To date, the Android Auto app has been downloaded more than a billion times, and it is estimated that more than 100 million cars now integrate infotainment compatible with the Google platform, or with Apple’s CarPlay. Platforms that, in a certain sense, have revolutionized entertainment in the car and that, bugs aside, have been deliberately limited in functionality for a very specific purpose: to prevent the installation of more complex applications from distracting driving.
And let’s face it immediately: it is a sacrosanct limitation , which should continue to be like this. However, there are those who are not satisfied with the limitations of the car systems of Apple and Google, and these are precisely the people to whom CarDongle is addressed: a small cylinder that must be connected to the USB socket of your car (which must already support its own Android Auto), and which will transform the system into a sort of totally free smartphone. In a nutshell , with CarDongle you can access the PlayStore and install all applications for Android, Netflix , YouTube and SkyGo included. It is still crowdfunded on Indiegogo, but it already works great.
CarDongle review: the device that brings the PlayStore and all Android apps into the car
Design and materials
CarDongle is a cylindrical device with not too small dimensions, which integrates a USB connector in one end and a gray ring in the other, in which a status LED and a microphone have been positioned that can be used to interact with the ‘Google Assistant : The LED will turn orange during startup and will change to blue during use.
The entire body of the product is made of polycarbonate which, although it does not seem particularly solid, is able to resist very well to bumps and scratches also thanks to its matt black color. However, given its not very compact size, my advice is to use the CarDongle with a small USB extension cable, in order to avoid accidentally bumping it and thus damaging the connector or port.
On the side then there is a small trolley, which however will not allow the insertion of a SIM card: CarDongle does not integrate a telephone module, but supports memory expansion via a microSD card.
To animate CarDongle there is an octa-core Mediatek chip that, without a fan, manages to reach 2 GHz. The cooling system is passive, therefore no fan was used, and in fact after prolonged use it is something that is you hear: after a few hours of ignition, perhaps using some heavier application, the CarDongle begins to heat up especially in the area closest to the gray ring. However, this is a well-managed heating, which does not affect the operation of the device.
CarDongle is then sold in two versions. There is a cheaper model that integrates 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory, which I do not recommend you to consider, and then a more expensive model but that with its 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of memory internal manages the Google operating system and related applications much better.
It then integrates the GPS, a Bluetooth module and a WiFi module that will be used to connect the CarDongle to the internet: by not integrating a slot for the microSIM, to ensure that the device has full functionality it will be necessary to connect it to your smartphone via hotspot .
Android use and experience
There are two essential requirements to be able to use CarDongle . The first is that your car has an Android Auto compatible infotainment, the second is that it has a touch display. Ok, it is very rare to see a model compatible with Android Auto but without a touch screen, but to use CarDongle it is good to get into the perspective that it is as if you were using a real Android tablet.
Once you have plugged the device into the USB socket of your car, you will have to wait a few moments and the game will be done. The car’s infotainment will delude itself into believing that an Android Auto smartphone has been connected, and the CarDongle home screen will appear on the screen, which is very similar to that of a smartphone in landscape mode, in which there are 8 pre-installed applications on the home screen.
Already by itself, CarDongle will come with YouTube, Netflix, YouTube Music, Waze and Google Maps pre-installed, but through the PlayStore you can download everything. Of course, given the rather limited hardware it is good to keep in mind that games with complex 3D graphics are to be put aside, but in our tests we have to use video streaming and music streaming apps, obtaining a complete 360 ° user experience. And in addition to Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus, we have also installed and used SkyGo, with a more than positive result: the streaming of all TV channels is always fluid and with video and audio in perfect sync.
Needless to say, with CarDongle it is possible to use all platforms for cloud gaming: both with Game Pass and with GeForce Now and Stadia, I have not found any limitations other than that relating to the speed of the connection in some areas with little field. And the same goes for PS5 Remote Play.
Telegram also works without problems , and also allows you to listen to voice messages, but we cannot say the same for WhatsApp, which will not be available for installation. But hey, as far as I ‘m concerned I would have done very well without Telegram too , because in my opinion the only way to use these apps in the car and safely is through digital assistants.
And speaking of digital assistants, in CarDongle it is possible to use the Google Assistant in full force. In addition to the touch, you can interact with Google Assistant through the command “Ok Google”, and then ask him anything.
You can also ask him to set a specific destination in Google Maps, but here it is important to always keep one thing in mind: although CarDongle integrates GPS, and can also take advantage of the GPS of the smartphone to which it connects, the reality is that given the structure and position of the USB ports in cars, geolocation is never accurate and is practically unusable.
When using the iPhone as a hot spot, CarDongle cannot even perceive that the vehicle is moving, and the only alternative would be to use the device with a USB extension cable and then place it on the dashboard in order to simplify the fix with the satellites. But it is a rather inconvenient solution.
Furthermore, with CarDongle it is not possible to manage phone calls: both incoming and outgoing calls will be managed directly from the smartphone connected to the Bluetooth system of your car.
Price and considerations
CarDongle is still available at a “discounted” price on Indiegogo: the version with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory costs about 88 euros, while the one with 4 GB of ram and 64 GB of internal memory costs 98. And it’s useless underline how much more interesting the more performing option is, because – especially for RAM – the differences in use would be felt and how.
And the reality of the matter is this: it is a device designed well but above all it works well. The only doubt, however, is on the real need to use this type of applications in your car because, and we will never tire of emphasizing it, when driving you should just drive , avoiding any distraction.
Things change instead if you spend a lot of time in the car with the car stationary: in this case CarDongle would give you access to practically infinite possibilities, exponentially expanding the potential of the infotainment you have in the car.
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This article CarDongle Review: the device that brings the PlayStore and all the Android apps into the car was originally published on GizChina.it .