The 2014 Alto K10 VXI AMT may be the best car for the Kolkata roads, but it goes without saying that it comes without the bells and whistles found on cars in higher price brackets. I had to install a number of nifty gadgets to make my car smart! Now my car is equipped with the following features:
- place calls and write text messages using voice commands
- GPS navigation
- play music from phone without wires
- all audio (calls, music, turn-by-turn navigation) play via the car sound system
- fast charging of phone
- phone mount
- reverse parking camera
- anti-glare IRVM
- keyless entry
- car umbrella
- LED torch
- GOgroove Smart mini AUX Bluetooth ₹2390:It lets me play music and place calls via the car sound system. Calls are very clear and the other end can hear me fine without any feedback. Device has a very low footprint with absolutely no wires, I simply have to plug it into the aux port. The package includes an optional base, a 3M sticking pad to fix it and a nifty extension wire – if you think the aux port is far away from you. In my case, the aux port is in the centre of the dash panel and the device manages to catch my voice fine from that far. So I never needed to use the base or the extension cable. Very good build quality and finish. Once charged, the battery lasts me days. It takes a few hours to get charged fully. On the con side, it won’t turn on its own as you start the car. I can live with that because devices with such an “auto on” feature would need a dedicated wire while I was looking for a wireless experience. It does, however, turn off automatically if there is no Bluetooth pairing for an extended period of time.
- iOttie Easy Flex 2 dashboard mount ₹1536: Most phone mounts do a fine job when stuck to the windscreen but won’t stick to the dashboard and comes off a few days later. Even if they do stick well, they turn wobbly soon when the phone can no more be set in your preferred angle. I am not in favour of windscreen mounts as they block the view and needed one for the dashboard. This is a great product from the iOttie stable which actually stays rooted to the dashboard – solid as a rock! The phone mount has a firm grip on the phone and the phone can be turned at any angle. The robust mount actually holds that exact angle and doesn’t waver a bit even on the nastiest of roads. It is really one of the best products I have bought.
- Aukey 4.8A Flush-fit Dual Port Car Charger ₹595: The car charger of cheap make that the Maruti dealer had sold me (for ₹450) charged phones really slow and was an eyesore, as it came with an array of useless cables each ending in different types of pins. I was glad to get rid of it when it stopped working in less than a year and I had to make do without a car charger as I found nothing worth buying, until Amazon India started selling Aukey products. There were faster chargers available from Aukey but I settled for this particular model as it has a really small footprint, yet packs two USB ports each delivering 5 V 2.4 A current. The extra port can be handy if you you are travelling with friends. The tiny black charger goes well with the black interior of my car and is in keeping with my minimalistic approach – no more unsightly cables! I have paired it with a black USB cable that came with my phone.
- Reverse parking sensors with camera: One of the coolest gadgets in my car, it kicks off as soon as the gear is changed to reverse. The camera view comes alive in a TFT screen integrated in the IRVM which also shows the distance in feet from the nearest obstacle in real time. A speaker installed in the rear lets out a voice warning alerts me if there is any obstacle in the rear. Although I was reluctant to get a reverse parking camera, opting for it on my father’s insistence, I must say it is a good thing to have while parking in a busy area. A product from the Indian brand P8, it has worked reliably without any hiccups so far. Incidentally, the IRVM of the kit is actually anti-glare which has been a huge benefit as I am not blinded by the high beams from cars esp. trucks following me.
- Smartphone: My smartphone Moto G Plus 4 is central to the smart car experience. The single device that handles calls, messaging, music, GPS navigation while driving.
- Xenos Keyless entry: While the car came with factory-installed manual central locking, I installed keyless entry in the aftermarket for added convenience and peace of mind.
- Android Auto is truly a smart innovation from Google which has been so long restricted to head units only, until this month when it became available for phones too. Android Auto, designed with safety in mind, keeps the interface simple and minimizes distractions. It will even read out WhatsApp messages and let you speak out a reply message. The Google Maps which is well integrated into the Android Auto is my guide while navigating through the city.
- The android app Trigger automates my phone. As soon as my phone connects to my car Bluetooth, three things happen: the WiFi is disabled, media volume is maxed, auto-rotation of display is enabled, GPS is turned on. When I leave the car and the Bluetooth connection dies, auto-rotation is disabled but WiFi isn’t turned back on – I have set it like that.
- The Philips Penlight Professional is one of my favourite tools. This LED flashlight torch has a wide beam of 120 lumen with a beam angle of up to 40° and a pointer beam of 20 lumen. It is also ultra-slim, water resistant (IP54), shock resistant (IK07), grease and solvent resistant. Three AAA batteries give about 11 hours of usage. The following video features the more advanced Philips Penlight Premium which comes with extra features – like fully rechargeable in two hours, a wider beam angle of 80°, metal casing and magnetic attachment – but isn’t selling in India.
- A lightweight, compact, windproof umbrella with automatic opening and closing, from Korjo, is another regular feature in my car’s glove compartment.