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Parrot Asteroid Smart Review: Android In Your Car's Dash?

Android 2.3 And Parrot's Asteroid Market

One of the main reasons you're reading about the Asteroid Smart on Tom's Hardware is Parrot's choice of operating system. Android is the glue supporting Parrot's hardware, enabling expansive software support, and making the Asteroid Smart an intelligent device. Parrot started with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and tweaked it a bit. There's an exclusive launcher that ties in with the head unit's music functionality, but the environment is still familiarly Android.

Perhaps you're wondering about the lack of Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. Remember that we're talking about fairly old hardware though. Moreover, there aren't many newer features specifically relevant to automotive applications. Parrot's optimizations enable the functionality you really need: Bluetooth-based hands-free compatibility, voice input, and support for steering wheel controls.

The Asteroid Smart cannot access Google Play, nor does it have Google Apps installed. Instead, Parrot exposes its own app store called the Asteroid Market. Although it's still in its infancy, the Market offered 17 apps at the time of writing.

  • Waze
  • Maps
  • Weather
  • VLC
  • TuneIn Radio
  • Roadtrip
  • Spotify
  • Facebook for Asteroid
  • Asteroid Mail
  • Glympse
  • Asteroid Messenger
  • Roadhub
  • Recargo
  • Best Parking
  • Wikango HD
  • Parkopedia
  • iGo

Of the software available, we enjoyed Spotify and VLC the most. By tethering the data connection from our fourth-gen iPad via Bluetooth, we accessed a massive music library in the car. The Spotify app even has an offline mode, so you can download playlists via Wi-Fi at home and enjoy the music without an Internet connection on the road.

VLC is great in concept. It plays video files stored on the SD card and USB devices, though it can't play back across the video outputs. The app does deliver enhanced audio playback on the Asteroid Smart by supporting lossless FLAC files for audio enthusiasts on the go. Unfortunately, the idea is much better than the execution. The current version of VLC is very crash-prone when it comes to reading the 150 GB of FLAC files we loaded onto a USB-based hard drive.

Facebook on the Asteroid Smart is an amusing novelty, but not very practical. It works just like the standard Android app with support for chat.

Aside from those three apps, we weren't all that drawn to any of the other software enabled through Parrot's Asteroid Market.

Side-Loading Apps

The Asteroid Market is great for ensuring compatibility for the folks who don't know any better. But Parrot doesn't limit you to just those apps. It facilitates side-loading .apk files, too. This is particularly handy if you have a favorite title you want to install, but don't necessarily want to root the device. A quick test saw us side-load the XBMC, Nest, and YouTube applications without a problem. Flickr installed, but wouldn't auto-rotate into landscape mode. There are fixes for issues like that, and we'll discuss them shortly.

  • Tanquen
    I’ve been looking for some time now to get a phone friendly head unit but they all come up lacking. You need to root them to get any real functionality and they are slow. Slow to boot and run apps with old operating systems and not all that stable. Pioneer now has AppRadio 3 but it still has issues also. Seems like such a simple thing. I just want to mirror my phone on the head units display.
    Reply
  • blackmagnum
    What a name!
    Reply
  • woodshop
    Throw in at least a dual core, 1 gb ram, Android jelly bean (for Google now) and a 720p screen. Only then will people buy these head units. Or, just tape your nexus 7 to the to the glovebox and it can serve as a secondary airbag.
    Reply
  • flong777
    It is interesting to see this third party hardware to update vehicles without computer touch screens but after reading the article, it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Even if you do a great job of installation your left with a buggy system and a mediocre GPS. It appears that third party updates like this one need to grow up some.

    What is the real deal killer is the mediocre audio - you would have thought that they could have gotten this right as the technology for quality audio has been around for at least 15 years.
    Reply
  • Bloodire
    $100 tablet and $70 software. Bang! touchscreen on your car. Oh and whatever is costs you to mount the tablet.
    Reply
  • daekar
    Why would I want to put something like this in my car when I and everyone I know has a smartphone? I just place my phone on the dash when I want nav, and I usually don't even bother taking calls while driving. If I did, I'd use a Bluetooth headset. Besides, lots of people keep cars far longer than they keep phones. 7 years from now, do you really think that this device will be able to keep up? The whole touchscreen control nav console infotainment thing is completely impractical. Take away controls with tactile feedback. Replace with a screen with almost no feedback at best. Add proprietary software and a dash of obsolescence. I just don't see it.
    Reply
  • the_crippler
    Now I find myself wondering what software Bloodire is talking about...
    Reply
  • tuanies
    11128834 said:
    Throw in at least a dual core, 1 gb ram, Android jelly bean (for Google now) and a 720p screen. Only then will people buy these head units. Or, just tape your nexus 7 to the to the glovebox and it can serve as a secondary airbag.

    You can do that but it won't look as nice nor would your steering wheel controls work.

    11129463 said:
    It is interesting to see this third party hardware to update vehicles without computer touch screens but after reading the article, it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Even if you do a great job of installation your left with a buggy system and a mediocre GPS. It appears that third party updates like this one need to grow up some.

    What is the real deal killer is the mediocre audio - you would have thought that they could have gotten this right as the technology for quality audio has been around for at least 15 years.

    The audio quality is fine, just the function is lacking. I believe they have TomTom on the Asteroid Market now too for those that dislike iGo.

    11129722 said:
    $100 tablet and $70 software. Bang! touchscreen on your car. Oh and whatever is costs you to mount the tablet.

    Will not look as nice though.

    11130207 said:
    Why would I want to put something like this in my car when I and everyone I know has a smartphone? I just place my phone on the dash when I want nav, and I usually don't even bother taking calls while driving. If I did, I'd use a Bluetooth headset. Besides, lots of people keep cars far longer than they keep phones. 7 years from now, do you really think that this device will be able to keep up? The whole touchscreen control nav console infotainment thing is completely impractical. Take away controls with tactile feedback. Replace with a screen with almost no feedback at best. Add proprietary software and a dash of obsolescence. I just don't see it.

    Some people want a clean look that doesn't require slapping their phone on the dash or just want an upgrade from the plane factory setup, maybe an old factory navigation setup. The removal of tactile feedback and controls are typically with cheaper cars, the luxury vehicles still have buttons. But 7-years down the road, you could probably replace this Parrot with a 4th or 5th generation unit :).
    Reply
  • tuanies
    11130452 said:
    Now I find myself wondering what software Bloodire is talking about...

    He's probably talking about GPS software, ie TomTom or Garmin
    Reply
  • brazuka331
    Add a place for me to put a SIM card for its on data and full Google Play store support and i'll buy it! Why is it so hard for these companies to make what seems so simple! We want an in-dash and works like a tablet with full android and not your sh**ty bloatware!
    Reply