One of the biggest assets of Google’s Android operating system is its free, built-in turn-by-turn navigation. Since making this impressive app, however, the search giant has mostly forgotten about the car experience. Some manufacturers, like Motorola, have consistently released car mounts for their devices, but it continues to be a hassle to navigate a phone while you’re in your car. More than that, it’s also been deemed quite dangerous. In Dec. 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began advising States in the US to completely ban the use of cell phones by drivers. Assuming a nationwide ban doesn’t go through in the next few months (it won’t), HTC may have a better idea.
This week, at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, HTC has been showing off its new ‘One’ series of Android smartphones and its flagship device, the One X, will have a nice extra feature: a driving mode.
Using a Bluetooth dongle that plugs into your car stereo audio jack and a cradle that sticks to your windshield, the HTC Car Stereo Clip provides a new landscape interface that lets you access your GPS location and Google’s Navigation app as well as your entire music collection thanks to HTC’s new Music hub app, which will aggregate music from any other apps you use like Spotify, Pandora, AmazonMP3, etc. Even better, it will enhance the audio through your car speakers using Beats by Dr. Dre. Texts are also available. Podcasts are also available through apps like Slacker as are Internet radio stations, though to get these, you can only use TuneIn.
In our experience, the system is a great start and seems quite intuitive, though it still has the problem of being a visual interface in a driving situation where you really shouldn’t ever look away from the road. To be fair, however, most in-car dashboards require more attention than HTC’s new interface. Still, voice support — which is already present in Ford vehicles through Microsoft’s Sync technology — would be welcome.
If you don’t have the clip, that’s fine too. There will likely be other docks and, if you wanted to, you can use the car stereo clip dongle outside of the car. For instance, if you have speakers at home that aren’t Bluetooth enabled (or the Bluetooth syncing annoys you), you could plug in the HTC dongle and automatically listen to your heart’s content without the need to sync up every time. (That’s what they tell us, at least. We’ll note that Bluetooth is a finnicky technology.)
As far as we know, the Car Stereo Clip will only work with the HTC One X, the flagship phone of the One series, but additional compatibility may be announced in the future. Exact pricing and availability aren’t yet known, but it should roll out somewhere between April and this summer.