Optimise a tablet for the car

Tablets are the new carputers. Gone are the days of having to source components wire a computer to your car’s power supply or wait for startup and shutdown processes. Tablets offer an all-in-one package and with a little elbow grease can look quite the part when installed in-dash. Of course an in-dash install guide is beyond not only my geek skills but also the scope of this magazine. What I can help you with however is setting up the tablet for the best possible in-car experience.

Optimise a tablet for your car
Get your settings right for the best in-car experience.

There are two types of tablet installs: permanent (usually in-dash) or removable (some kind of dock/cradle). This guide is aimed at those with permanent installs but I’m sure you’ll be able to modify it to be more suitable for removable tablets; you’re a smart cookie after all.

The ideal setup here has the tablet hooked up to your head unit using either Bluetooth or the headphone port. If your head unit has Bluetooth functionality make sure it can pair with two devices at once as you’ll want an A2DP audio connection to your tablet in tandem with a hands-free connection to your phone. If applicable you’ll also want to make sure that your steering wheel controls work with any A2DP Bluetooth devices.

So what type of optimisations am I talking about? Well consider what happens when you turn your car off with a regular stereo: the music pauses the navigation turns off and the device stops draining your battery. The last problem should have been solved when you installed the tablet (if not you’re doing it wrong!) and we can take advantage of that change in power state to trigger a host of events thanks to the magic that is Tasker ($5.99).

Tasker allows you to change settings based on system events — it’s very similar to Locale and is even compatible with Locale’s many plug-ins. In this context the most advantageous state to use as a trigger is the power connectivity (or car dock if applicable to your setup). For instance when you turn on the car (device is charging) you can turn on your data turn on Bluetooth open up your music/streaming/any other app and stop the screen from turning off.

Tasker Android App
Tasker allows you to change settings based on system events.

To set this up you need to create a new profile. Click on the + under the Profile tab. Then name it select State and Power (unless you want it to trigger when you place it in a dock) and Source as AC. Next you’ll be prompted to create a new task. You’ll want multiples here: Display > Display Timeout > 23 hours Net > Airplane Mode > Off and Net > Bluetooth > On. You can also set it to launch your preferred music application (streaming vs local) or even Car Dock Home under App > Load App.

Conversely set Tasker to do the opposite of the above actions when it’s disconnected from power. The reason I specified Bluetooth ‘on’ in the above task is because when you turn it off in the ‘disconnect’ profile your music app should pause. I’ve heard that you’ll also have a bit more success reconnecting Bluetooth if you set the device to go to the home screen during the disconnect too (App > Go Home).