In today’s age, connectivity has gained a great deal of significance. Mobile phones have steadily moved away from being just a gadget for making phone calls, to facilitating a virtual environment enabling connectivity at unparalleled levels, be it for work or leisure. Carmakers have also accounted for this and many industry leading OEMs have come up with software solutions that enhance users’ connectivity to their car and beyond. Add to that the aftermarket products, facilitating similar functions.
To evaluate these connected apps and their functionality, we reviewed the Volkswagen Connect fitted onto the Volkswagen Passat; the Honda Connect fitted on the Honda City and the Nissan Connect fitted on the Nissan Sunny. We evaluate each application for functionality, size, ease of installation, interface and usability in real world conditions. We also got our hands on the Kent CamEye, an aftermarket IoT device that offers advanced connectivity options and is yet to be introduced for Indian consumers.
The functionality of all three OEM-developed mobile applications is quite similar. But one major difference between the connected apps offered by Nissan and Honda with the Volkswagen Connect is the method that these applications use, to connect and grant access to users. This essentially has also affected the duration that one requires to sync your mobile device with the cars. Nissan and Honda mobile applications connect directly to the cloud and retrieve display data from the company’s hosting servers, but the Volkswagen Connect is synced with a Bluetooth-enabled OBD II device mounted on the Passat’s OBD port.
The Honda Connect device is also mounted on an OBD II port but the device connects directly to the cloud, while the Nissan Connect uses a factory fitted TCU (Telematics Control Unit) in the engine bay and is connected to a secure server.
The applications were more or less light, with the Nissan Connect being the lightest among the lot. While the Nissan Connect app is as light as 14 MB, the Honda Connect is also on the lighter side at 24 MB. The size of the Volkswagen Connect app is 58 MB. While syncing our mobile devices to the servers, it took approximately 23 s to get going on the Honda Connect; this was the fastest among the three. The Nissan Connect took around 40 s to sync-up, while it took about 3:02 min to sync the Volkswagen Connect app to the Bluetooth-enabled OBD dongle.
In the Google Play Store, the Nissan Connect has been downloaded by 10,000+ Android users in India, whereas the Honda Connect app has more than 100,000 downloads. The Volkswagen Connect has 100,000+ downloads for Android app users as well, but this app is for a global audience. Android users have rated the Volkswagen Connect as the best among the three with a final average rating of 4.1/5. Both the Nissan Connect and Honda Connect have an average rating of 3.6/5.
In the three-way comparison, we found the Nissan Connect application to have the most features that offer consumer convenience. The app that seemed easiest to navigate through and use without any major glitches was the Honda Connect. The Volkswagen Connect did take some time to get going and loading of a few informational factors took time. Another important feature on the Nissan Connect and Honda Connect over the Volkswagen Connect is the fact that they both offer geofencing options. Nissan has taken it a step further by adding three fencing zones. All three apps come with features such as fuel log, service history, invoice history, booking service appointments, locate car, SOS & panic button, POIs (Point of Interest), route guidance, battery alert & monitor, driving behaviour and style.
The Honda Connect and Nissan Connect also come with an Impact Alert. The Honda Connect can store up to five emergency contacts to whom an alert is sent out, if you do not respond to the company’s call when an alert is triggered. Honda and Nissan have also catered to tracking and analysing the trips you make. While both Volkswagen and Nissan offer their own iterations of your driving pattern and associated impacts, Nissan depicts this as an eco-score and a smart drive score. Volkswagen highlights the driving pattern and distributes it among engine speed, braking, acceleration, speed and coolant temperatures, which we found to be very useful. Honda, on the other hand, offers information like high speed, hand brake usage and idle time.
Honda also offers a vehicle health monitor, while Nissan offers a last 15 minute trace for your vehicle. Both the Japanese carmakers are also offering a document wallet for your vehicle’s credentials. Since the Volkswagen Connect pairs your device to the car’s OBD port, it is able to pick and provide real time data to customers. The app relays information such as mileage, fuel efficiency, battery voltage, oil service indicator, fuel tank level, car range and a few more functions.
TAKING CONNECTIVITY A STEP FURTHER
The Kent CamEye at present has not been introduced to any market across the globe. The IoT device functions similar to the Nissan Connect and the Honda Connect, by pairing a physical device to the cloud. However, in terms of functionality, the company has gone a step further than other manufacturers by providing an innovative solution in connected technologies. Where the Kent CamEye scores well is their hardware and software that enable users of the device to stream video feeds directly from the inside and outside of the vehicle it has been placed in. Further, it not only acts as a dash cam for security, but also allows you to observe how your vehicle is being driven in real time. If that was not enough, over and above standard features that manufacturers are offering on their connect devices, the Kent CamEye also comes with a facial recognition feature that can identify, if the designated driver is not behind the steering wheel of the car. Users can customise the speed alerts for their cars, and after extensive testing we can confirm that this function works effectively.
While the most connected mobile applications do offer solutions that enhance connectivity and take it a step further, the Kent CamEye is extremely comprehensive. As for manufacturer fitted connected devices, they retail for a much more affordable price and do provide a few functions such as service booking, service invoice history and other vehicle-related information in a better and more seamless manner. We found the Honda Connect to be the most convenient app to use, while the Nissan Connect offered the best functionality. The Volkswagen Connect also comes with the highest Android user rating and is a great app with unique functions, but one does need to go through the process of pairing the app to the OBD II Bluetooth dongle, which we felt was a bit cumbersome.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther