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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.