EC Offroad CarPlay Solutions For 2016+ 200 Series LC (1 Viewer)

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Good question, but I doubt it fixes those problems. Most likely a boost in CPU performance and possible a newer version of Android. However, I'm going to contact EC Offroad and see if a swap can be arranged.
Yea, probably right. It doesn't say in their description of the new module that it specifically addresses these issues. However, I did just send them an email to see. I'll let you know what I hear back.
 

greynolds

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Yea, probably right. It doesn't say in their description of the new module that it specifically addresses these issues. However, I did just send them an email to see. I'll let you know what I hear back.
There are definitely some changes though:

2 USB ports, factory usb port will work with this system for phone connection or usb sticks.
The previous unit had 3 USB ports. Making use of the factory USB port is a plus and may provide more charging power for the phone. It also mentions the "latest version" of Android. This may also open the door for supporting wireless CarPlay, though there's no mention of it in the description.

This info is timely as I had been planning to open the dash up to rearrange the cabling a bit this coming week while I'm on vacation. But if they agree to a swap, I won't do that next week.
 
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I can't tell for sure if the product description has changed, but I think this line is different:

2 USB ports, factory usb port will work with this system for phone connection or usb sticks.. the spare usb is normally run into glovebox.

It seems to imply the the main USB port now goes to the factory USB location, and only 1 other USB port goes into the glovebox.
 

greynolds

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I can't tell for sure if the product description has changed, but I think this line is different:



It seems to imply the the main USB port now goes to the factory USB location, and only 1 other USB port goes into the glovebox.
Yeah, that is definitely different. The older unit has 3 USB cables that all go to the glovebox (or wherever you decide to route them). What isn't 100% clear to me is if there is now the main USB port to the factory USB location plus 2 USB ports to the glovebox or just 1 to the glovebox (with a net loss of 1 USB port). Losing the 3rd USB port wouldn't be fatal, especially if USB hubs will work, but it's handy to have 1 for CarPlay, 1 for a storage device, and 1 for a mouse. A mouse is pretty much required to be able to sign into some of the apps as it isn't possible to use the touchscreen to scroll to the username / password edit boxes or the login buttons on some apps (such as Spotify).
 

greynolds

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Regarding arranging a swap for the newer unit, I'm hoping the guys at EC Offroad see the following logic:

1) The current units have known issues that were reported shortly after purchase that they have agreed to fix that justify a return if they can't or won't be fixed.
2) Fixing the known issues in the newer unit rather than the older unit makes a lot more sense, because it will generate new sales to additional buyers in the USA. Fixing the issues in the existing units will only make 3 (I think) people in the USA happy, unless they have other customers in the USA who aren't posting here (which is certainly possible).
 
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Regarding arranging a swap for the newer unit, I'm hoping the guys at EC Offroad see the following logic:

1) The current units have known issues that were reported shortly after purchase that they have agreed to fix that justify a return if they can't or won't be fixed.
2) Fixing the known issues in the newer unit rather than the older unit makes a lot more sense, because it will generate new sales to additional buyers in the USA. Fixing the issues in the existing units will only make 3 (I think) people in the USA happy, unless they have other customers in the USA who aren't posting here (which is certainly possible).
I’m with you as one of the known 3 USA customers, would also like a replacement after a bumpy first impression but with good customer support.
 

greynolds

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I just received a response from EC Offroad.

  • They are willing to swap units if shipping both ways and any difference in price is paid for, which I think is reasonable.
  • He said that the new units do not yet claim support for US model vehicles, but it is being worked on.
  • He is willing to ship the new model anyway, with the above caveat on shipping and covering any difference in price, but said they wouldn't be able to support it, which is also reasonable if the manufacturer is saying that US model vehicles are not yet supported.
  • He also said that the new units are currently a bit slower performance wise, but suspects that will change over time with firmware updates, though he seemed to be suggesting that could take a while (like 1-2 years).
  • Finally, he said that the units we have are still fully supported, so there shouldn't be issues with getting issues addressed, though some will take longer than others.
  • It should also be kept in mind that the offer to trade in for the new model isn't open ended. They're willing to do this within a "few" months of purchase, but not indefinitely.

So I think we should all stick with what we currently have for now with the expectation that the known issues should be resolved. I know I don't want to deal with a model that doesn't officially support US vehicles yet.
 
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I just received a response from EC Offroad.

  • They are willing to swap units if shipping both ways and any difference in price is paid for, which I think is reasonable.
  • He said that the new units do not yet claim support for US model vehicles, but it is being worked on.
  • He is willing to ship the new model anyway, with the above caveat on shipping and covering any difference in price, but said they wouldn't be able to support it, which is also reasonable if the manufacturer is saying that US model vehicles are not yet supported.
  • He also said that the new units are currently a bit slower performance wise, but suspects that will change over time with firmware updates, though he seemed to be suggesting that could take a while (like 1-2 years).
  • Finally, he said that the units we have are still fully supported, so there shouldn't be issues with getting issues addressed, though some will take longer than others.
  • It should also be kept in mind that the offer to trade in for the new model isn't open ended. They're willing to do this within a "few" months of purchase, but not indefinitely.

So I think we should all stick with what we currently have for now with the expectation that the known issues should be resolved. I know I don't want to deal with a model that doesn't officially support US vehicles yet.
That’s basically the same thing I was told in email back from them.
 

Hants

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Looks like they now have a tesla type option for the 2016+

 

greynolds

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I have a hunch that isn’t compatible with our US spec vehicles yet either and that‘s super important with the Tesla style option since it replaces a bunch of hard buttons.
 

seajeff

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I was doing some more testing this past weekend and I wanted to ask other users of the original EC Offroad System if they experienced a lower gain/fidelity when listening to music over the zlink application (either carplay or android auto)?

Here's what I am experiencing, and I'm trying to find some solutions-

When I listen to FM radio (external to the EC Offroad unit), the volume is loud and response full.
When I listen to Spotify via the EC Offroad android base OS, it also seems loud and full. Honestly, tough to tell the difference between stock radio/sources.

However, when I listen to spotify via Android Auto or Carplay, the volume/output seems to be lower by (subjectively) 30%, and the response/fidelity isn't quite as full. For example, the base response feels less and the sound isn't quite as clear. Certainly not horrible, but also not quite the same as w/o zlink/carplay.

Anyone else experience this, with the EC Offroad unit, or other Carplay units?
 

greynolds

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I know that @DomSmith has noticed something similar, but I haven't. My LC is a 2020 and his is a 2016, so it's possible that the difference in the infotainment systems accounts for this, I suppose. OTOH, I would think that once you're within the confines of the Android unit results in different apps would be consistent regardless of the model year of the vehicle.

Something I have been experimenting with a bit is that I installed the "native" Android Auto app on the EC unit, which allows you to run supported Android apps in Android Auto mode without connecting a smartphone at all (other than as a personal hotspot for Internet access). This works quite well, except that there's a bug in the Android Auto app when running it in so-called "standalone mode" that it sometimes doesn't show you the full list of apps, so it can be difficult to switch to the app you want to switch to at times. Sometimes it will only show Navigation apps and other times only Audio apps. Other than that, it turns the EC unit into a standalone solution that only needs Internet access for "streaming" features, whether it be map data or music.

There are USB dongles and other solutions available that can provide Internet service without the need for a smartphone at all, they these obviously require a SIM card and a associated data plan. If using Google Fi, data SIMs are available at no extra charge other than any extra data you end up using beyond the service plan you pay for monthly at $10 / GB.
 

DomSmith

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Jeff-

Yes I’ve experienced the same. About 30% lower is about right. I can turn up Pandora on CarPlay to max volume no problem. Cannot do that at all on the factory system. I’m thinking there must be a volume setting in zlink but I am working with EC and others on a few of the other quirks before I try resolving this.

My box has been out for quite awhile so I am not doing testing on my own but Michael has been very receptive and continues to work with us. I have not paid enough attention to the fidelity.
 

DomSmith

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In a previous post I mentioned the ghosting and discoloration in one rear screen. Toyota replaced it under the Platinum Extended Warranty. They said it probably had been physically damaged (kids, etc) but agreed to replace it due to no signs of damage and the fact that the truck is immaculate. There was no event that I am aware of when the screen was hit despite the worst fold and tumble seat design since the Big Bang.

The list price was $6000 but after picking up the truck the charge to Toyota was about $1600. There was no part # and it was manually entered as RADIO/RADIO so I think they must have a part that is just a screen or some other variant.

Either way it’s working fine now.
 

greynolds

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despite the worst fold and tumble seat design since the Big Bang.
:)
The (2018 and older) Mercedes G-wagon easily takes the prize from Toyota here. On the previous generation G-wagons (prior to 2019, that is), you can't tumble the rear seats unless the front seats are moved ALL the way forward. Only a really skinny and short person would be able to get into the front seats in this configuration. As a 6 foot tall person who could stand to lose a "bit" of weight :), I had to settle for only folding the rear seats.

I'm not sure if Mercedes addressed this in the 2019 redesign of the G-wagon, but even though the new design is nice in a lot of ways, it has really gone too far on the luxury side and lost a lot of the utility appeal that the G-wagon had for me. And despite being about 6" longer in total length, they've reduced cargo space behind the rear seats by about 15% (this is from actual measurements I took on both). Oh and the MSRP of the new G-wagon is about $25K higher for a comparably configured previous-generation G-wagon. These are some of the reasons why I traded my 2017 G63 in for the LC. After living with the LC for a few months now, I honestly don't miss the G-wagon that much.
 

greynolds

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For those of you looking for a wireless CarPlay solution, I found a solution that works well. I had been doing some research on how to deal with the slow charging issue when using CarPlay as the USB ports on the EC Offroad and other units like NaviPlus don't deliver the power needed to keep up with constant use of the phone. In the process, I stumbled upon the Carlinkit product line. They have various options that are designed to add wireless CarPlay to factory head units, and add wired or wireless CarPlay to Android head units. The requirements for the wireless CarPlay product for Android head units are pretty minimal - you need to be able to install apk files, have an available USB port, and be running Android 4.4.2 or higher. The EC unit easily meets those requirements.

The product I selected is available on Amazon with Prime shipping and free returns. There was also a $10 off coupon available when I purchased mine. Here's a link to the product on Amazon:

Amazon product
Since sending it back would be easy if it didn't work, I decided to give it a shot. It arrived yesterday afternoon, so I haven't been able to test it extensively yet, but it is working fine so far.
  • It took me about 5 minutes to get it up and running, including downloading and installing the required app.
  • Startup of the CarPlay screen is fast. I think it's faster than the ZLink app that EC Offroad includes for the wired solution.
  • Apple Maps navigation audio worked perfectly on the first try.
  • Music through it worked perfectly on the first try.
  • The Info button works to tell Siri you want to give it voice commands.
  • The next/prev track buttons on the steering wheel work
I did have a minor issue this morning where audio from music apps wasn't playing through the car speakers (navigation audio was fine), but I've run into that with zlink as well. Reconnecting the phone to the app resolved that. I'm pretty well convinced this is an iOS issue as I'm pretty sure I ran into this a few times on my Mercedes that had CarPlay in the factory head unit as well.

By default, the Carlinkit app runs at startup, so the EC unit currently starts up in wireless CarPlay mode every time the car starts. I know this can be modified in the Carlinkit app, but I haven't found a way to get an icon for the Carlinkit app to show up on the EC unit's apps list. Until I sort that out, I'm going to let it continue to start up every time. It's just 1 button press to exit back to the EC unit's home page anyway.

So since I've had it for less than a day at this point, I'm not going to encourage everyone to go out and buy this yet, but the initial results are promising.

UPDATE:

After using this product for about a week now and receiving feedback from a few others who have tried it, I'm giving this solution a big 👍.

The only potential issues I've seen so far are:
  • Once in a while when playing music, it won't play on the factory sound system. I found that if I check the control center on the iPhone, the problem is that the phone has selected another device for audio. Switching the audio selection over to "CarPlay" will resolve the problem. There's no need to exit CarPlay or take any other action. I'm pretty well convinced this is an iOS issue as I've run into this with other CarPlay setups, including in the zlink app that the EC unit uses by default for CarPlay.
  • When the Autokit app apk file is installed, it doesn't add an icon to the EC unit's launcher app, which makes it a bit difficult to get back to CarPlay if you exit to do something else. There are a few solutions to this:
    • Setup the Nav button to launch Autokit in the EC unit's home page setup.
    • Install the "Simple App Launcher" app from the Google Play Store. Once this is installed, you can add and remove apps from this launcher, with Autokit being one of the apps you can add. Note that this isn't a full launcher replacement and has very limited features - apps are displayed alphabetically with no option to sort them any other way. But the display is very simple / uncluttered, which is good for a car.
    • Install the "Nova Launcher" app from the Google Play Store. This gives the same benefit as "Simple App Launcher", but is far more configurable and can be setup as a full launcher replacement if one wanted to do so. But be careful here because replacing the EC units default launcher would make it difficult to get to the EC unit's setup pages to do things like install firmware updates and modify some of the audio and display options.
    • I have done all 3 of the above for now. I'm not sure if I'll keep both "Simple App Launcher" and "Nova Launcher" installed long term though - I need to use them more to see what I prefer.
After using it for a week, wireless CarPlay is a huge game changer. I had been saying that it wasn't a big deal to have to plug the phone in every time. I was wrong. Now that I don't need to even unlock my phone to use CarPlay, I'm finding that I'm using it all the time on short trips because it's so easy. For longer trips when I need to worry about keeping the battery charged, I can now connect it to the charger of my choice to keep the phone charged.
 
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DomSmith

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I finally have my EC box back installed in my rig after a few months of it being removed.

I too am trying the carlinkit wireless setup that Geoff found. So far so good. I like the option of being able to connect wirelessly or wired.

I also resolved my lower volume on the EC box vs OEM. Volume is certainly loud enough now and there’s still room to go up.

Go to the EC Home Screen and select “settings” then “factory” and enter the code and click the green check then select “audio gain” on right side of the screen. This allows sound settings. I adjusted mine to this:

6A663CE7-B5FE-4057-9D90-1E6D23F04FD8.jpeg


Honestly the volume setting could go lower and still be plenty loud for me.
 

seajeff

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I'll chime in here as well. The Carlinkit works amazing so far. As far as I can tell it is a bypass of the zlink software the ships with the EC Offroad unit. There are a number of different versions of the carlinkkit so be sure to get the wireless one, the one greynolds linked above. I drove around for a few hours today and there were no drops, no strange behaviors. Maps and music worked great.

I still plan to run multiple on/off tests to check for any connectivity issues and will share what I experience. But so far, walking out to the truck with phone in my pocket, getting in, turning on the truck... and within less than 15 seconds (guess) carplay is displayed and running. The tips shared by greynolds and DomSmith are spot on. For me the essential tweaks were to:
- boost the audio gain from the EC Offroad unit
- set the Carlinkkit software (called AutoKit) to the "Nav" button.
- Go into my iphone under Settings, General, Carplay and rearrange the icons so the apps I want are on the main screen. So far I am using Spotify, Waze, Gaia, phone, and messages all without problems. The response of the EC Offroad unit is fast and the stock touch screen on my 2016 LC is good enough. (I do not believe the land cruiser touch screen supports multi-touch so of course it's not quite as good as the most modern touch screens, iPads, etc.) But honestly, I don't think I care. This unit seems stable enough, and it's responsive enough to change the entire radio/nav experience of my 2016. I can scroll around on maps, scroll through menus and retains the look and physical buttons/interfaces of the stock truck. Plus when I don't want to use it from what I can tell, I can go back to 100% of the stock functionality.

As pointed out above, too, the one remaining item that I'm also working through is that when I turn the truck off my iPhone connects to both the CarLinkKit and the TOYOTA Land Cruiser in a sequence that directs output from my carplay music apps to the toyota. I need to figure that out and plan to work on that today.

Like the others above, I plan to continue to test and I'll update my post above with any changes in experience. But I wanted to jump in and share my recommendation of this set of solutions.
 

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