EC Offroad CarPlay Solutions For 2016+ 200 Series LC (NEW SEPT 2020 MODEL) (3 Viewers)

greynolds

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A few of us have recently upgraded from the previous version of EC Offroad's Android module, discussed here to the new version of the module that was released in September of 2020. This new thread will cover dicussion of the new version of the module since it has a number of enhancements and differences.

Here's the main page for their 200 series LC products:


They also have products for 2013-2015 200 series and "Tesla" style options, but I'd suggest starting separate threads for those if there's interest so we can keep this one focused on the 2016 and newer models.

Some feature / functionality highlights:
  • The Android device supports running native Android apps without having to pair a smartphone to it, (other than to use the smartphone as a personal hotspot for Internet access). It can also get Internet access through a USB dongle or any sort of device that provides a WiFi Internet hotspot.
  • The device runs Android 8 and is compatible with pretty much any app from the Google Play Store that will run on Android 8.
  • Netflix is supported and can be routed to the rear screens, if your LC is so equipped (someone other than me will need to test this as the HE doesn't come with the rear screens).
  • An external microphone is included. We are initially mounting it on top of the center speaker, but are not done with determining the best location (EC Offroad recommends the driver A pillar, but we're trying to go with a simpler install option). The microphone comes with 2 mounting options - a small stand with double sided tape on the bottom and a clip mount. Both have a small plastic ball mount that the microphone connects to so you can adjust the angle a bit once mounted.
  • A GPS module is included so that Android apps that require GPS (such as Google Maps) will be able to function. It uses a magnet for mounting rather than double sided tape.
  • There are 2 USB ports that can be used to add storage to the unit, connect a USB keyboard or mouse, attach a USB WiFi dongle, etc. USB2 is also used for wired CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • Wireless CarPlay has been tested by several of us and has worked well so far.
  • The device also has a MicroSD card slot that can be used to add storage. This will be behind the screen, so plan on installing what you need for a card during the initial install unless you want to take things apart multiple times. We have successfully tested microSD cards up to 512GB formatted with the FAT32 file system and have confirmed that the exFAT file system does NOT work.
What's new and different from the older module:
  • This new version of the hardware no longer shows the front driver and passenger temperature setting on the touch screen when using the dashboard controls to change the temperature. Since the older version of the module always displayed "LO" this isn't a problem.
  • This new hardware version no longer resets the HVAC settings on my 2020 LC after the car has been shut off for more than a few hours.
  • The new wiring harness and connectors on the module are better thought out. All wiring connections are on the same side of the module, which makes it easier to mount behind the screen.
  • Wireless CarPlay works.
  • The boot time is significantly faster.
  • App install times and performance are significantly faster; all around performance is much better.
  • Runs Android 8 instead of 7.
  • The home page now supports 2 pages of apps in the default app launcher instead of 1.
  • The home page and settings user interfaces has received a major face lift and has a nicer look and feel.
Notes and links:
  • Installation instructions are attached to this post.
  • This YouTube video (thanks @stolikat) has excellent instructions for taking the dashboard apart to remove the screen and head unit to get access to the connections that need to be made. The rest of the video is not relevant to the EC Offroad product, but I found this extremely useful to follow along with when I installed mine.
  • Re-connection to an iPhone personal hotspot requires going into the iPhone > Settings > Personal Hotspot (or going to the Control Center and enabling discovery of the Personal Hotspot) each time you start the car. This appears to be an iOS quirk, not an issue with the EC Offroad unit as it auto connects to my house WiFi just fine when within range.
  • Some of the factory buttons can be used to control the EC Offroad device:
    • Press and hold the HOME button to switch between showing the factory infotainment and the video from the Android unit.
    • When in Android mode, press "HOME" to get to the App Launcher; if already on the App Launcher it will switch to the previous app
    • When in Android mode, press "NAV" to go to your configured Android mode navigation app
    • When in Android mode, press "SETUP" to launch the EC module's setup page
    • When in Android mode, press "AUDIO" to launch the preinstalled music app (unfortunately, it is not possible to configure which app is launched)
    • The steering wheel next/previous buttons work while in Android mode
    • Of course, the steering wheel volume up/down buttons work to adjust the volume
Suggested Android Apps:
  • The Torque Pro app combined with the Veepeak Mini WiFi OBD2 dongle can provide a display showing current speed, throttle position, and a bunch of other info as well as provide useful OBD2 diagnostic information. @DomSmith provided some additional info and sample photos here. Since this connects to the WiFi on the unit, wireless CarPlay and this device cannot be connected simultaneously because wireless CarPlay also connects to the WiFi on the unit. It may be possible to get around this limitation by connecting a USB to WiFi adapter to create a 2nd network connection, but this has not been tested yet.
  • VLC for Android is well known as a great video player, but it can also be used for other media file types, such as music. The user interface for music is pretty good and it indexed the ~10K files on my microSD card in about 20 minutes.
  • Poweramp Music Player also works well and did the initial indexing of my music quite a bit faster than VLC. The user interface also appears to be very good in initial testing. Start with the free trial version and then upgrade to the paid version if you like it. Also consider adding on the $yaps$ skin as it allows a lot of customization which makes the player more usable in the car (larger fonts, a "car" mode, etc.); the developer of this skin has been receptive to some feedback that should make Poweramp even more usable in the car (the ability to hide a few things that make the UI too cluttered for car use, etc.).
  • To zoom in and out on the Android Google Maps, double tap the screen and on the 2nd tap, slide your finger up or down to zoom. I haven't found a way to turn on zoom in/out buttons in the Google Maps app.
  • You can install the native Android Auto app to run Android Auto in "standalone" mode. I navigated to APK Mirrorin Chrome on the EC unit and installed Android Auto by downloading one of the links for a recent version of the Android Auto app.
    • This works fairly well, but standalone mode of Android Auto does have a few glitches, such as sometimes only displaying music or navigation apps when you're attempting to switch apps. This can make it difficult to switch from a music app to a navigation app or even between music or navigation apps. Other than that, it works well and gives you the Android Auto user interface for apps that are installed on the EC unit. This issue is not specific to the EC unit as the same thing happens on my Samsung Galaxy S8.
    • Also note that without providing the EC unit with an Internet connection through a personal hotspot on your smartphone or other device, such as a USB hotspot device, you won't be able to use apps that require a data connection such as Waze or Spotify.
CarPlay Tips:
  • If you exit CarPlay, connect to a WiFi network and try to launch the CarPlay app again, you will need to go into the Bluetooth settings on your iPhone and select the EC CarPlay entry to initiate a new connection. This is because CarPlay uses Bluetooth initially and switches over to WiFi and since the module only has 1 WiFi connection, the CarPlay connection gets interrupted if you tell the Android unit to connect to a WiFi hotspot. We don't believe this to be a defect in the module, just an expected side effect of how the CarPlay interface works.
Known Issues:
Enhancement Requests:
  • At startup, the unit displays a car brand logo that randomly shows the Toyota or Lexus logo. It would be nice if there was a setting to select which logo is shown.
  • Add a setup option that allows a user selected app to be launched when the Audio button is pressed, currently it is hard coded to launch the preinstalled audio app, which has a pretty terrible user interface.
  • Add a config option to boot to the factory infotainment mode (useful for when taking the car in for service as the service tech will have no idea how to get to the factory mode if they need to look at any settings)
  • Make it easier to disable zlink, if desired (provide an option to not auto start the app)
  • Configure the WiFi to automatically connect to known WiFi access points if CarPlay isn't in use
  • Enable Bluetooth to be used for devices rather than just for CarPlay
 

Attachments

  • Interface INSTALL V4.pdf
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greynolds

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@technopato - @seajeff and I have both had our new units installed for about a week and I think it's fair to say we both agree with your assessment of them being a night and day improvement overall.

We have run into a problem, however, with audio apps for playing files on USB drives and the microSD card and were wondering if you have tried any yourself. @seajeff and I have both tried Media Monkey and I have also tried Muzio Player - with both apps, as soon as we try to play a music track, the apps crash. We have also had trouble with Spotify crashing frequently as soon as we try playing anything. What's kind of odd is that the music does play, despite the apps crashing. If you haven't tried any of these, it would be appreciated it you could give it a try when you get a chance so we'll have more data points to work with when we contact the guys at EC Offroad.

Other than the issue with music apps, the new module is a HUGE improvement.
 
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@greynolds @technopato @seajeff -- I have just purchased one of these units for my new 2020 LC200 VX. I have not installed the system yet, but I am interested to hear how you are getting on with the reported issues with Spotify when using Apple CarPlay. This is the main app i will be using when i install the system so i want to make sure that it works correctly before i go for the install. Any report back from EC Offroad for the cause of the issues with Spotify ?

Also, with regards to having to restart Iphone Hotspot each time you start the car. Do you have to use Iphone hotspot, or if you simply plug your phone in, will it just use your cellular network to get access to the internet ? Or you always have to use hotspot if you want to use Apple CarPlay and apps like spotify ? Will be a real pain to have to manually connect to hotspot every time you start the car ??
 
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greynolds

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@greynolds @technopato @seajeff -- I have just purchased one of these units for my new 2020 LC200 VX. I have not installed the system yet, but I am interested to hear how you are getting on with the reported issues with Spotify when using Apple CarPlay. This is the main app i will be using when i install the system so i want to make sure that it works correctly before i go for the install. Any report back from EC Offroad for the cause of the issues with Spotify ?
Spotify and other apps running through CarPlay work fine.

The issues we have been having are with running native Android music apps installed directly on the Android unit, including Spotify, Media Monkey, and Muzio Player. The Spotify app crashes fairly often, but the other 2 crash every time you try to play a track. @DomSmith, @seajeff, and I were told going into this that the manufacturer wouldn't be providing support for units installed in cars in the USA, at least for now, so we haven't gotten any traction on getting this issue addressed. Since he is in Australia, we have reached out to @technopato to see if he can reproduce the problem because if he can and reports it to EC Offroad, there should be support for a firmware update to address this issue and that firmware update should most likely solve the issue for those of us in the USA as well. If you proceed with installing the unit, we would appreciate it if you would also try some of these native Android apps and report any issues to EC Offroad so we can all benefit from firmware updates.

Also, with regards to having to restart Iphone Hotspot each time you start the car. Do you have to use Iphone hotspot, or if you simply plug your phone in, will it just use your cellular network to get access to the internet ? Or you always have to use hotspot if you want to use Apple CarPlay and apps like spotify ? Will be a real pain to have to manually connect to hotspot every time you start the car ??
Using the iPhone hotspot is complicated somewhat by the fact that the Android unit has 1 WiFi connection available that can be used either for wireless Apple CarPlay OR connection to a WiFi access point (your iPhone hotspot or something else), but cannot connect to both at the same time. So if you have your iPhone setup to use wireless CarPlay, you're going to find that it automatically connects to the unit for CarPlay every time you start the car. So if you want to use Spotify (or anything else that requires Internet access) directly on the Android unit, you will need to tell it to connect to the WiFi hotspot on your iPhone (which means that wireless CarPlay will disconnect). That's just the nature of the beast - a single WiFi connection can't do both things at the same time. You can switch the WiFi connection back and forth between CarPlay and the iPhone hotspot, but it's not a single button press to do so and I wouldn't want to do it on a regular basis.

The other way to get an Internet connection on the Android unit is to use a USB dongle. There are USB dongles available that accept a SIM card to provide data service from the cell provider of your choice, but this obviously involves an extra monthly cost for the data SIM card and whatever service level you choose (Google Fi, in the USA at least, will provide data SIM cards at no charge and the data comes from the plan you have, so there's no extra charge beyond any data you use beyond your monthly allotment). If you want to use Apple CarPlay and Android apps that need Internet service, this is probably the best way to go. I don't have any specific USB dongle recommendations and options that provide cell data service will be somewhat region specific because you need something that's compatible with your cell provider.

The only thing that plugging the iPhone into one of the USB ports on the unit gives you is wired Apple CarPlay - it won't give the Android unit Internet access. But I think you'll find that wireless CarPlay is FAR more convenient and plugging the phone into a dedicated charger will charge the phone a lot more quickly than the USB ports on the Android unit will.

Overall, I think it's fair to say that @DomSmith, @seajeff, and I are happy with these new modules, but there are a few quirks and issues we'd like to see addressed before any of us would give it a solid recommendation.

Here's the bulk of my list of issues and requests to give you an idea of where we all stand:

1) Fix the (audio) app crashes (without this fixed, it's a bit hard to recommend this device)
2) Configure the WiFi to automatically connect to known WiFi access points if CarPlay isn't in use
3) Enable Bluetooth to be used for devices other than just CarPlay

Lower priority, but should be REALLY easy to add:

1) Add a config option to boot to the factory infotainment mode (useful for when taking the car in for service as the service tech will have no idea how to get to the factory mode if they need to look at any settings)
2) Add config options to configure what app launches when various factory buttons are pressed (for example, I don't believe there's a way to set the Audio button to launch anything other than the crappy default music app)
3) Make it easier to disable zlink, if desired (provide an option to not auto start the app)

I honestly believe that those requests are mostly easy to deliver on, with the app crashes most likely being the most difficult one. It would be awesome if a few folks based in Australia would provide this feedback to EC Offroad along with any other feature requests and bug reports you run into.
 
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greynolds

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@mattsaul - Did you ever get around to installing yours? If so, how is it working for you? Have you tried running any native Android music apps?

@technopato - Have you had a chance to try any native Android music apps?

@sailelc200 - As long as you're aware of the known issues that are mentioned in this thread and non-support status for those of us in the USA, I think you'll be happy with your purchase. Please do report back on how things go.
 

greynolds

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There's also a funny quirk with these units that we haven't mentioned yet. When they boot up, they show a car company logo and one would reasonably expect to see the Toyota logo and you frequently do. But it randomly shows a Lexus logo instead. It would be nice if the user could configure a fixed logo to be displayed at boot. Having a fixed list would be fine, but being able to upload a custom image would be even better. This has no impact on operation, it's purely cosmetic.
 

DomSmith

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I have been using this for awhile along with the others.

Pros:

1- It works. I get in, it loads up and connects wirelessly 98+% of the time. Once in a blue moon I have an issue. Typically if I start the truck then run back into the house for something I forgot with the phone in my pocket and come back out to the truck it’s unhappy. Otherwise nearly flawless connectivity.

2- For the first few months I never paired my phone via BT to the factory system. So there was never any issue of which player “Local Host”=Android or “Toyota Land Cruiser”= factory the phone wanted to connect to. It always connected and Hey Siri worked flawlessly through CarPlay. Phone calls were fine. The sound quality for others was excellent. On my side the speakers are a little crackly. Meh.

3- Now I’ve paired the phone and the phone calls are excellent on both sides. 90+% of the time when I make a call it connects to the factory BT. 10% Local host. Easy switch on the phone if I want but not without the use of my hands. Occasionally Pandora or Apple Music wants to connect to the factory system after a BT call. Again a quick fix by selecting “local host” with output setting on iPhone.

4- The volume levels are excellent compared to the last system but there’s no setup area to manipulate equalizer settings. Only the factory ones which are fine for me.

5- Rear screens work well. I have not tested them a lot as we rarely use them. They are hard wired externally through an HDMI cable which is not ideal. It’s not horrible but I’d prefer the old RCA so everything is hidden. I have mine run under the center console and it just pops out under the seat and is plugged in. I used the 90 degree plug side at the back. Easy to disconnect and push under the seat if you want.

D9CF7429-91EB-4DD3-97CB-347D5D23081C.jpeg




Cons:

1- Starts in Android mode. Always. If you leave the truck in factory mode it starts in Android. Would prefer it stayed in the last mode like the old unit. For service or when my wife drives the truck.

2- Can’t natively connect to the android unit (CarPlay) and another WIFI or BT device like an OBDII device for Torque. I know there are work arounds but it’s not a big enough deal to me to try to tackle right now.

3- Occasionally Waze did not like my GPS position and showed me in another town near me. Quite possibly user error/phone issue as I have been messing with the Location Services settings frequently.


All in all this unit works better than the other one if you’re good with CarPlay and using native apps to that. No noise “pops”, better connectivity, no serious problems to speak of. I have not had to contact EC one time since swapping boxes. I like the idea of the more robust options but it was not worth the trade off of 85-90% efficiency of my regular use items to have the availability of items I might use <1% of the time.
 
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Hi guys, does anyone happen to know the password to be able to access the adavamce setup? On the old model it was 1630. But that doesn’t work for the new one
 

nolamule

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Curious why y’all went this route over the GROM unit? The GROM is half the price and from what I can tell provides the same functionality. I’m trying to decide which until I am going to install in my ‘21 LC.
 

greynolds

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Curious why y’all went this route over the GROM unit? The GROM is half the price and from what I can tell provides the same functionality. I’m trying to decide which until I am going to install in my ‘21 LC.
Reading through the GROM threads, it looked like their support was a bit of a nightmare. I could be wrong, but I don't think they had a model that was compatible with my 2020 LC when I got the first EC unit and that would have been a showstopper for me.

Hi guys, does anyone happen to know the password to be able to access the adavamce setup? On the old model it was 1630. But that doesn’t work for the new one
No, I don't believe the password has been shared yet. Have you tried any native Android music apps? If so, have you had any issues with them (or any other Android apps) crashing?
 
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Reading through the GROM threads, it looked like their support was a bit of a nightmare. I could be wrong, but I don't think they had a model that was compatible with my 2020 LC when I got the first EC unit and that would have been a showstopper for me.


No, I don't believe the password has been shared yet. Have you tried any native Android music apps? If so, have you had any issues with them (or any other Android apps) crashing?
I only really use Apple Music which I access through car play and it works great,
 

greynolds

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I only really use Apple Music which I access through car play and it works great,
OK, thanks. Since EC Offroad won't provide support for us here in the USA, we've been trying to find someone in Australia who can try out some Android music apps to see if they crash there too so it can be reported and hopefully fixed. Supposedly the hardware manufacturer won't provide support for issues on units installed in USA spec vehicles at this time. We've been assuming the issue isn't specific to where the device is located :).
 
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OK, thanks. Since EC Offroad won't provide support for us here in the USA, we've been trying to find someone in Australia who can try out some Android music apps to see if they crash there too so it can be reported and hopefully fixed. Supposedly the hardware manufacturer won't provide support for issues on units installed in USA spec vehicles at this time. We've been assuming the issue isn't specific to where the device is located :).
Which apps exactly?
 

greynolds

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Which apps exactly?
Muzio and Media Monkey are 2 that crash every time we try to play any audio track. They work fine to load the library, browse it, and so on, but crash every time as soon as audio playback is initiated. I posted some more details, including links to both apps in the App Store in post number 2:
 

sailelc200

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I finished installing the unit today, so far I am in love.

Wireless Apple Carplay works great.

I also plugged in a HDD and was able to play movies using the VLC app.

I will report any issues I come across.
 

greynolds

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I finished installing the unit today, so far I am in love.

Wireless Apple Carplay works great.

I also plugged in a HDD and was able to play movies using the VLC app.

I will report any issues I come across.
For kicks, could you try playing an mp3 or flac file through the VLC app? Or try out either Muzio or Media Monkey? VLC hadn't occurred to me as an option and wouldn't have a great user interface for playing music, but I'm kind of curious if music playback is broken on all Android apps other than the preinstalled music app (which has a lousy user interface) or just the ones I've tried so far. Fortunately, CarPlay works really well.
 

sailelc200

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For kicks, could you try playing an mp3 or flac file through the VLC app? Or try out either Muzio or Media Monkey? VLC hadn't occurred to me as an option and wouldn't have a great user interface for playing music, but I'm kind of curious if music playback is broken on all Android apps other than the preinstalled music app (which has a lousy user interface) or just the ones I've tried so far. Fortunately, CarPlay works really well.
MP3 and Flac files worked for me on the standard music app and VLC.
 

greynolds

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MP3 and Flac files worked for me on the standard music app and VLC.
Thanks - that leaves some hope that a music app with a decent user interface, other than Media Monkey or Muzio, may have a chance of working. I'll see if I can find some other good candidate music player apps to try. I'll report back with any findings.
 

greynolds

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So I tried a few apps for music playback today and had success.

1) I tried out VLC. First off, it works just fine with no crashes. Other than that, the user interface for music is actually decent on the Android version of VLC. It also found and indexed all of my music files that I have loaded on the SD card (just over 10K files) just fine in a reasonable amount of time.

2) I also tried out another music app called Poweramp Music Player. IIRC, this has a free trial, but isn't too expensive to purchase. It also worked fine with no crashes. It also found and indexed all of my music files and did so faster than VLC did. I haven't had a chance to spend much time trying out the user interface, but it appears to be pretty good.

I have several other candidate music player apps and now that I have found a few that actually work, I'm feeling a bit more motivated to try some more. So I'll probably try some more and will report back with any other findings. Though it would be nice if Media Monkey and Muzio worked with this unit, I'm much happier knowing there are other alternatives that work.
 
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