Summer’s here, and it’s time to hit the road. Automotive entertainment used to be restricted to radio and whatever you brought onboard in the form of prerecorded music — from 8-tracks to discs and later iPods. But now that smartphones and tablets have made Internet connectivity possible in the car, a whole new world of content has opened up on the road.
We gathered five of the coolest connected- car gadgets and took them out for a shakedown cruise.
Whether it’s keeping you entertained, on the right path, or from getting a speeding ticket, these gadgets have got you covered. You don’t need a smartphone — or even a data connection — to use all of them.
Smartphone apps bring a world of connected content into the car: streaming music, podcasts, navigation, and more. Of course, it’s dangerous to look down at a smartphone’s small screen while driving. To solve this problem, JVC’s KW-AV64BT DVD receiver, part of the company’s App Link line, connects to a smartphone (via a separately purchased accessory cable) for access to certain apps on the head unit’s 6.1-inch touchscreen.
The most prominent app is the one for preeminent Internet-radio service provider Pandora, which when rendered on the JVC’s screen shows album art, lets the user thumb-up or thumb-down songs, accesses saved stations, and more. The JVC KWAV64BT also accommodates the app for the MOG streaming music service, and it has Bluetooth audio so that you can wirelessly stream music and content from any app, although without the onscreen controls. When we played Pandora with an iPhone 4 connected to the accessory cable, the JVC made it easy to access the main controls — thumb up/down, skip back/forward, bookmark an artist or song — but getting to your station list was a little more difficult. The streaming was glitch-free, although that relies more on your data connection at any given moment. Sound quality is about what you’d get from a wired iPod connection — it was much clearer and richer than with a Bluetooth audio connection.
In addition to playing DVDs, the JVC also includes AM, FM, and satellite radio, and its Bluetooth feature allows for hands-free phoning. Other supported apps that come in handy on a road trip include MotionX GPS Drive, which for 99 cents gives you turn-by-turn directions (1 year of voice-guided directions is an additional $9.99 in-app purchase), and INRIX, for free real-time traffic reports. It also supports an entire suite of DriveMate apps that let you record your trips using your smartphone’s camera (whether for accident reporting or track-day competition) and will even warn you if you get too close to the car in front of you by using an iPhone’s camera and accelerometer. Speaking of warnings, the JVC can also serve as an extension for Cobra’s innovative iRadar detector system ($130), which leverages an iPhone app, connectivity, and crowd-sourcing to keep you informed of speed traps, accidents, and other potential road hazards.
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