As with all technology, android headunits come with their own terminology. Seemingly nonsensical at times, the descriptions of the android headunits are regularly seen as to confuse or bamboozle the buyer.
Our guide will help to shine a light on what it all means and help you through the android headunit mine-field.
Android car stereo
All of the descriptions below refer to a car headunit that runs android, that is an ‘Android Head unit’. See also ‘What is an Android Head unit?’
- Android head unit
- Android car radio
- Android car stereo
- Best Android car stereo
- Chinese android car player
- Double DIN android stereo
- Single DIN android car stereo
Android API level
We have a post explaining the different android API level here. The API level is used to get a more realistic android version of the head unit than just the friendly name that has been used o advertise it. The post also shows how to find the API level in your android headunit.
An app called Android Auto by Google. The app allows your phone to mirror its display on a different screen and is ideal for displaying just minimal information to the driver. An uncluttered and driver-centric app screen.
Android Auto head unit
An android auto head unit is car stereo head-unit that is incapable of running android but can mirror a phone display. The android auto head units can’t run android apps and won’t connect to the play store. They rely on the phone to use apps. Typically the android auto app is installed on the phone and this is cast to the in-car dumb screen of the android auto head unit for displaying phone apps. This could be google maps, waze, spotify or a launcher, but all of these just run on the phone. If you don’t have your phone in the car, the android head unit is very limited to what it can do.
Android Head Unit Launcher
The android headunit launcher is the home screen of your android. Typically a phone home screen may not give the best layout for driving so alternatives are available. A launcher is just like any other app from the play store, with lost of choice and an abundance of features. We have some screen shots and reviews of some of the different android headunit launchers here. Be sure to check them out and try some for yourself.
Android headunits run Android OS for the apps. Later headunits come with a later version of android. Very poor and under powered android headunits may be restricted to an older version of android to be able to run smoothly.
- KitKat, Android 4.4, very old and not seen in the wild now
- Marshmallow, Android 6 found in some very old android headunits, was very popular, but often faked.
- Oreo, Android 8,
- and 8.1 is a cut-down and limited version for slow or sub budget phones, it has made its way to the sub par android headunits, often faked.
- Pie is Android 9
- 10 is Android 10, when the naming moved from food to just a number
- 11 is Android 11.
An APK is the file name extension of android apps. You probably will never see the filename.apk but if you do, then you probably to see the How to sideload apps on an Android Headunit? post as this deals with installing the .apk files.
App is a program that runs on an android headunit, all of the programs that run on android are called ‘Apps’.
CAN BUS BOX
The CAN BUS BOX optional extra, often included with the custom fit android headunit. It is used to allow the car computer to send information to the android headunit directly over the CAN BUS.
What is the CAN BUS BOX with an Android Head Unit?
Coaxial digital output
Coax digital out is a system to connect an external amplifier to your android headunit. The digital signal is less affected by interference than an analogue output. See also SPDIF digital out.
DIN is a standard size specification for android headunit, car stereo, universal car radios and storage spaces in the dashboard. Universal android headunits are supplied in 1 DIN or 2 DIN universal fitting bodies. (although some modification may be requited to get a perfect fit).
- 1 DIN is a shallow yet wide, rectangular shape body, the screen size varies.
- Single DIN is the same as 1 DIN
- 2 DIN is the size of two 1DIN stacked on top of each other for the body while the screen size can be larger
- Double DIN is the same as 2DIN
- What is a Double DIN android Head Unit?
A Digital Signal Processor. Either in software or a dedicated hardware chip to provide the DPS function. We have the ‘What is a DSP in an Android Headunit?’ topic to explain further.
FYT refers to the platform that the android headunit is built on. The same platform can support several different, but similar generation porcessors/SoC. This information is only useful if you are into modding your android headunit. Knowing your FYT from your MTC won’t be helpful to you in the day to day use, and you may never know without any issues. FYT platform usually have UIS7862 and SC9853i chips. See also the MTC platofrm.
FYT is linked to SYU and SQL as platforms.
GND is a wire found during the installation of an android headunit. GND is short for ‘Ground’, meaning common ‘earth’ or 0V. We have a topic helping you with the GND connection, how to identify it and where to connect it in our post: GND wire.
GPS is an acronym of Global Positioning System. GPS is the backbone behind Satellite Navigation (SatNav) on every android head unit.
A standard set of the universal connectors on an android headunit making fitting quicker and easier with universal adaptors and manufacturer style plugs and sockets.
KEY1 KEY2 KEY-GND
Key1, Key2 and Key Gnd are wires that are used in the installation of Steering Wheel Controls, like volume and track forward. If you have a factory SWC or want and aftermarket SWC to control your android headunit, see this post for an explanation of KEY1 and KEY2.
Android headunits are often referred to by their manufacturers name. While the name may not actually manufacturer the hardware, they may assemble, badge or box the android headunit. Manufacturers are not restricted to android so care has to be taken that the product is an android and not an ‘android auto’ or even worse, a windows CE (WINCE) device.
- Joying head unit
- Seicane radio
- Dasaita head unit
- Hikty car stereo
- Camecho android car radio
- Eincar universal double DIN
- Idoing head-unit
- Podofo 7 inch Android 2 Din
- JOYX 10.1
- Pumpkin 2 DIN
- Auto pumpkin android
MG1613S is a highly sensitive single chip solution for GPS satellite signal reception and processing. DGPS & SBAS (WAAS/EGNOS/MSAS) compatible. Found in many android headunits.
MTC refers to the platform that the android headunit is built on. The MTC platform can be fitted with a number of different, but similar generation processors. Knowing the platform won’t really help you in the day to day use of the android car stereo. The MTC platform is of particular interest to modders, people who wish to change the firmware in the android headunit. MTC platform based android headunits typically came with the RockChip processors; PX3, PX30, PX5 or PX6.
Subsets of the MTC platform naming are MTCB, MTCC and MTCD.
See also FYT platform.
NXP6686 is the name of a chip for AM/FM radio built into an android headunit similar to NXP6851 for the same functions. The chips are automotive grade and designed for use in a vehicle.
The microprocessor (SoC) is the powerhouse of the android. It is what makes your phone quick or slow, what makes your laptop fast or slow. The Processor is the CPU. Faster is always better as heat and battery life are less important for an android headunit.
- 8227L – Mediatek 8227L a popular chip that has now been surpassed my many subsequent generations of faster and more capable CPUs. It has now become synonymous with junk.
- Quad-core is 4 cores in a processor, it may or may not be the 8227L, but it is not very many.
- Hexa-Core – 6 cores in a processor, modern headunit processors have 6 cores, the PX6 is a popular Hexacore processor.
- Octa-Core 8 Cores in a processor, a modern processor has 8 cores, the PX5 is a popular octacore processor.
- PX5 processor – an Octa-Core processor found in previous generation headunits now superseded by the PX6
- PX6 processor has 6 cores, found in current headunits and runs quickly
- UIS7862 is a current high speed processor found in the latest headunits
RAM is listed in Gigabytes (Gb) and is a major factor in the head unit performance.
- 1Gb is very low and not really usable by modern android versions that run modern apps.
- 2Gb is poor by modern standards
- 4Gb is a modern acceptable RAM for current android and apps
- 6Gb is good, currently the maximum and will give the best experience when switching between multiple heavy apps and good future proofing.
- 8Gb is seen in the latest specifications and moves a long way towards future proofing your android head unit.
Read our Android Headunit RAM article.
Android Headunit recovery mode is a secret menu to allow for high level android file changes. Use for fixing boot loops and some android boot failures. A diagnostic feature not often needed by the end user.
ROM is listed in Gigabytes (Gb) but has little impact on headunit performance, it is used store apps, maps and files.
- 16Gb is often found in very old specification headunits
- 32Gb is acceptable but often linked to old and sub standard specifications
- 64Gb is more aligned to modern standards, but having more doesn’t have much impact on the speed or use of the android headunit
- 128Gb is available as an android headunit ROM specification.
- 256Gb is found in the latest and is more of a headline to sell the latest. There is not performance difference between 16Gb, 32Gb, 64Gb or even 128Gb.
Read our Android Headunit ROM article.
Root on an android headunit is a software modification to allow some apps to run at a higher privilege level than normally allowed on a non-rooted system. Root is a security concern because it bypasses a security permission. But can give apps greater access to the hardware for enhanced features that would not normally be available. You android may or may not already be rooted and the way to find out if the root required app will work is to just try it.
Sideloading is for installing apps that are not obtained from the play store. This is a security concern to uninstall unchecked or untrusted apps but can bring you apps not normally available to your android headunit. See our How to sideload apps on an Android Headunit? post for instructions.
SPDIF digital output
S/PDIF is an optical output from the android headunit to a suitably equipped S/PDIF amplifier. The advantage of S/PDIF to carry the signal to an amplifier is the ultimately high rejection of interference on the link. SPDIF digital out is only relevant if you are connecting to an external device like an amplifier that also has an S/PDIF connection.
TDA7851 is a discrete IC used as an amplifier in an android headunit stereo. The 7851 can run 4 speakers of 48 Watts into 4 Ω Max. There are MOSFET outputs. A typical Class AB amplifier chip for in vehicle use.
Tesla Android Headunit
‘Tesla’ refers to the portrait style orientation of the android screen. If you have not seen inside one of Elon Musks Tesla cars, then think of the portrait orientation to be the same as holding your phone in you hand. This is portrait mode, more commonly known as ‘Tesla style‘ for an android headunit.
Most android headunits are fixed in landscape mode, the orientation of the screen having its longest edges at the top and bottom. Just like how you would hold your phone to watch a movie, the Tesla style turns this on its head to much more resemble a phone.
Some tesla style android headunits have the ability to rotate the screen between portrait and landscape, just a you would with your phone to suit the content you are viewing. The universal style tesla radios often have the rotate feature, whereas the custom fit tend to be fixed in position in true portrait tesla style.
We have an article describing 5Ghz for an android headunit here including the advice about its features and the comparison with 2.4Ghz.