technology-oriented driver who just uses their car and isn’t a “petrolhead”. That group consists of roughly 80% of all drivers.

    Now, as to the systems themselves. That aftermarket radio I put in the truck had both a USB and AUX jack on one side and if you plugged your smartphone into the USB jack, the head unit would immediately access the smartphone’s media files. Now for me that’s either an iPod or an iPhone–it treated them both equally, albeit strictly as a media device. The thing I liked about it is that it was able to read the file structure to the point I had access to individual playlists or the entire library, playing sequentially or “shuffled” (random mode). The Fiat’s radio on the other hand doesn’t seem able to read playlists and tries to play it like a CD–sequential order every time. It’s simply not as intuitive as it could be. Then again, if you leave the smartphone/media player out of the circuit, the radio itself is pretty easy to use (but still more complex than necessary). Remember, this is the base Fiat unit and not the big-screen infotainment U-Connect unit.

    So what needs to be done? Why not leave the big-screen stuff to the smartphone itself? Make it the display and control for infotainment through software when it is plugged in? You can still use the steering wheel controls easily enough but data access can now be displayed on an infinitely better screen that gets upgraded every time you replace your phone. The software too is easy to update–much easier than trying to make a dashboard device relevant 10 to 20 years later. This reduces cost and complexity for the manufacturer while providing a level of technology that continually upgrades itself through the user’s own choices.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “Yes, the majority of people, at least here in the US, now use smartphones of one brand or another. But that also means that there is still a percentage–somewhere around 25%–of people who refuse to use smartphones for various reasons. These are also the people likely to be most confused and most upset by these modern infotainment systems.”

      I have to think the cross section of people who don’t own or use smart phones but will buy an in-car nav system has a population in the single digits, at most. I’m okay with this group being confused and upset by modern infotainment because they’ll likely hardly ever be exposed to it.

      (awaiting the anger of the 8 people on TTAC who refuse to buy a smart phone but demand high end infotainment in their car)

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I’m not going to argue the numbers; any number thrown is most likely a guess. However, I personally know a number of people–admittedly elderly and less familiar or comfortable with computers–who have neither a smart phone nor a computer and of those who have one, don’t have the other (guess which). As such, you’re very likely not to see the flaming you expect because they’re not going to be here to see your argument.

        Taking that into account, if one of these people even did buy a car with one of these new infotainment stacks, they would most likely learn just enough to get by and ignore 90% of its capabilities. To them, it’s a radio that doesn’t even have a tape deck.

        As for the demographic you describe? They’re probably the ones who can’t see spending so much for a phone but are willing to pay through the nose for a near-top-of-the-line car just for the status.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Apple CarPlay is already available on the aftermarket, and Android Auto is not far behind. I’m probably going to ante up for a new head unit in the next year or so.

  • avatar
    mister steve

    Ah, a subject near to my heart.

    Five months ago I purchased a 2015 Mazda CX-5, with the optional “Bose” infotainment system. What a cluster.

    My intent was to load a good portion of my music collection on a USB stick, and play it through the carcar’s system. Simple, right?

    Not so much. Turns out once you turn the car off it loses all memory, and the next time you start the car it starts playing at song #1 again.

    And Bluetooth on this thing has never worked right.

    Give me simple, or at least the opportunity to put in an aftermarket unit.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      I also own a CX5, but the base trim.

      Yet, it still has the same irksome ” next time you start the car it starts playing at song #1 again” feature.

      What good is to have a 1000+ song stick, if one cannot ever go past the first 10 or 20 songs?

      Of course, one can jump manually, but it is an unnecessary hassle.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I heard that was an issue when on the current Mazda6 when it first came out. Terrible that they haven’t fixed that by the time a 2015 model rolled out.

      • 0 avatar
        mister steve

        From what I’ve seen it’s an issue with the Mazda 6, CX-5 and CX-9. From reading the forums it sounds like the Mazda 3 had issues, but they upgraded those systems for 2014. The CX-5 is getting a 2016 refresh, which is supposed to go on sale in spring of 2015.

        Owners have complained to Mazda about the problems, but their response is generally that it works as designed.

        Though the audio system is a double-DIN unit, swapping it out with an aftermarket stereo sounds a bit tricky, since the OEM version also controls such things as how the door locks work and the backup camera.

        In general, I really like the idea of a generic Android or Apple Carplay solution. Those are relatively new to market and I’d be hesitant to swap mine out for another year or two.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Have you tried plugging an Ipod into it? The 6 y/o Sony head unit that I have in my car act in a similar manner when using a USB drive. But with my Ipod classic plugged in, it starts playing from the exact same spot as when the car was turned off. Best $120 bucks I’ve spent, its been in 3 different vehicles and never missed a beat. I’m with you, just give me a standard DIN unit and I’m golden.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I have a new Mazda3 with the new infortainment system. I did the same as you with my music library. It does not have the same “start at song #1” problem. (I wouldn’t have bought the car if it did.) It also does a decent job of remembering even if the USB is removed for a short time.

      However, the system isn’t perfect. It has glitches and sometimes crashes, and when it does, it often goes back to song #1. But my biggest gripe so far is that I have yet to figure out how to jump to a specific song/album but maintain the playing mode.

      The default seems to be to play all albums (meaning play all songs on album #1, then play all songs on album #2, etc.). I often have it set on random, which plays all songs from all albums in a random order. If I pick a specific song, I expect the system to jump to that song and then CONTINUE PLAYING PER THE PREVIOUS MODE, i.e., if I was listening to all albums, the next song would be song after the one I selected on the same album, or if I had random selected, it would continue playing all songs randomly. The system does not do that. It repeats that song, and only that song. The logic appears to be selecting the song is like selecting a playlist consisting of only one song. The same thing happens for selecting an album–it only plays songs in that album whether sequentially or randomly.

      Getting it to go back to playing all songs/albums is not intuitive. I’ve had some luck with selecting the root folder, but then selecting a song. Simply selecting the root folder or “all songs” doesn’t work. Also, at one point I switched the mode to play all songs in order–not all albums in order. There was no difference for random playback, but I never did figure out how to get it back to ‘play all albums’ mode. I believe it was reset with a unintended crash.

      The system has two buttons–I don’t remember exactly what they are for–one for folder & one for playlists. They do exactly the same thing as far as I’ve found so far. This part of the logic of their new system is poorly designed, and I link this error to the errors I have with playback mode.

      tl;dr

      They are getting better, but they aren’t there yet. Remember, we had half a century to perfect simple stereos but only a few years with these new ones. I expect system to continue to improve, but it’s disappointing more lessons learned weren’t immediately incorporated from prior systems.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I had an early car with a nav, then went the smart phone route, now I just bought another nav car. There are a variety of reasons, mostly personal to our circumstances only (for instance: my daughter likes to watch the phone in the car, meaning my wife can’t use it for nav) but a substantial one is that I find the bluetooth integration, at least of Honda/Acuras, to be less than ideal. It is hard to multi-task on the phone, like make calls and use it for nav at the same time, and unless I’m using the bluetooth streaming for MP3s/Pandora, the nav directions on the phone are not anounced because the bluetooth doesn’t cut in over the XM or CD or whatever else we’re listening to.

    The other thing is that a lot of desirable equipment is bundled with the nav (in our new car it was power lift gate, upgraded stereo, HIDs and fogs) and the base model cars look pretty spartan without the upgraded spec package. Our nav pack added 10% to the price of the car, not nothing, but not prohibitive given the convenience. Sure, I could stick a Garmin on the windshield and run some cords and crap and I don’t fault anyone who does that to save $3500, but honestly, it’s just not something I want to do, and won’t as long as I can afford not to.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Nav was standard in the Limited trim on our car (along with leather, memory seats, power liftgate, etc). The cost of getting nav was just noise when you considered all the other things we got by jumping from the mid trim to the Limited.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I agree on this. I went for a couple years with a Garmin on the dash and I always hated the cords. They always seemed to be in the way. I hated packing it up every time I parked and then pulling it back out. That was four cars ago and I will never buy a car again without Nav. I can also tell you that as a buyer, no nav means I’m not interested.

      I love the nav system in my wife’s car, love teh nav system in my 911, mixed opinions on the Nav system in my pilot, but I’m not a fan of Honda nav anyway. I’d still rather have it than not have it. btw, $3500 for nav is far too much.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Jeez it’s taking forever for my comment to post, something going on?

    Interesting that this one went up right away but my other one seems to be stuck in limbo. Guess I can edit this and just paste it here.

    All I want to do is mount my (Android) smartphone to my window, have it stay charged, and use it to handle my nav and entertainment. And play everything through the speakers. Unfortunately technologies like AndroidAuto and MirrorLink are being adopted at a glacially slow pace by automakers.

    Consider my beloved Mazda3 for example…I can’t even do the above because the only power point is in the armrest. Otherwise I’d load up with FLACs, play those in the background while Waze guides me around traffic. In comparison, Mazda’s music system won’t play lossless, and is unstable with MP3s (I load an iPod with ALAC-converted FLACs and play those), the nav system is reasonable but all my destination addresses are in email and calendar, so I have to hand-type them instead of poking a link. And as far as traffic and weather updates….Mazda shut the service down, so there isn’t any anymore.

    I may be getting a MINI next…the main selling point? A power point in the dash. And I’ll just use my 5.2 inch smartphone for everything, because it’s smarter than any OEM infotainment system. All many (not all but many) of us want is a way to use our existing tech in the car, not for them to reinvent infotainment.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Now my comments are being marked as spam for some reason?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Less is more in some razors too. I’m perfectly happy with Harry’s online.

    Navigation and entertainment? Give me a good solid mount, my smartphone, and a Bluetooth connection.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Three recent infrastructure upgrades have changed the way I interact with my car. I have the optional nav package in my CTS. I also subscribe to Sirius XM. Here’s what changed:

    1) Waze. I do have some issues with it, but they are minor compared to the integration of traffic with navigation. With software updates I can look forward to possible improvements. I rarely use the NAV system anymore.

    2) My Synology box. As an IT professional, I have serious misgivings about the cloud. So I created my own that lives on my home network and I registered a domain name to make connecting with it easier. I have all my music on it stored in lossless format. I use the included music app on my iPhone to access it. BTW, this is a killer device. It does automatic backups of our MacBooks and Windows machines, supports file, photo and music sharing and includes a web server, DNS, SQL database, RAID and more. All for about $400 with two 3TB drives.

    3) I found an iPhone mount that holds the phone to the driver-side door right where I can easily see it but not blocking any outward view.

    I have an unlimited data plan which, combined with the rapidly improving data coverage, makes depending on phone-based solutions viable 90-95% of the time. This is the future and I won’t be checking the NAV system option box in any future vehicle.

    Now all I have to do is replace the awful Bose speakers with some nice components from Scan-Speak or Morel and I’ll be all set.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Yeah, I’ve got an ASUS AC68 with a 3 TB USB HDD doing the same job, but I can fit my active FLAC deck on my phone, so I don’t mind just using “local” storage instead. Besides, as a T-Mobile user Pandora (among others) doesn’t ding my data plan.

  • avatar
    morbo

    You are correct for (what I feel) is the wrong reason. Complexity of design isn’t so much an issue as functionality towards the task coupled with reliability and cost. Case in point, smart phone integration with the in car screen as a mirror is great, until the constant use of your consumer grade phone causes rapid life depletion of the phone (battery, screen, radio, antenna, etc.). Perhaps not true for the occasional Pandora streaming or GPS trip to the in-laws, but a problem for a daily road warrior. My in car system may still fail, but it’s been designed and tested to meet a higher performance threshold than my consumer grade phone. That said, it means my uConnect may be a more complex design than a cheapo Android phone, but it’s due to those additional ‘bits’ needed for long term relaibility.

    The other issue I see is reliability. I don’t trust AT&TMobileZon to provide me data for my maps app in some rural corner of God’s forsaken Earth, and last I checked Google’s not making it easy to download Google Earth to your phone. My uConnect Garmin doesn’t have these problems. Same goes for any streaming data service (music, weather, traffic, etc.). No data connection, still got plenty of music on my SD card.

    The UI design in Android/iOS blows away almost everything the car companies have cooked up. People also dislike learning multiple UIs. Perhaps Android Auto and whatever crap Apple is working on will fix this. Till than, people will clamor for their phone on screen, despite the flaws in that model as currently exist.

    • 0 avatar
      lurlene

      > last I checked Google’s not making it easy to download Google Earth to your phone

      Check again. Google maps has an offline mode where you can cache sections of map or a route ahead of time if you know you’re going to be without data.

  • avatar
    turf3

    “In car entertainment”? Yes, it’s called a radio/CD player. Left knob turns on/off and controls volume. Right knob tunes the station.

    “Navigation”? Yes, it’s called a MAP. Remember these? They are made of paper and show you your route, in as much or as little detail, and in context. GPS seem to be like the friend I used to have to ride with: he would never say something like “We’re going to go south on 195 for about 10 miles, then head east on 36, then north on Elm for a little bit, then it gets complicated and I’ll show you step by step.” No, all he would ever say was “now turn right”. Long wait… “now turn left”. I ask “Where the he$%$ are we?” “Don’t worry, I’ll get you there.”

    If I want to play with a computer, I’ll do it at home or the office where I am not piloting a 4000 lb missile in the company of a bunch of other knuckleheads also piloting 4000 lb missiles.

    And then there’s the planned obsolescence factor where the value of your car just dropped by half because the unnecessary electronic doohickey failed and it costs as much to fix as the car is worth; or maybe you simply cannot fix it. If my cell phone craps out I go buy another one. Can’t do that so easily if your cell phone is permanently integrated into the engine controls of your car.

    You know, just because you can do some things doesn’t mean you ought to do them.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Right on. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If I’m going somewhere I haven’t been to before – I plan ahead of time and usually try to relate the new location to at least two familiar streets, etc. Google maps and street view are absolutely awesome in this regard.

      Case in point – went to LA for a weekend last month. I knew I would take a taxi from LAX to a hotel I’ve never stayed in before. I checked out the fare via the internet ahead of time and located the hotel with respect to LAX and then used street view to “see” the hotel in situ. Everything went off without a hitch and because the driver didn’t try to screw me, he got a healthy tip. It’s easy to print these things, too – so you can be aware of what’s happening at any time.

      The old ways aren’t always the best ways, but keeping an atlas or roadmap around is a pretty good idea.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’m not against all the fancy tech, but I’m happy using a Garmin for navigation and playing music thru a usb drive. Heck I’m still rocking a flip phone, but that’s mostly because I’m cheap. Speaking of cheap I saved about $3500 off of list buying my Acura without the tech package, plus I don’t have to deal with the $150 update charge every year. Maybe if I had a better connection where I live I’d be more inclined to be online, but for now I’m okay being behind the times.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “$150 update charge every year”

      Wait what? So its free to update our PCs, Video Game systems, but updating in-car infotainment is $150?

      Smart move skipping out.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        Only if you MUST have the new DVD with all the latest McD’s locations on it. I had my TSX for 3.5 years, never updated it. I expect I might update my RDX once, if that. It’s a non-issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        I think it’s mostly a map update. If you drive out my area your map will be wrong. Garmin and phones update maps for free.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Map and POIs. Some places it’s an issue, some it isn’t. The area I live in in Chicagoland hasn’t had new or changed streets in probably 50 years, so I don’t care. if I lived in an area that was rapidly expanding, I might think differently.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Given that I’m buying a $50 part for my car I just find it absurd to pay $150 for a simple patch, its not like they’re changing the hardware.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            “Given that I’m buying a $50 part for my car I just find it absurd to pay $150 for a simple patch, its not like they’re changing the hardware.”

            Why do you think software should be free? Was it a team of volunteers that mapped the new roads and POIs and updated the nav software?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @burgersandbeer

            Map updates for my $150 TomTom are free for as long as I own it. Why should I pay for map updates for a $2000+ factory Nav system in a car? They have to make the updates for newer cars anyway, it is trivial to provide them to past owners as well.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @krhodes

            Fair enough. The point I wanted to make was software does have a cost. I guess a nav update was a poor example.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Speaking of razors, I’ve always had a lot of irritation shaving with a blade or electric shaver. It wasn’t until I tried a Panasonic wet shaver and shaving foam that I finally found irritation-free shaving. In hindsight, I wished I would have experimented more rather than put up with this for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I use a Panasonic too. Wet/Dry and I use it with shaving cream also. By far my favorite.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Since it’s “that season” (of shavers/electric razors), I will third the Panasonic wet/dry shaver recommendation.

      I have a hard time shaving neatly because I have somewhat curly hair, so the follicles turn inward at a certain length, and in the past, only a very sharp Gillete Sensor with Gel shave cream could do a good job.

      Then I went to an expensive Braun setup, and it was only okay.

      At 1/3 the cost of the Braun, the Panasonic is hands down the best solution for me. I forgot the model number, but it’s the three-blade wet/dry model, and has lasted me for 3 years now with no replacement of foil or anything.

      I will say this – If I need a really, really close shave, for a really special occasion, a straight edge razor applied by my local barber is always the best option.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Hopefully not that Detroit area chain that sells sex over good haircuts. I pity the fool that gets a straight razor shave there.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Which one? There’s a couple (one in Mt. Clemens with another two in Fraser & Shelby Twp???), and then there’s the chain of Sports-themed ones with female stylists in referee striped shirts.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Lady Janes, it’s “wicked awesome.”

            I am out of the barber game though. My wife cuts my hair with Wahl clippers on the front porch because paying $15 for a #1 or #.5 all over is ridiculous. My wife is actually good with the clippers now. We’ve also saved over $1000 the three years she’s been doing it.

            If I want to get a straight razor shave, my wife sure as hell ain’t doing it, I go to Trim on Main St in Clawson or the barber in the First National Building Downtown detroit.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Yeah, that’s the one.

            And yeah, paying $15 to $20 for what’s essentially a longer buzz cut is a waste of money, which is why so many people are buying clippers & just DIYing it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            At 30, I have slightly more hair than Less Grossman. The money spend per individual hairs cut was not a good value. Amazon.com to the rescue.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Personally, I’ve gone back to the old “safety” razor and shave cream. A multi-bladed razor (only three blades even) managed to shave me so close one time that it cut the hair too far beneath the skin (and took a layer of skin with it), from then on I have one patch on my face that constantly gets ingrown whiskers and infected follicles–a condition known as folliculitis.

        Yes, it has even caused boils because of it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I have a Braun Series 3 with the auto-cleaning system, for about 3 years now. Have not been happy with the foil life, as they vary largely between cartridge. Often along the edge of the cartridge, the metal will crack randomly, and cause a nice laceration of my face, along with leaving me partially unshaved that day.

        • 0 avatar
          WaftableTorque

          Braun moved the foil and cutter block manufacturing from Germany to China about 4-5 years ago. There were lengthy review threads on Amazon about the change, and customers noticed the decrease in durability and smoothness.

          It seems like the issue is now resolved, but there’s probably still stock of the old foil replacements on the market.

          I switched from dry to wet electric shaving and chose to retire my Braun rather than spend another minute shaving dry. I wouldn’t mind trying a Norelco wet/dry unit one day.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I use my Panasonic completely dry – no water, shave cream or even moisture (usually – sometimes I will use after I shower).

            It’s the only electric razor I’ve ever been able to use like this day in and day out and get a close shave, and no irritation.

            My Braun had a foil that wore out quickly with daily (M-F) use, and the rotating type electrics like Norelco literally did more pulling of hair than cutting it.

          • 0 avatar
            WaftableTorque

            Deadweight, I’m guessing your shaver is a 13,000 rpm model. I’ve had both the 13,000 and 10,000 rpm versions, and the faster one shaves better and smoother.

            I wouldn’t have thought so until I tried it myself. How about that, everything is better with mo powa!

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            You’re correct. I remember that feature table on Panasonic or Amazon’s website.

            It’s definitely 13000 rpm.

            About once every 10 to 14 shaves, it prompts me to press & hold for the very high resonance rinse cycle to clean the cutting block under running water.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      I’ve used a standard Mach 3 since they sent me a free handle at 18, and I’ll continue to do so until I can no longer get the blades. Coupled with the orange-top Edge gel, and I’m a happy man.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Funny, they did that for me too, back when the Mach 3 was the big new thing. I find electric is much easier on my skin, I was always bumpy with manual shaving.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          You’re probably around my age (32)? I remember coming back from a Spring Break vacation senior year of HS to a pile of mail that included a “register for the draft” notice and a Mach 3 handle. Guess I was a man that day.

          I was given an electric, and it worked okay on s*de stubble, but left vast swaths of underchin area unshaved. Back to the Mach 3.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m 28, so I was not up on my razor news info when they sent me that!

            The key with the electric is multiple directions. Up and down, as well as side to side gets it all. Also, patience! It can take months for your face hairs to adjust to electric shaving.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            After many years with the same Mach3 handle (also sent to me by Gilette while in HS), I recently switched to the Fusion ProGlide (given to me by Gilette in a marathon finisher’s bag). I am happy with the switch. The sideburns/touch-up blade comes in handy. Blades also last me much longer.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I tried to answer yesterday.
            Still isn’t here today.
            I am 28.
            Thought the 3 was new at the time.
            Suppose I was not current on shaving info at age 18!

            Must be patient with electric.
            Hair has to get used to that kind of shaving.
            Can take a few months.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Beards are back in vogue now. Just sayin’

    • 0 avatar
      Dave W

      How do I live in this modern world. My car has a radio with a CD player, My phone has a cord, and I shave with a 30year old Shick injector.

      It is starting to get hard to find blades. The few times I do ask to use a phone the attitude has started to change a little from “Why of course I will magnanimously share my fantastic technology (you loser)” to either “I wish I wasn’t tethered to a phone” or “isn’t it time you joined the modern world?”.

      I’m still not seeing any reason to upgrade to an infotainment system, I find driving infotaining enough.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Just an observation. I recently bought a new car. One of the cars that was on my short list (that I did not purchase) was a late model Porsche Cayman R (2012-2013 approx). One of those fantastic drivers cars that you pay more for, just for the privilege of allowing Porsche to remove the A/C, stereo, cushy seats, and fancy cloth straps to replace the door handles.

    In shopping for these, it was pretty clear that all the Cayman R’s I found, the original buyers paid even more to add back on those features to include stereo, Bluetooth, Nav., etc. The extreme purists may talk about the driving experience, but many still want some kinf of balance between driving and features.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t want to mess with my phone while driving. I just spent a week with a BMW 228i with basic iDrive. It was hardly unusable, but I much prefer the simple two knob and row of buttons setup in my own BMW. The two line display shows me all I need to know. My TomTom is better than every factory NAV system I have ever used. I do prefer iDrive to touch screens though.

    Just call me a Luddite. Or an “old” as one of the little twerps on Jalopnik did recently!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You don’t gotta be old to appreciate good design.

      I do agree that buttons and knobs are good enough for in-car use. The last thing I want to do at 50mph is figure out some dummies over done UI.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      I would like to hear your impressions of the 228i, was it a standard or automatic? How does it compare to your stable?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Automatic, sadly. As to how I liked it – I’m selling my Abarth and plan to spend August in Europe taking delivery of a 228i.

        The rental was a silver on black vinyl “no line” car with butt heat, sunroof, and power seats as the only options.

        Highlights:

        It goes like stink. Really a stupid quick car, at any speed. I really don’t see the point of the M235i. Compared to my 328i wagon, it feels massively more agile, while actually riding more smoothly. I much prefer the lighter steering in the newer cars. The e9x just feels heavy and stiff, not “sporty”. I was surprised at how much headroom there was, even with power seats and a sunroof. ALMOST enough for me to wear a helmet, but probably not quite. The base non-sport seats are perfectly fine. The vinyl is indistinguishable from the leather in my 3-series, other than it is less slippery. They are softer than the 3-seats, about the same in overall comfort. I will probably miss the lumbar support adjustment.

        Lowlights:

        It was an automatic. I do not get along with automatics, mine will be a stick. BMWs goofy automatic shifter sucks donkey dong. The interior is a HAIR cheaper looking and feeling than my 3-series. Still nice though. It’s too quiet out of the box, but so was my 328i. With the automatic, choosing Sport mode to get the firmer steering makes the transmission hyperactive and annoying. I preferred the transmission in comfort but the steering in sport.

        But overall I like it enough to order one. Mine will probably be a base car in Valencia Orange on Oyster, with Cold Weather Pack, Track Handling Pack, stickshift, and H/K audio.

        • 0 avatar
          319583076

          Awesome, thanks for sharing. We had a 135is loaner about a year ago with a 7 spd auto and paddle shifters. It provided seriously addictive thrust.

          I’ve been really tempted by the 228/235 but have zero experience with BMW’s turbo 4. I know the 6 is awesome, but like you said – it’s overkill for my commute.

          I think my ideal 2 series would be similar to yours with the exception of a darker interior color. I’ve spent this week hunkered down in my MX-5 PRHT and the additional space and refinement of a 2 are seriously compelling. I haven’t had the opportunity to drive one though, so I really appreciate your thoughts.

          thanks again!

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If theres one thing I hate about in car entertainment its the needless complexity. Even some aftermarket radios (with buttons n nawbs) are a chore to figure out.

    Honestly, between newer UIs, website “refreshes”, whatever happened to GOOD design? Ease of use? Convenience?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Less is not always more and vice versa. Not a one size fits all.

    I agree that we there is too much fluff in the ICE. In car navigation systems always seem to work poorly or not be updated. I can always get the route on my phone ten times faster.

    Not that anyone asked, but if an engineer or designer reads this blog here is a good start for what I think would be great.

    Cooled seats standard
    Blue tooth
    Some sort of mirroring system that allows for my phone to be displayed on the dashboard screan. I will take it from there.
    Oh and if w are in fantasy land… Bring back the triangle vent window, they made for great motoring with the windows down and a fresh breeze in all the right places.

    That is it. I can skip the 8k in software that I will never use thank you very much.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “If less is more, just imagine how much more more will be.”

    Niles Crane

  • avatar
    George B

    Sajeev, I wish the people who designed the UI in my Accord actually tried to use it in traffic on less than smooth streets. Significantly more difficult to operate a touch screen than the steering wheel mounted buttons while driving. Simply being able to tune up/down across all the SiriusXM radio stations using the steering wheel buttons instead of the touch screen would make me more willing to pay for that service.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I remember when controlling things by touch, meant you could do it with the dash lights off.

    Out in the sticks with no road lights, that’s a big deal because the light you’re concentrating on is from your headlights on the road ahead of you, in the direction you’re driving.

    Especially so in the winter, so you don’t overdrive them and crash.

    I don’t want, or need, light light pollution in the cabin.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    Less is more frequently. I am mostly happy with iDrive from ~08 on. It is quick and easy – the radio and A/C have their buttons back.

    Many of the new systems are just horrid. My exceptions would be iDrive and ChryCo’s Uconnect.

    I want something that I can plug my iDevice into and have a great interface to access all my music and have something near really good sound quality. Really good bluetooth is a big bonus. All the other stuff gets in the way. I have an older (’06) Infiniti that I have put in a double-din deck that does everything I need. That one piece of equipment (along with it’s ancillary hardware) keeps me from replacing that car. I get in a new car that I like (with the exception of too expensive BMW’s and Chrysler) and get frustrated.

    As for Razors, yeah – I have had good luck with the Panasonic. I usually use a regular razor now though to look more professional.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    UConnect is often held as a gold standard, but personally, my wife and I didn’t like it in the ’15 Grand Cherokee we looked at. Too many splashy graphics, too many functions only available through touch screen (seat heaters, many climate control functions, etc), and just difficult to use at a glance. I would say the older nav unit we ended up with in an Acura isn’t quite as good, especially in graphics and resolution, but you only have to go into the nav screen to actually navigate, and for the most rarely used functions like changing audio levels. Everything else has a dedicated real button, which we liked a lot more. We’re youngish (32) techy people with iPhones and iPads and all that crap, but we really didn’t like Uconnect’s way of doing things.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I don’t like UConnect either. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s the look of it. I don’t like the layout at all. I’ve tried to get used to it in various FCA products, but it still reminds me of a $79 Android tablet.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Same. 29, techy, and I really like that the Verano’s touch screen almost never need be touched, as all functions have physical buttons that carry them out as well.

      Buttons, knobs and dials for the win.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I’ve rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Dodge Charger Hemi in the past year. Both with that system and I don’t remember being that impressed. I do remember it seemed incredibly complicated to turn on the heated seats.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    60$ aftermarket stereo with an aux port is all I need. All my Music, calls, voice navigation. All in a 1987 dodge.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    You left out the fact that with the Waxe app on your smartphone, not only can you get directions, you also get the location of all photo radar units and, from crowdsourcing, police car speed traps. Also, accidents, and other foolishness. My cars are too old to have any of this stuff, and I’m not dying to have it in a new vehicle.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    I guess the crappy touch screens, navigation and thousand blinking LED’s are supposed to detract your attention from the numb steering, spongy brakes and unresponsive transmission. It’s not working.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I thought I had found a winner with the Sony unit that is basically a double din cradle that links to a phone. It even had the charging pins for Sony phones but alas my Sony Z ultra GPE’s 6.4 inch screen was too much for it. It does pretty well with the Kenwood Bluetooth unit I installed right after I got the truck. It will link without taking the phone out of my pocket and the phone key on the stereo and OK google do the rest.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I can’t see why anyone would buy a touchscreen in dash radio, after seeing how absolutely unintuitve, redundant, and unreasonably over complicated they are coupled by a rediculous price tag, I have to laugh at the people that actually fork over money for cars containing that mess.

    Unfortunately all aftermarket head units also suck, so the only way to get a decent head unit is factory,just don’t screw it up. Why no aftermarket head unit producer can figure out how to add a simple tune dial as used in almost every car in the market, I cannot understand.

  • avatar
    XYGTHO Phase3

    I agree, but not wholly with your example. I’m not sure how things are in the US, but here in Australia GPS functionality is severely compromised when in the or in tunnels etc. 3G/4G location services just aren’t accurate enough.

    Same goes for portable GPS devices – in a tunnel, the TomTom unit I had lost its signal and took a few hundred metres once out to find a satellite again. In the city, it would tell me I was half a block away from my actual location.

    At least the GPS in my CX-7 has access to the car’s speed and direction (I’m assuming) and can guess where it is pretty damn accurately. At least I’ve never had a problem in the various tunnels and driving around Sydney.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    You know, if people’s comments won’t post reliably, they might find themselves frequenting other sites more and this site less. Just sayin.

  • avatar

    Time marches on. My 2003 BMW with an “Aux In” and a $45 Kinvio bluetooth button works better than the 2008 Acura Tech Package and is way simpler than the 2012 VW system in the TDI. The intelligence and voice recognition in the phone is better than the Acura or VW systems. At this point, the smartphone will nav better than the other two systems as well.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Hummer: Jeez, I can’t imagine paying that much for 1 vehicle, $1,900 is what one could expect to pay for about 3-4...
  • geozinger: Fnck. I’ve lost lots of cars to the tinworm. I had a 97 Cavalier that I ran up to 265000 miles. The...
  • jh26036: Who is paying $55k for a CTR? Plenty are going before the $35k sticker.
  • JimZ: Since that’s not going to happen, why should I waste any time on your nonsensical what-if?
  • JimZ: Funny, Jim Hackett said basically the same thing yesterday and people were flinging crap left and right.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States