My Review of the Phoenix Android Head 9" Octacore Head Unit

Moopy62

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In the U.S. Civic HB Sport owners that elect to go for a manual cannot get upgraded features including the more advanced head unit. The basic unit is just past barely functioning and I have often cited that my aftermarket $69 JVC head unit was better than this truly disappointing head unit that somehow Honda thought was anywhere near ready to put in a car. All that said we 2018 Civic owners face an uphill battle when it comes to aftermarket head units. Still no Metra harness adapter and a severe lack of adaptable head units so when I saw multiple reviews of the Phoenix Android I got excited to get one but that excitement quickly has been flushed right down a circling vortex of frustration and disappointment.

After ordering I received the unit (DHL) within 5 or 6 days with lots of tracking notifications - pretty good. I unboxed the unit already knowing that there was going to be an absence of helpful documentation. "Thats OK" I think since I feel I'm not a complete idiot with this kinda of stuff.

Install went fairly smooth (JDMPanda does a pretty decent review for install that helped). At least Honda's dash design makes this a pretty simple process . After a couple hours the unit was in and I powered it up.

Okay - now is the time for a little disclosure. I'm a Windows guy and Apple/ Iphone (8) guy. My experience with Android is my wife's Samsung tablet and I have always found it less than "friendly" I recognize that its a familiarity thing and I have just been lazy in getting totally proficient in the Android environment. But Hey - how hard could this be ? My objective was simple knowing that an Iphone-to-Android was going to be less than ideal. I wanted a head unit that perform the basic 5 - ideally...
1. Be hands free for phone. Push a button and say "Call So and So" and it accesses my phone's contacts (Nope to Honda)
2. I can easily switch between often used features/apps ( ideally via steering wheel controls) to see and select songs easily (Spotify, Amazon, Itunes playlists ect).
3. I can hear navigation while listening to radio or any other app (Can't do that with Honda)
4. I can hear (or see) my text ( I know that's a loaded one) - and verbally respond
5. I retain my backup camera without having to install and aftermarket unit

Anything else "cool" this unit could provide would just be gravy.

So here we are at start up- there are a lot of pre-loaded apps, many of which I either wont need/use or I have no idea what they do. That's OK for now - I am concentrating on my basic 5.

#1 Ok - phone. Were is the phone app. Oh - that's the one labeled "Bluetooth" So where is the bluetooth app? Oh - that's the one labeled "A2DP". So how do I setup a BT connection? With neither of these apps. My bad - I get the BT connection between the phone and head. Great. Lets make a phone call. Press my steering wheel "mic" button. That only Mutes sound. Huh? Is there a mic button on the BT (phone) app? Nope. How do I find and call a contact? I have to press Contacts button and scroll thru a couple hundred contacts? Huh!? No hands free dialing unless I use "Hey Siri". It works but not reliably and the mic delay is terrible. This Sucks!

#2 So I figure the solution to #1 is simply remapping steering wheel functions. I test how they work. Let press "Source". Yup - it jumps between Radio, Video , Music (storage), AV-In, and TV. Of these I only need Radio and possibly Music. What I want is to scroll through the apps/functions I use.
Scroll to Phone app? Nope
Scroll to Bluetooth source? Nope.

But I am sure this is maybe a simple SW mapping issue. Lets fix this problem. I try "wheel key" setup . Nope. I try and look everywhere. It seems that you can't map/select functions on the SW. (I ended up reading somewhere on Civicx that indeed this is hard coded in the CAN?). I cannot select default Sourses nor can I map the mic to the SW mic button. This is beginning to not look good.

Already disappointed and frustrated I move on. So before getting to the rest of my basic needs list I am sitting in my driveway and now comes the time to test some built-in apps, more fully configure the unit, and download other apps. I play with the Launcher app. Cool. I set up the UI and make it default on startup. Nope. I play and play - it just doesn't seem to retain default settings and crashes often. It turns out that, through this whole ordeal, this seems to be a common theme with either this head unit and/or Android. Buggy, crashes, non-sticky settings. Unstable or just downright crappy apps. It's so bad that I can honestly say that a significant issue behind this whole thing is crappy instability- I honestly don't know if it lies with the Phoenix or with Android in general. I end up doing a factory reset and start over. Finally got a Launcher to work and stay working.

This brought up a much larger question. How easily does my unit connect to data. In my driveway it see's and connects to my home wifi network easily enough but before going mobile I have to use the "EZConnect" app if I want to use my Iphone hotspot and it turns out its not very "EZ" or intuitive. Most every time I leave the car I have to re-establish hotspot wifi - its tedious and it impacts the ease at which apps like Spotify can be used. No wifi - no Spotify or many other apps for that matter. But I think I get now that this probably was an unrealistic expectation based on my ignorance. I simply thought (and hoped) that by connecting my phone that it would supply the necessary data via LTE. It doesn't maybe this is another excuse for Carplay dongle- but I know this too has limitations?

Now I try experimenting with the mysterious A2DP app. It seems this is my BT connection to my Iphone that will give me the ability to play my Itune playlist. I start up my music app and miraculously music is playing! I skip forward to the next song and.... it crashes. Multiple tries and multiple crashes. It seems hopeless so I go to the play store and download several other similar apps and invest yet more time. I have NO IDEA what I am looking at. Some provide a little bit of help in setup but I manage to get none working. I research and now its beginning to feel like I need to go to the College of Android to get anything friggin' working - its not what I wanted. I go back to the default app that seems to show absolutely no information but song, no list, no nothing and it seems to have no "settings" to change anything. I give up.

#3 - Navigation. I did get it to work with Google maps and its pretty good when its working BUT - again - it seems the phone's wifi hotspot must be connected in order to hear directions, otherwise its just running GPS and "dings" when an up coming turn is coming. I also have yet to find a way for the unit to diminish sounds playing (radio, song,etc) while nav voice comes on. A setting? Maybe but this unit is so full of menu's or hidden methods (to me and my non-android butt) that I couldn't find out how.

#4 - text stuff was a wish but not happening as far as I can tell. Maybe a case for the aftermarket CarPlay dongle?

#5 - Backup camera. It works! Yay!

Overall this unit just isn't for me. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to function for my basic 5. It just doesn't. It requires waaaay more effort than I wanted to put in. I still do not understand how this thing is sold as "hands free". The apparent lack of an easy access (mic button) is a deal breaker. I am sure that the Android techo-geek crowd likes the unit since I have seen some reviews but, overall, I don't think it's meant for the average Joe.

As I said above, I am not an Android guy so if anyone out there has some advice as to how either rectify functional issues or point out errors I am receptive. I want to be both fair and accurate.

(UPDATE) I got the Apple Carplay dongle. First I had to download the apk for the head unit. No problem in theory except for the fact that the unit google apps simply did not work. Wifi signal great. Tried multiple wifi locations (including phone hotspot) which indicated strong connection but after 1.5 hrs just had to factory reset the unit (again).
Plugged in dongle and viola- I had carplay! Hooray! Went back and hour later to go run some errands and guess what? Now a totally blank screen. Another 20 minutes of playing with setting and got the screen back. Will see how long that lasts.
ALSO- the USB stick still a huge horrible problem. Everytime I get in the car it requires me to wait several minutes then I have to rescan the library to see the music. Be prepared to do this every single time you get in the car. What bullshit.

(UPDATE 10-18) The Carplay dongle works but is low to load and the unit does not seem to (again) retain default settings. However, now when the phone is plugged in and I am listening to the radio then get a text is just stops the radio. No choice. Got to exit again and re-start the radio.



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calonzo

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Sigh. I bought one a while ago and have yet to install it. I guess this is what I was afraid of. Thanks for saving me the time and effort.
 
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Sigh. I bought one a while ago and have yet to install it. I guess this is what I was afraid of. Thanks for saving me the time and effort.
Please don’t rely on my review to stop you! Your experience and your abilities may be different. Honestly the physical ease of removing and replacing may make it worth at least trying. I’d prefer to see other people put their two cents worth in on this review. And hear about their success and failures.

Really what I would love to see happen is for somebody out there to read the stuff and come up with a aftermarket unit that focuses on the essentials and does them well. I really don’t need a TV or a DVD player in my car. All the gadgets and bells and whistle’s come at a cost
 

calonzo

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I don't see how I can argue with your experience. It sounds like you know enough of what you are doing. But maybe if I have some time to kill, i will try it anyway.
 
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Yet another issue. So I figured that since this thing was making it so difficult for me to access my Music I got a 32 gig USB stick, formatted it, and put my music on it. To make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I only copied a couple folders. I connected it and sure enough it recognized. I downloaded the pi Music app. Everything looked good so I downloaded 22 gigs then re-inserted the USB stick.

Nothing. Can’t get anything to see the songs. This thing is a shit show
 

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In the U.S. Civic HB Sport owners that elect to go for a manual cannot get upgraded features including the more advanced head unit. The basic unit is just past barely functioning and I have often cited that my aftermarket $69 JVC head unit was better than this truly disappointing head unit that somehow Honda thought was anywhere near ready to put in a car.
//---- snip ----//
Overall this unit just isn't for me. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to function for my basic 5. It just doesn't. It requires waaaay more effort than I wanted to put in. I still do not understand how this thing is sold as "hands free". The apparent lack of an easy access (mic button) is a deal breaker. I am sure that the Android techo-geek crowd likes the unit since I have seen some reviews but, overall, I don't think it's meant for the average Joe.

As I said above, I am not an Android guy so if anyone out there has some advice as to how either rectify functional issues or point out errors I am receptive. I want to be both fair and accurate.
I feel your pain.
If nothing else, it makes you appreciate the work that Honda must have done, to end up with a Infocenter that, although simple, and limited, actually works, and works reliably -- if a little slow.

I have gone though the process of Rooting our Honda Infocenter, only to find that adding almost anything else I add, slows it down to a crawl.
Then, to make matters worse, it crashed, never to boot again :( That was an expensive "non warranty" replacement.!)

This evening, having nothing better to do, I took the old Honda unit apart, just to see what was inside. I was actually quite impressed. It is a sturdy, well built unit, but is obviously dated, compared with the current 2018 generation of 8 Core Android 8 unit, available from China.

But unfortunately, the "generic" China units just don't have the Interface capacity to do what the Honda units have been customized to do within the Honda Car environment.

So our new Si and it's even newer, Head Unit, (that I am forbidden to mess with) ,by comparison, actually, after the above experience, really works OK as is.

My 31 year old Maxima however, has been treated to a "China" Super Fast, 2018 Android head unit, and it is amazingly "Flexible" and FAST. :spaz:

It does not have to interface to any modern car's electronic Bus systems, or control any of the cars functions, so there are no issues in that department.
I can load any app, and as many apps as I want from the Play Store, and it runs them all at lightening speed.

But its speed and versatility is actually its down fall. !!

I can do so much with it, and the more I do, the more complex it all becomes. I have probably spent over 200 hours "playing" with it, and it is a constant addiction and time consumer.

'Yes, Its very cool, but it has grown into a Monster with a mind of it's own.

So I look back at the Simpler, Functional Honda Standard Head Unit, and can now really appreciate that it is a GOOD , optimum fit for the car. It does what it needs to do, no more, no less, and it does it simply and reliably.

Would I put a Honda Head unit in my Older car -- NO .. it is too limited (and expensive !!)

Would I put a current State of the Art Android unit into the SI -- NO !!

Far too much work, would probably never work as well as the Honda Unit to do the basic function that it HAS TO DO in the car.

Maybe in 2020+ , Honda will come out with a new, modern head Unit, that will retrofit back into the 2018 cars, but the way things have been going over the past few years, I can see a later Model HU being even more restrictive, and locked down to only do what Honda/Google have decided it is allowed to do.

If it any consolation, the Current 2018 Honda Head Units are very well built, (far better than the modern China Units).

As years go by, there is a lot of truth in the saying "They don't built units like they use to in the good old days"

So I would say .. be content with what you already have .. "The grass is NOT greener on the other side" -- even if you do all that work to finally get to the other side.
 

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Yet another issue. So I figured that since this thing was making it so difficult for me to access my Music I got a 32 gig USB stick, formatted it, and put my music on it. To make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I only copied a couple folders. I connected it and sure enough it recognized. I downloaded the pi Music app. Everything looked good so I downloaded 22 gigs then re-inserted the USB stick.

Nothing. Can’t get anything to see the songs. This thing is a shit show
There "might" be a SIZE limitation on the USB stick the Honda USB port / Head Unit can support. (maybe 16 Gigs ??) -- so once you put more than 16 Gigs onto the stick, it could no longer read it.
 
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Great stuff- thanks. I guess the bottom line is ( beyond the fact that this unit operates so poorly ) that my major grumble is that most of us have these $800 computer (eg phones) that we wander around with only to be hamstrung by the head unit these companies put out. Going back to my point that I’m not a technology guy and I truly recognize that I don’t Comprehend the software implications , I still don’t understand Why something so simple such as having the unit be able to either read or transfer my contacts list rather than me have to re-input every contact individually so that I can make a hands free call is so friggin difficult.
Your references to the Honda head unit ( I assume the basic one that I have ) Perplexed me because mine is nowhere near as functional as you alluded to.
I cannot hear navigational voice prompts if I’m in radio mode.
I have to enter everyone of my over 100 or more contacts individually in order to make a hands-free call
As an alternative Trying to use siri while connected is virtually impossible due to connection delays.
I wish I had your optimistic perspective. But my experience is that both Hondas head unit and this aftermarket head unit simply cause so many problems that they become dangerous to use
 
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There "might" be a SIZE limitation on the USB stick the Honda USB port / Head Unit can support. (maybe 16 Gigs ??) -- so once you put more than 16 Gigs onto the stick, it could no longer read it.
This is not a Honda head unit. It’s the phoenix 9 inch Octacore And is advertised to be able to hold/handle the external hard drive. As noted, I tried a chunk of folders and initially But after loading everything it didn’t work.

Part of my point being with this unit is that it seems like nothing works easily and without a shit ton of effort.
 

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This is not a Honda head unit. It’s the phoenix 9 inch Octacore And is advertised to be able to hold/handle the external hard drive. As noted, I tried a chunk of folders and initially But after loading everything it didn’t work.

Part of my point being with this unit is that it seems like nothing works easily and without a shit ton of effort.
Suggestion. As the USB is no longer recognized, try Re-Formatting it on a PC to say NTFS ( or something that the Android OS will not recognize)
Then when you put it back into your Pheonix unit, it should recognize that it is "Un-formtted", and offer to format it for you.
Let it do it's thing and format it ... It will be different to the formatting you might have done on your PC/Apple -- if nothing else, it will put a few additional Android system folders onto the drive.

Then try copying across your 22 gigs of music (from you PC ?) and try the USB again in the head Unit.

A similar thing happened to me, and after I allowed the Head Unit to format the "Unknown USB device", I have never had any issues with it since.
 
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Part of my point being with this unit is that it seems like nothing works easily and without a shit ton of effort.
EXACTLY -- That seems to be the world of ANDROID !!

No documentation for apps, many developing faulty apps, and Android device manufacturers (especially Head Unit manufacturers), churning out new models as quickly as they can, without adequate testing, and with little to no documentation.

Any you though Windows 10 was bad !!! :rofl:
 
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Suggestion. As the USB is no longer recognized, try Re-Formatting it on a PC to say NTFS ( or something that the Android OS will not recognize)
Then when you put it back into your Pheonix unit, it should recognize that it is "Un-formtted", and offer to format it for you.
Let it do it's thing and format it ... It will be different to the formatting you might have done on your PC/Apple -- if nothing else, it will put a few additional Android system folders onto the drive.

Then try copying across your 22 gigs of music (from you PC ?) and try the USB again in the head Unit.

A similar thing happened to me, and after I allowed the Head Unit to format the "Unknown USB device", I have never had any issues with it since.
Thank you for the suggestion. That’s exactly what I did Before taking the time to transfer the 22 gigs. The unit sees the stick and if I go into storage I can actually select a song. It’s just that none of the music apps see the music so that I can play it in an organized manner.
Sigh.
 

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Thank you for the suggestion. That’s exactly what I did Before taking the time to transfer the 22 gigs. The unit sees the stick and if I go into storage I can actually select a song. It’s just that none of the music apps see the music so that I can play it in an organized manner.
Sigh.
That is Bizarre .. Have you tried PowerAmp ? That is the USB stored Music App I use, and I know it can see my 64Gb USB thumb drive .

There is a Free basic version, and when you have tried it, and found you LOVE it, and cannot live without it,, the Full Version is quite reasonable. (a vast array of options and setting )

BTW: PowerAmp has a FANTASTIC Equalizer & Audio Processor... really makes a very significant improvement to the sound from the stock Honda Sound system.
(It's worth it, just for the Advanced Audio processing !!) -- once you turn on its processing, you will NEVER want to turn it off. :headbang:
 

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That the hands-free steering wheel button can’t be used to activate siri/google assistant is noted on their website.
I emailed them to confirm.
They have no expected fix for it, so there isn’t a setting you’re missing there, it just doesn’t exsist.

For the standard honda infotainment system. If you gave the version that supports carplay, Apple Maps will talk over the radio, at least with ios12 beta.

Alternately most radio stations do have straing versions and there are carplay compatible apps to play those stations.
 
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That the hands-free steering wheel button can’t be used to activate siri/google assistant is noted on their website.
I emailed them to confirm.
They have no expected fix for it, so there isn’t a setting you’re missing there, it just doesn’t exsist.

For the standard honda infotainment system. If you gave the version that supports carplay, Apple Maps will talk over the radio, at least with ios12 beta.

Alternately most radio stations do have straing versions and there are carplay compatible apps to play those stations.
Thanks for this. But to be clear I’m not trying to activate Siri I’m trying to activate the mic. In the phone Bluetooth app all my contacts show I figured that the android unit Mic would be able to acccept voice commands. Also as noted the mic button on the steering wheel only mutes audio and there is no way to remap that button.
 

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