It’s been six months since I installed my Seicane Android head unit in my Subaru WRX. What do I think of it after using it for six months? Enough that I removed it and reinstalled the stock head unit.
(The Drive no longer allows me to write reviews or express opinions, so I can’t post this there, but I can’t keep this to myself, either. I guess that’s what my personal blog is for.)
I stand by everything I wrote in my original review. It’s really cool being able to run Waze right on my dashboard while piping music from Pandora or an audiobook from Audible. The problems are the reliability and the execution. Every time I started my car, I had to manually reconnect the head unit to my iPhone’s mobile hotspot. Contrast that to my NUVIZ heads-up display, which, thanks to a firmware update, automatically connects my hotspot each and every time to download the latest traffic information. Granted, I could make this easier by buying a dedicated jetpack to provide data for the head unit. I chose not to. But it’s a factor.
Another factor is routine app crashes. Waze always seems to know the precise moment I need directions the most, and chooses that precise moment to crash. The Seicane head unit comes with a quad core 600 MHz GPU and 16GB of storage, but for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be enough. As time goes on it seems to crash more and more often. Last week Waze crashed on me twice during the short highway hop of my morning commute, even with no other apps running at the same time.
Yet another Waze issue lately has been that the app seems to forget all of my contact every single time I close it. This is quite inconvenient for me. When I leave work, I generally share the trip with my wife so she can stay updated on when I’ll actually arrive home (traffic makes this ETA extremely unpredictable). It’s easy enough to select her name from my list of contacts. But recently Waze lost all my contacts. I’d reconnect Waze to my Facebook account to get them back, but the very next time I’d go somewhere they were gone again. This particular issue likely has nothing to do with the head unit itself, but with the Waze app or the Android operating system. But still, it’s yet another pain in the butt.
Then I contrast all these headaches with the experience of using my iPhone in a Ram Mount in the Jetta. It’s faster, smoother, more reliable, and fully integrated. I don’t have to worry about connecting this thing to the other thing — everything just works. And finally, I came to the conclusion that I like that better than mucking with the Android.
So last night I removed the Seicane head unit and its associated hardware from the WRX, and reinstalled the car’s stock head unit. It may look like a leftover from the 1990s, but at least it works. All I really need is an amplifier that will pipe the audio from my phone through the car’s speakers, and the original head unit is plenty good enough for that.
I did make one change while I was at it, though. I never liked the fake carbon fiber design on the original stereo surround trim piece. It’s no wonder Subaru only offered it for one year. So before I swapped everything, I sprayed the panel with Duplicolor’s version of Plastidip in a tasteful matte black. This is a bad picture (it was dark by the time I finished), but the dipped panel turned out to be an almost perfect match with the rest of the interior. It’s a lot of black plastic, but I actually prefer this more muted look to the original carbon fiber design that screams “THIS IS FAKE.” So that’s cool.
So now what? I’ll probably just keep the original stereo. There are certainly other upgrades available, but while some may offer improvements over the stock one, none will perform the navigation and entertainment functions I want as well as my iPhone already does.
It’s been pretty well established that infotainment systems suck. I was hoping to get around this by using a true Android system, the same operating system as many popular tablets and phones. Unfortunately, in the long term it just didn’t live up to my expectations, which are no higher than what my various iPhones have already been doing for years. For the foreseeable future, I guess I’ll keep using my phone (in a hands-free mount, of course) instead of dropping the coin on a fancy new infotainment system that won’t do the job as well.