One feature of Android that I was most hoping to see improved in Android 2.2 is the Car Home application. When you plug the Nexus One into the Nexus One car dock the Car Home application automatically launches to provide a finger friendly menu for operating the Nexus One while it is in the dock. Unfortunately, the changes that Google made to Car Home are minor and do not address the major problems of using the Nexus One in the car dock.
Car Home now displays large square icons that take up most of the screen to launch Navigate, Phone, Voice Search, Contacts, and Music. Maps is now on a second screen that you swipe left to open, or you can tap the arrow to the right of the main screen. The second Car Home screen has three blank squares that you would think are available to assign to applications, but I have found no way to do so, they just take up screen space for no apparent reason. The second screen does have squares for Settings and to switch the screen brightness between automatic, day, or night.
The whole experience of using the Nexus One in the car dock falls apart when the phone is in landscape. Tap Phone or Contacts while the phone is in landscape and the display for both remain in portrait. Oddly, after you tap a contact the contact information displays in landscape. Other problems that I have with the Nexus One dock and Car Home is that while it automatically turns Bluetooth on so it works with the dock’s speaker, it does not automatically turn on GPS. It also does not keep the Nexus One display on so if you are using Maps or any application other than Navigation, the screen will eventually turn off. I would prefer the screen to say on while it is in the dock and be at full brightness.
An alternate to Google’s Car Home app is Custom Car Home. It is similar in appearance to Car Home in that it displays large square icons, but you can assign any application to the icons. Custom Car Home also has settings to auto-enable the speakerphone and bluetooth and auto-disable wi-fi. There is also a setting to keep the screen on. While Custom Car Home does not automatically enable GPS nor change the screen brightness, and doesn’t fix how Contacts and Phone display, it addresses enough of Car Home’s shortcomings to make it a worthwhile replacement. You will find free and donation versions of Custom Car Home in the Android Market.