Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are better with two screens

Opinion: The Honda Accord makes a compelling argument for dual displays in cars

Honda Accord

When Honda debuted the ninth-generation Accord for the 2013 model year, the top trim models had one of the worst infotainment systems I've ever used.

The system consisted of two LCD displays in the car's center stack with the top display being an informational one. The lower screen was touch-enabled, and a set of buttons and knobs controlled everything at the very bottom.

It was a clunky user interface nightmare that had me confused as to which method of control I should use: the control knob or the touch screen. In theory, Honda wanted the lower touch screen to have different function buttons depending on what was being used.

Honda Accord

In execution, it was a confusing mess because the two displays operated semi-independently from each other. Sometimes, the system provided an on-screen keyboard for navigation input, while other times would leave you feeling limited by the radio functions available, only to switch to the upper screen.

All of that changes in 2016

Despite all the ill will I harbored toward the early infotainment system, the refreshed 2016 Accord Coupe EX-L redeems Honda's screen choice. Honda recently sent techradar a San Marino red-colored Accord Coupe EX-L V6 with an MSRP of $31,860 (not available in the UK and only available in AU as a sedan for AU$56,218) to test out for a week.

Honda Accord

Honda's refreshed Accord received Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, both of which greatly improve the usability of the dual screen system. In the Accord, the upper display is an 8-inch, 800 x 480 resolution multi-informational display (i-MID) that serves as a fancy trip computer, since Honda doesn't include any LCD in the gauge cluster.

The i-MID display also shows music information, a compass and turn-by-turn navigation instructions. Below the i-MID is Honda's 7-inch Display Audio infotainment system with a matching 800 x 480 resolution. The capacitive touch screen and buttons respond well to my touch and I rarely miss my commands, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are what make this infotainment system awesome.

Honda embraces infotainment's phone-filled future

You see, the new Accord's infotainment system doesn't have integrated navigation features, and relies solely on your phone for that function. There's integrated HD Radio, SiriusXM and USB music playback for those times you don't want to plug your phone in, but connect an Android device or iPhone 6S, and the system shines.

Honda Accord Android Auto

The lower, 7-inch display is taken over by Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, while the top screen continues to show your music information and turn-by-turn directions. Yes, your turn-by turn directions through Google Maps and Apple Maps show up on the i-MID display.

This works out beautifully because I can have my Google Now cards on the lower screen while the turn-by-turn directions only show up on the top screen. Now, I can quickly glance down at notifications while using navigation functions at the same time.

Honda Accord Apple CarPlay

To further sweeten the functionality, the Accord has two USB ports: one in the front and one in the center console. Honda clearly labels the power output of the ports, too, with up to 1.5 amps for the front port and up to 1 amp in the center console. The idea is that you can plug in your phone and keep a USB flash drive with music in the car at the same time.

Ultimately, Honda finally put forth a compelling reason for having dual screens in a car. The addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay turns what was once a questionable decision into an understandably smart one.

It should only be a matter of time before Honda finds some followers in its wake.

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