Home Ultras Main Screen, notice no notification bar at the top.
Home Ultras Main Screen, notice no notification bar at the top. I’ve configured this page myself.

Today’s Android app review is on Car Home Ultra. I was getting phone calls for work at all times of the day and my wife started a new job that required her to be on the road. I don’t know why it took so long for me to look for something that would help us to receive calls while driving and still be safe. The idea was to start an app when we want to drive and it would take care of turning the Wi-Fi off, the Bluetooth on, set the volumes just right and let us play music in the car.

What does the App claim it can do?

The play store blurb says that “Home Ultra is a Car Dock app that makes your phone much easier and safer to use while in the car.“. The list of features include screen display of time, weather conditions, current location, bearing, 18 on-screen icons. Behind the scenes the app can automatically switch Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off when Home Ultra is started. Apparently you can also open Home Ultra when Bluetooth is turned on. There is a night time screen and day time screen. It also says it has media controls.

Play store says that it is a 30 day trial. This means that this will actually be the first review on an app that I payed money for.

Does the App REALLY do what it claims to do?

Home Ultras Media Page, I put this page together. Home Ultra only has a default home.
Home Ultras Media Page, I put this page together. Home Ultra only has a default home.

First of all, the claim that it will make your device safer to use does come with a few disclaimers. I really don’t think that this app by itself will make it safer. To really be safer you need a smart driver. A smart driver would first of all buy a phone holder for the car. They are not expensive and really could save your life if you mount it in the right place. This app will not make it easier to type messages either, don’t bother with the voice to text apps, they don’t really work and you end up watching the screen more than the road. That said, this app, coupled with a holder does make it much easier to use on the road. You can even programme some tiles with you’re wife’s direct phone number for a quick life saving call to tell her that you’re on you’re on your way home after you left work two hours late.

Apart from that it does do exactly what it says it can do. I haven’t bothered putting the current weather conditions on the screen, all I need to do in order to get that info is look straight out my windscreen. The bearing is cool to have if your phone has an in built compass.the current speed is front and centre, but it does require the GPS to be enabled, which I don’t always have.

In the background the app alters my volume so that I don’t have to worry about turning it up after I stop playing “Turbo”. My Wi-Fi is switched off and my Bluetooth on so that my car’s Bluetooth device can automatically detect it and pair up. Most of the time all this work seamlessly, though the times it doesn’t may not be blamed in the app. If it doesn’t succeed to pair up persist and maybe try again; it will be the devices fault. I’ve found that sometimes in the order in which I start things. With my set up I need to start Home Ultra just before starting the car, otherwise my cars Bluetooth device doesn’t pick up the phone.

Setting a tile is pretty easy, just click on a blank one and go through the options. You can set it to be a Home Ultra specific action, a shortcut, or a link to another app. I’ve added a link to Poweramp so that I can see the cool cover art or get my passenger to change something. I’ve set one up to my home phone and one to my wife’s mobile. All I need to do is click in those icons and the phone does all the rest. To change a tile press and hold, options will appear.

One thing that is really cool is that you can set an option so that it replaces your normal home screen. What this does is it sets the home button on the phone to bring up Car Home Ultra every time it is pressed. This can make it hard to return to your normal home screen and exit Home Ultra so I suggest that you put the Exit shortcut on one of your screens.

The first screen of 2.5 of the top level settings page.
The first screen of 2.5 of the top level settings page.
You can see that there's a lot of settings
You can see that there’s a lot of settings

What do I like most about the App?

I like how the author added a feature after I put a review on it suggesting a new feature. The feature I’m talking about is showing the current song playing instead of the current location. I like how my media player of choice – Poweramp – is supported and play lists created with it can be added as a direct link. The section up the to top is configurable and it can talk to you. A really cool feature is that it will beep at you if there’s a traffic camera that is suppose to be ahead if you have your GPS on. It has 3 or 5 screens (configurable option) that you can fill up with shortcuts and will replace your normal home screen if you set it to. I like the big buttons and large text, everything is visible and accessible from arms length. These things are all nice but the best thing I like about this app is how integrated things are. The author has put a bit of time and thought into the way things work.

What’s not to like about it?

I don’t like how the speed display can’t handle anything over 99. All I see when I get to 100kph is 00. I’m sure the cops would not accept my story that I thought I was only travelling 60 in the 100 zone because my mobile told me so.  This restriction might be fine in the USA where driving over 100 is totally wrong, but any modern country (joking) uses the metric system.

I think I’ve noticed a small bug when you set the option to start Home Ultra when Bluetooth is turned on and you set the option to turn on Bluetooth when you start Home Ultra. It seems to start the programme twice. I know this because I have to exit it twice.

What are the little niggles (What would make it perfect)?

It’s not a pretty app. I’ve seen other car home apps that are more pleasing on the eyes but they don’t have the functionality of this one. Truth be told they weren’t really suitable for visibility reasons anyway. I prefer function over styling so to me styling really is a minor thing which is why it’s a niggle.

This app may not work best on phones with small screens, but that’s not the apps fault.

Why did I decide to keep/remove it?

If you have a new car that shows caller ID, has satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity you might not need this app. I on the other hand have a car built in 2001 and a stereo from 2007 a time when Bluetooth was something you used with your laptops and silly little headsets for your phone. We opted not to get that feature on the stereo, it was expensive. Now we have a Belkin Bluetooth adaptor that plugs into the stereo’s AUX input and I use Home Ultra all the time when I’m in the car. In fact I’m going to use it the day I’m writing this review. I’ll be putting my phone in the cradle, setting my GPS and heading home on a 200 km trip after a Bon Jovi concert. Along the way I’m sure I’m going to reach 10kph at least once. I didn’t remove it at the end of the 30 days because it started to become one of my essentials.

Would my wife use it?

Indeed she can. She uses it as well. She hasn’t configured everything and I’m sure I gave her some tips along the way but that said I’m sure that she could work it out.