Galaxy SIII Hack Puts Android In Your Dashboard

Here’s how you can have a hands-free, no worries about the battery, Android experience while you drive. [Steve] removed the head unit from his car and replaced it with a Samsung Galaxy SIII Android phone. The look is pretty nice, but we do have a few suggested improvements if you try this one for yourself.

It started simply by removing the factory stereo which left a double-height opening in the dashboard. [Steve] cut a piece of wood to fit the gaping hole, painting it a grey that would compliment the interior colors of the car. The phone is mounted on this plate, with plenty of room for the USB and audio cables. From there it is finished up with another wooden plate which has a cutout for the touch screen. See the final project, as well as glimpses of the installation, in the video after the break.

[Steve] demonstrates using the GPS features and playing music. We’d improve this in a couple of ways. First off, using something like the IOIO board you could add a physical volume knob, which we’re not interested in giving up for a touch screen quite yet. If you were willing to go the extra mile, a CAN-BUS chip could be added too that would monitor button presses from the steering wheel music controls.

43 thoughts on “Galaxy SIII Hack Puts Android In Your Dashboard

  1. I just recently bought a relatively cheap Pioneer deck with bluetooth ($200cad)… It instantly pairs and plays audio from my phone. It also does hands free calls.

    This just looks annoying.

    I used to have a full car PC (liliput + mini-itx, etc) but it turns out touch screens in cars are a bad combo. Having a physical volume knob is essential. Having non portable storage is also annoying.

    This really looks like the worst of all worlds… sorry.

    1. I agree, I would have to use a bigger screened phone for 1. I say hide a head unit somewhere easy to access from the drivers seat, maybe the center console storage then connect via which ever means you feel like. You still have EQ and amp control this way. I could see using a cheap tablet with Box running to sync your music when on Wifi.

  2. Touch screens on a vertical surface aren’t very usable because the fingertip ends with the fingernail which interferes with accurate touching.
    A tilt of 20 degrees to flat makes a big difference.
    On the safety side it is a hazard to driving, particularly at night. Can screen dim with console lights? Human eyes cannot focus at close range bright detail and then rapidly focus at dim infinity detail. If the phone is able to play distracting video it is illegal in most places.
    In my standards nothing lit up is in the car at night.

    1. Having the brightness of digital displays controlled by the headlight switch, like the dash lights in most cars, is so very backward: If it’s a bright but rainy day and you turn your headlights on for safety, you can’t see the screen.

      Thankfully, it’s just not necessary.

      My car (an old-ish BMW) dims its backlit LCD displays automatically using an optical sensor in the instrument cluster, such that the brightness of the displays is dictated by available ambient light. This works very well, and is seamless to such an extent that most folks would be totally oblivious to this behavior.

      Meanwhile a Samsung Galaxy SIII does exactly the same thing, just like any other half-way-recent Android device. (And if it doesn’t dim -enough- all on its own, there’s a lovely program called Lux in the market which takes care of the too-bright problem on stock devices.)

      So, that all said: It’s at least better than most aftermarket stereos, which too often seem to have two brightness modes to pick from, with both of them being either far too bright or far too dim…

  3. I just don’t see it as any type of hack, someone could just superglue their phone to the dash and it would be no different.

    Dud had a double din spot and didn’t put a 7in tablet in its place?

  4. I was wondered how he managed to interface it with the factory stereo hookups but the video says “audio is hooked up to my amp which has two 6×9 speakers and a nice big sub.” It’s just audio out from phone to the amp inputs. This means that any door/dash speakers are left silent. To top it off, the old stereo he holds up in the beginning clearly has an auxiliary input port right on the front. A $1 audio cable would have accomplished the same end result AND let you get sound out of all the speakers.

  5. The comments seem dead on to me. Sorry but putting a phone hooked to three speakers not even full surround is a piss poor idea for car audio. The placement of the phone and the cover plate was done in a hurry and looks really bad. And the fact that the phone is at a full 90 with out any kind of way to remove it seems like a waste of money to me.

  6. Oh and the link to the site that only sells Iphone docking equipment quit while you are ahead if apple is the first product you go with less people will deal with you than you think. As Apple is an even worse idea for placing in a vibrating car stereo bay. Not to mention quite frankly you will have to draft two decks as the Iphone 5 has a completly different docking connection. But hey enjoy it if you can good Idea just bad platform to start out with.

  7. Wow, what a bunch of whiners. Good idea or bad, the guy got some tools out and put a device in his car that wasn’t meant to go there…sounds like hacking to me. Sheesh.

    As far as touch-screen in the car goes, I have both a 7″ DVD head unit with touch screen that works great and my phone sits in a cradle just below my mirror for Pandora and GPS, and touch works just fine on that too. Oh, and I’m driving a full-size truck with the associated vibration.

    OP: Not what I would have done, but good on you for doing it at all. Anyone can throw in a cheap head-unit and call it done.

    1. I agree, just because the level of the hack is not expert level doesn’t make it bad. Plus, he already has the phone, this is a very cheap hack. Why not save money on equipment if the phone has most of the features. Though I agree with physical knobs.

      I’m going to do a similar project but with a Galaxy Nexus using the pogo pins(quicker mounting) with a IOIO board. I want it to be able to also unlock the car and starter using bluetooth (obviously have a manual override). Also thinking of a SMS & GPS board so if it is stolen(the car), send a text message to kill the power and locate it with GPS.

      Any additional ideas or suggestions would be welcomed, my expertise is automotive, and PC’s/Servers so my knowledge of electrical engineering is limited.

    2. I’m sorry but I don’t feel that way anyone and I mean anyone can run 4 wires to an amp. Anyone and I mean anyone can glue a phone to a dash. Hacking is when you take something and use it to create something better. In this case he actually decreased the functions of the phone not increased. The phone is covered by a poorly made cover with no way to remove it. It gets sound through two 6×9’s and a sub. which does not even come close to the capabilities of an s3. And quit frankly as others have posted he could have gone to the dollar store picked up a $3 dollar audio cable and a $5 dollar cell phone holder and plugged it into an accessories port on and modern car stereo. So please spare us with your self righteous indignation as this is truly not a hack if anything it is doing something half-assed and calling it quits before it even came close to using the phones full potential in an automobile setting. And as far as your touch screen is concerned, IT WAS MADE FOR THAT PURPOSE A CELL PHONE WASN’T. Cell phones with accelerometers are not meant to be in a constantly vibrating situation as it burns the accelerometer out ten tens fast than let’s just say an automobile 7″ touch screen that doesn’t have one.

      1. Your definition of hacking still applies to this situation, it’s your definition of “better”. Not all hacks are better for all, just some. The statement of “anyone can do this” is false, not everyone can cut straight, run wires, etc…Dash mounts, to me, are kind of ugly additions to cars, where as this hack is simple and looks better(an opinion). “IT WAS MADE FOR THAT PURPOSE A CELL PHONE WASN’T”, you talk about hacking yet you use that phrase. You say “spare us with your self righteous indignation” I say spare us your elitist attitude.

  8. In that Google has broken YouTube in their quest to topple Facebook, in requiring real names I can’t give suggestions to what Steve asked in the video comments about making the install look better. So in case Steve is following here. Respectfully even if you try to use fiberglass you will have to do fetter with the fitting. While not atrocious the flaws are noticeable. Personally I’d make the phone stand proud of what you use to make a facia. While it make the fitting more difficult one could take a cue from the heater controls, and duplicate the countersink that surrounds them. Most likely the easiest would be to perfect the fit of your current method out of a dressier material or clad a lesser material with something you like. Visit an auto trim shop to see if you can find vinyl that matches the dash well. In the event you can it may be possible to salvage of the panel you are using now

    1. On Google/YouTube. Of course everyone not intending to ever use G+ the FB clone or other Google services where real name use has an advantage, will be creating real name appearing identities yo use on the asshole filled world of youtube,unless they have a channel where using their actual name has an advantage. I tried to fulfill Google’s dictates for the moment, but it doesn’t lead me through the processes to completion. I have already book everything of interest on my current, and that account will be closed in any event. I may create an account using my radio call to be used to take part in technical discussions, and a BS account for the BS.

  9. Thanks to HaD for sharing this and thanks to everyone for the,uh, interesting comments :p

    I should clarify that I never bought the Galaxy S III to install in the car. I bought it to use as a phone and then decided to install it in the car.

    When I was building the wooden back mount, I actually based it on my Kindle Fire. Those two chocks of wood either side actually hold tight onto the Kindle Fire and allow room for the wiring. But then I decided that I wasn’t quite ready to lose my Kindle Fire (my gf also uses it) to the car and instead put the Galaxy in. However, I’ve just bought us an ipad so I can now go ahead and install the Kindle Fire in the car.

    My stereo based two 6x9s and sub give a much better audio experience than the cars stock surround. If I was that bothered then it would be trivially easy to connect the two front speakers to the amp.

    My dad spent quite a lot of money on one of those out-of-the-box android car stereos and it’s absolutely terrible. The screen quality and touch controls just don’t compare to a decent phone/tablet. It’s slow as hell and support is extremely limited.

    The auto screen brightness feature works just fine and I don’t find the Galaxy to be a distraction during night driving.

    It took a couple of hours taking apart the center of the dash to get access to the back of the cigar lighter. That’s where I wired a 12V USB adapter (slightly modified for direct connection). That way I can still plug in various power adapters to the front of the cigar lighter as normal (tested and works fine).

    A physical volume knob would be useful and is something i’ll look into. Although for now I might be able to get the voice commands to do the job… not as user friendly though.

  10. Wow, with comments like these, I’m afraid to ever put any of my work up here.

    Hacking is not about “Why” but “I can”.

    Maybe he could have done some things differntly, but it is how he did it. I’m sure you all could have done things a little differntly in your projects also, it does not make it wrong or worthy of ridicule.

  11. Wow, with comments like these, I’m afraid to ever put any of my work up here.

    Hacking is not about “Why” but “I can”.

    Maybe he could have done some things differently, but it is how he did it. I’m sure you all could have done things a little differently in your projects also, it does not make it wrong or worthy of ridicule.

  12. Take all of the criticisms to heart hit the drawing board for real using the makerbot/cnc/program guys and come up with an app that is the car stereo and little wireless mounted controls for steering wheels and you,ve got a killer business model worthy of investment seed money as everyone who owns a car will also own a smart phone and all the rest is totally possible and doable quickly by just a small group of people…

    I think this is a decent business model.

  13. need a bigger screen for car android setup. mebbe use tvout?

    what he should do, so he only needs one cable, the usb charging lead, is buy a usb host cable, then plug in one of those usb sound cards, directly to his amp. (and place mic where convenient). I know this works with some on my motorola razr xt910 (ics). just saying that might make for a cleaner design, then grab a dock. slot in, slot out, no cable fiddling

  14. Wow Mike thanks for the suggestions of things you would have changed into using more parts to accomplish simple things. Get a freaking bluetooth remote for the thing and install in steering wheel. No mussing the CAN, no IOIO board you have to make sure is configured properly and no 3 hour phase of wondering why the rear window goes down when the volume is supposed to lower.

    Good on the builder for using wood for the face plate and not some extruded mess most of us can’t afford. My kind of person :)

  15. only thing preventing decent hacks like that is the lack of linux offline gps programs.

    since people interested in “audio” hacks will only use expensive head units anyway.

    get decent offline linux apps and you will see great minds changing the world of hacker head units

    1. MS and Google don’t have that either. It’s mostly to do with the data sizes and a little to do with profitability.

      There are big markets for what you’re talking about, but the data is in the terabytes because scaled bitmaps and navigation data. Offline also means easy to pirate for the Russian and Chinese markets who tend to steal pretty much everything..

      Embedded offline GPS rescales low-color bitmaps and has lighter navigation data than something like Google Maps.

  16. Even then, navigation gimic devices only really matter to maybe 20% of the gen population.

    Oh I know ALLOT more have GPS devices in their car but they are never used more then a few times, just like the maps people use to carry in the glove box.

    They have it just incase.

    It wont be truly useful till over the road and long haul moving of goods is controled by it. It decides what roads and routes to take according to traffic data and patterns.

    Giving normal people allot more freedom of the road to just roam around and find stuff the fun way. Getting lost is half the fun of a family road trip.

  17. I have a Galaxy Player 5.0 on my harley just aboventhe Handlebars, I get traffic and weather, engine data, and listen to livestreams and podcasts/audiobooks/music.

    But I did that with my old Nokia n810.

  18. very nice hack dude! i was thinking on doing something like dat, but the amp and audicable / power supply has to wait…i only want to mount it with a rubber/foam kind hand made dash to fin the double din hole… xD !!!

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