Voice Controls

With laws coming into effect all around the world banning the use of mobile phones while driving, the prospect of controlling your phone with the power of your voice is an enticing one.

Parrot has opted to use its own voice recognition technology in the Asteroid Smart, which is isn't necessarily a bad thing, but does mean that you don't get the advantages of having Google-driven services like Google Now included in the unit.

Parrot Asteroid Smart Review
Pick your voice command, before it picks for you

Voice controls on the Smart can be used to control two main functions of the device - calling contacts or searching for music.

Both work the same way: You select the voice control app on the Smart's screen, then opt for either music or contacts and speak your desired person or song after the beep.

If you happen to have steering wheel controls, you can have a button dedicated to activating the voice control function. Although which app it controls using this method appears to be completely random.

Parrot Asteroid Smart Review
The Settings menu can go deep.

The results are simultaneously good and bad. For searching contacts, we found the Smart relatively accurate. Occasionally it would pull something way out from left field, but for the most part, it delivered the desired contact to the 6.2-inch screen.

Music was a different beast altogether, especially when paired to a third party app like Spotify. No matter what we searched for in Music, the results were spectacularly varied.

The catch with the voice control functions is the time it takes to boot up. As mentioned previously, having to wait for your address book to sync in order to make a call is a serious design flaw, and one we hope is fixed in future updates.

Apps

The Google Play Store has hundreds of thousands of apps, all ready to take advantage of the power of the Android device in your hand. The Parrot Asteroid system, despite its Android core, has between about 15 and 50, depending on what part of the world you're accessing it from.

In Australia, where we tested, there are currently 18 apps available for the Asteroid Smart. The vast majority of those are GPS-based, offering either navigation or other information based on your present location.

The system comes pre-loaded with the iGo navigation software, which does a reasonable job of getting you where you need to go.

Parrot Asteroid Smart Review
iGo navigation isn't the best or worst satnav software in the world

While it's not as clean or fast as some of the latest dedicated sat navs from Tomtom or Garmin, the Smart does come with the option to buy completely different navigation software through the Asteroid Market, including TomTom's own mapping software.

The other apps are largely entertainment based, offering services like Spotify and TuneIn Radio, although there are email and Facebook clients as well.

It is largely a tough market for Parrot to crack. The potential for a vibrant marketplace is there, but until the Asteroid ecosystem is more common place, there's no real incentive for developers to bring their apps to the platform.

Parrot Asteroid Smart Review
There are apps, but they tend to offer similar services

While we understand the restrictions on the platform - in order to prevent drivers slingshotting their car into incoming traffic while playing a quick game of Angry Birds in traffic - the limitations on the apps available is seriously disappointing.

Even apps like Pandora, which you would expect to be common place, are nowhere to be found. Other opportunities, like an app that reads you text messages and lets you compose your responses verbally, aren't available on the platform.

That's not to say that they won't some day appear, but when it comes to paying out a grand or so to install one of these systems and you don't get as much functionality as sticking your smartphone onto a dashboard mount, it's somewhat disappointing.

Parrot Asteroid Smart Review
If you don't like the iGo software, there are other options

That said, there are plenty of things that the Smart does offer that a standard smartphone can't. While we didn't test it, the Android in-car system can control a reversing camera, as well as power multiple screens, allowing you to shut up the kids behind you by giving them their own videos to watch while you listen to death metal in the front of the car.

There's also control over the car's speaker system, with spatial awareness to mix just the right levels for the people in the vehicle.

Make no mistake - there's potential in the Parrot ecosystem, but as yet, it's sadly unfulfilled.