Car technology is moving at a faster pace than ever. Each car brand wants to have the latest and the greatest technology equipped in their model range. Something as simple as a touchscreen head unit would only have been in range-topping luxury vehicles a little under 20 years ago. Today, we have touch screen head units with integration to other gadgets all across different makes, models, and variants.
What is a Head Unit?
In 1930 Paul Galvin invented the mass production car radio under his newly formed company, Motorola. It was a battery-powered tube-amp radio streaming AM called the 5T71. This quickly grew the car radio base to 3-million users. FM was introduced by Blaupunkt, a radio company in Germany in the 1950s. Chrysler took the radio a step further and gave motorists the opportunity to listen to records with the optional Highway Hi-Fi System. Fast forward 89 years later to the latest in-car radio technology which involves a head unit that you can manipulate by touching a screen. A head unit is the system that controls the audio, navigation, and climate control typically placed in the center console of the car. It can also provide entertainment and other essential vehicle information. The term “Infotament system,” is also widely used to describe modern head units.
What is a DIN?
You will encounter the term “DIN” when you’re looking for a touch screen head unit. The sales person will describe a head unit as “Single-DIN” or “Double-DIN,” which pertains more to size than level of technology. DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung which roughly translates to German Institute for Standardization. A single din is 2” x 8” which was decided by German manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen to be the standard size of a radio opening. Double DIN would have the same width but double the height.
What are the benefits of upgrading to a Touch Screen Radio?
1. Added Safety
Active safety features like sensors are displayed on the touch screen display. More importantly, it can be paired to a backing camera with proximity sensors and guidelines. Other manufacturers take it a step further and display a 360-degree view around the car.
2. Navigation System
Never get lost with the native navigation system. You don’t have to use your phone or a map for directions. All you would need to do is key in the address of the place you’re going to and it creates a route for your on the fly. Save places like home or work into the system for easier route planning.
3. Simple user interface
Most touch screen head units display a clear and simple-to-use interface which integrates into the other native applications. The large display makes reading and adjusting certain settings easy. You can jump from one interface to another because it is very similar to using a mobile phone. Other head units even have gesture commands which don’t even need you to touch the screen.
4. Better reception quality
Touch screen head units also act as a receiver of HD radio and satellite radio. Sound quality is cleaner and crisper with HD and satellite. Because it doesn’t rely on radio towers, satellite and HD radio have less blind spots than a regular AM/FM stereo.
5. Multiple entertainment sources
Of course, manufacturers won’t just leave you with the radio alone. You can stream audio by bluetooth, plug in an iPod to the AUX receiver, or use a USB thumb drive with media saved on them. The touch screen head unit communicates with your phone or USB drive to stream your music.
6. Sync your mobile life
Know everything that’s happening in your phone through your head unit. Branded technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allows us to mirror our cell phone to the head unit, giving us access to applications which aid in navigation and accessibility. Aside from that, syncing your mobile phone to your car allows you to have a safer commute thanks to the pairing and speakerphone capabilities.
7. On the fly upgrades
Brands like Tesla can update your car over the internet giving their customers the latest technology with just one download. Head units can be updated to access new features or to fix existing bugs. They’re just like computers which needs a refresh every now and then. If you have an OE touch screen head unit, you can bring it to your dealership for updating. But if your head unit is an aftermarket accessory, visit the manufacturer’s website or the trusted mechanic who installed it for you.
Weather you’re switching out an ancient tape deck head unit or upgrading an existing screen type head unit, having the latest technology in your car has many benefits. It’ll be safer with all the driver aids and phone patching capabilities, and it can bring your car’s value up because of the additional features. Whichever head unit your choose, make sure that you go to a trusted professional to have it installed to make sure that your electrical system doesn’t get screwed up. Check your vehicle’s warranty in case installing an aftermarket accessory, like a head unit, will void it.