Proton just launched their new car over the weekend with the name of Proton Suprima S, which basically is the hatchback version of the Proton Preve. One point that is particularly intriguing is that this car is the first local Malaysian car that features an Android-powered console built right in the car itself. I got a look at this car and played around with what’s Proton has to offer with Android. Let’s take a look at this console as a mobile device first. When I looked at it, the one essential characteristics of this console is the matte screen that totally makes sense for a device that’s constantly under the bright sunlight while in use. The screen is about 7 inches large, with the control buttons at the right side of the screen. Oh wait – the screen is resistive instead of capacitive. As I approached, the screen showed a rather familiar widget that was used to be in Android’s pre-Ice-Cream Sandwich days. It doesn’t look exactly the same though, just with much resemblance. At the side you can see that there are the 3 essential buttons of Android back in the old days – Back, Menu and Home button. The Navi button is something which I never got to try, and I will tell you why in a while. As for the connectivity, the flap is a little hard to open and even harder to let it hang while you deal with the connecting devices. Agonizing, as they did include one standard USB port for you but it’s beside the 12V outlet at the bottom. It also supports microSD and SDHC cards as shown in the picture. Going to the homescreen itself, there is this nostalgic view of the old Android, where the menu is still pretty much just black and highlights were orange in colour. You have a home launcher with 5 different homescreens, a settings button, an app drawer button, and also an equalizer button at the left side. At the bottom dock, you have the four fixed apps, Navigation, Radio, Media and Bluetooth. We pretty much know what Radio, Media and Bluetooth does so I just skipped that part as it is redundant. So let’s go ahead and press Navigation and check out their GPS interface.
In this error message, it is pretty much confirmed that the version of Android on this console is not even Honeycomb – it’s either Android 1.6, Android 2.X – Donut, Eclair, FroYo or Gingerbread – and all those versions of Android are announced at least 3 years old. 3 years. That’s how old it is! Android changed from this style of its interface to its current Holo design since Ice-Cream Sandwich, which is already two years old. Despite having an old version of Android, it still has some core essentials of Android running in it, such as the Bluetooth connectivity app, the good ol’ Browser, DVD player, equalizer, Media and Media Player app, the wonky Navigation and also a tuner app. Other than those however, I think it’s quite useless to be included in the console. A PDF viewer while driving? Not such a good idea, unless you’re someone who does meetings in your car and have all your documents in PDF format and transferred to your microSD or SDHC memory card. Calculator is just… speechless. The Search is another thing that I can find no use for unless your Android is filled with files and you just can’t find one particular file that you know its name like the back of your hand. Having said all those, the Android-powered console does indeed offer a completely different feel to interfaces compared to the conventional button-controlled systems as Android offers a graphical interface. Well, it’s not so graphical, just something that’s directly communicable with the press of anything (it’s a resistive touch screen!). The media player definitely doesn’t disappoint when it comes to practicality, as it is much more responsive and faster compared to – oh, let’s say the Kia Carens, which takes a long time to initialize and play a CD, touches are unresponsive and the Bluetooth is glitchy. Maybe the Proton Suprima S’s console isn’t as good as it is while on the road too, but for the first look, it is indeed very satisfying, despite the super old version of Android. As many people and even I am questioning, will enthusiasts root and flash in some custom ROMs to this baby to unlock its greater potential?