If it exists, there’s an app for it.

Case in point: smart cross connect, a bespoke app for the 2016 smart fortwo coupe. The app maximizes the advantages of driving a smart by inviting owners to upload and rate snaps of free smart parking spaces. That’s right: you can now crowd-source your next parking spot. On the road, the app analyzes your driving behavior for a comprehensive profile and even awards a Car Score for driving efficiency. The app even reminds where you parked your car, so you'll never have to go through that moment of key-pressing panic. And then there’s the downloadable map feature. By ditching reliance on GPS and roaming data, these maps let you stay on route even when connectivity is a struggle. The app’s AUPEO! streaming service lets you select the perfect soundtrack for your road trip. Finally, smart offers a dashboard mount to make the whole experience seamless. Learn more about the app: http://www.smart-magazine.com/en/smart-cross-connect-app/

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The Smart Cross Connect app is a terrible mess.

It always turns on the radio and interferes with other apps trying to play audio.  It can theoretically play music on the device, but since I have moved to Google Music, I don't have any music it can see.  It also can't handle my audio books (Audible), so if I wanted to use the app, I would be stuck listening to Aupeo!, which seems to be some downmarket Pandora.

The mapping software is out-of-date and no where near as good as Google Maps.  Remember the horrible interfaces from late '90s early '00s GPSes? Well, you don't need to remember, just try to use the mapping software built into the Smart Cross Connect.  House number is separate from street for goodness sake.  And no voice control to be seen.  That is a good idea in a car.

The speed limit feature is flat out wrong all of the time. My neighborhood has a 20 mph speed limit (well 19.5 mph, but I would accept 20 mph).  The app says 45 mph.  The road near me says 35 mph, the app says 45 mph.  The state road near me says 65 mph, the app says 45 mph (notice a pattern?) until it finally says 60 mph three miles down the road (still wrong, but the closest it got to being right).  Using this feature is guaranteed to get you a speeding ticket or annoy other drivers.  And lest you think it is the fact that I live in West Virginia, I downloaded OsmAnd and it showed the correct speed limits for the on and off ramps and the state road.  When it didn't know the speed limit, it showed nothing (unlike the Cross Connect app's default 45 mph).

The g-force feature is nearly completely useless.  It only provides g-force "information" for one axis (side to side).  Information is in quotes because there is no hard data, just a slightly out of sync image a of a Fortwo sliding left or right to varying degrees.  Smart phones have six axis accelerometers, the failure to provide more than one axis of measurement and to provide no graphs or other useful information makes this feature pointless.

The fuel consumption feature provides three to four levels of indicator as to how well you are driving (cutesy forest to barren desert).  This manages to be less useful than the in-dash fuel consumption information.  It provides no information over time, so it is just a snapshot of how hard you pressed the gas pedal a moment ago.

The telephone features and the radio controls are the only parts of the app that do anything useful at all.  But they are really only useful if you have blocked access to the easy to use controls on the radio with your phone (assuming you have a phone small enough to fit in the stock dock).

I did not test the location sharing with Glympse or the parking spot location information, but it is humorous to note that it thinks my garage is .9 miles away from my living room, not the 100 feet it actually is.

Recommendations for the developer:

  1. do not turn on the radio, leave it in the state it was in before you started
  2. do not claim all rights to the audio on the phone, there may be other apps that want to play music, read books, etc
  3. in fact, ditch all of the audio stuff other than controling the radio, there are better apps out there
  4. find a decent speed limit database
  5. don't show a speed limit unless you have know what it is
  6. make the speed limit number larger (tiny text is not good for a driving app)
  7. ditch the map software completely, you aren't going to do a better job than Google or Apple
  8. add graphs in addition to the dumbed down visualizations of g-forces and fuel efficiency
  9. add a gallons per hour feature (it is the one thing missing from the in-dash computer)
  10. I don't know if it keeps track of the driving score if it isn't the foreground app, but if it doesn't, it should.

Might i also add that it'd be nice if there were some way to control music being played from a USB flash drive?  choose songs and such from the screen on the phone and stuff like that, rather than having to struggle to even GET the radio to play through USB while Cross Connect is open, then hunt for the button on the radio you're looking for.

Oh gosh.  I don't have any of the problems Chas Owens is suffering from.  This app runs perfectly fine for me.  I've owned over 40 cars in my lifetime and not one of them has offered a more user-friendly way of integrating your phone and car.  Anything I can do with my smartphone, is easily done while sitting in the car with the cradle conveniently holding the phone in my face. 

I honestly believe, honestly, that many people complaining about the functionality of the Cross Connect App, haven't figured out how to use their phone.  Seriously.  How to force an app to run in the background, how to force an app to become the primary app, how to switch between various audio inputs, how to turn certain audio inputs off, how to mute, etc,.  The Cross Connect app is simply awesome. 

If there is a dominant app on my phone that I want to use, I'll close the Cross Connect App and use whatever other app I want to use on my phone.  I'll then open the Cross Connect App when I'm ready.

For folks looking for an opinion leader before making a decision, or choosing sides, I'm going to be the opposite of those trying to thrash a perfectly fine app.

Are you using iOS or Android?  It is possible the iOS app isn't worthless, but the Android app is.  I am a computer programmer and have actually written Android apps before.  I am very familiar with how to work my phone.

Well, I hope people don't nitpick apps you design so critically.  When I read you complaining about the G-Force, Fuel Consumption, and Speed Limits portions of the app, it might as well be the same as somebody complaining about a digital graphic equalizer display jumping up and down while music plays in a boombox.  I guess it's useful, but not really, but it doesn't make the boombox useless enough to criticize it so mercilessly. 

I expect speed limit signs being changed to take a while for an app to be updated, and if it's wrong I have no way to know if the city changed the sign yesterday, or failed to submit a public notice, or electronically submit something, or if the app designer was somehow a bad designer for not knowing, etc,. It's not a big deal at all.  Every time I have checked the speed limit of the app to the speed limit sign I was next to, they matched.  But I don't expect 100% accuracy.  When I used my Garmin Nuvi years ago, it was never 100% perfect either.  It's based on information available at the time the app was produced.

The Fuel Monitor shows green trees when one backs off the throttle, a few less trees when one is somewhat in the middle with throttle, and it turns into a brown polluted looking desert when you jump on the throttle.  It gets its point across, just like countless economy cars (including the smart 450 and smart 451) do with an upshift arrow during fuel consuming revving that may be avoided. 

But those features are not the primary reason for the app and to focus so heavily on such minor aspects of the app that I would rather have than not have, is just too much nitpicking. 

We use that app because the cradle in the middle of the radio partially blocks buttons on the head unit.  We use that app because it's an easy way to have a keypad with all the numerical buttons so you can dial a phone number on the phone/screen while the phone sits in the cradle. 

And I never expected an obviously predominantly French and German import car heavily influenced overseas, countering an American culture, with an app that was on the market overseas for a year and a half, and only 6 months in the USA barely getting out of its USA beta stage, to outdo GOOGLE when it comes to maps.

You called the app a "terrible mess."  I strongly disagree.  A better idea for you, in my opinion, would be to use the phone cradle and skip the app altogether.  You can still place Bluetooth calls, you can still run Google Maps, you can still play any music function your phone allows, or any app your phone allows, all by switching between various applications through your phone.  All the visuals on your phone screen will be provided by whatever app you're currently using, and whatever audio you want to play within whatever app can run via aux cable or Bluetooth. 

You have nothing to lose with that phone cradle and the smart cross connect app.  It's a free download.  Use it, or not.  The smart 453 is still the first car in America to offer such an easily ingenious way of integrating your phone and car.  All the other automakers are scrambling to force Android Auto and Apple Carplay as a way of best integrating your phone and car.  But guess what?  The smartphone cradle and integration makes Android Auto and Apple Carplay pretty much obsolete when they are just barely getting popular.  Nothing is better than using the actual phone itself.

In my opinion of course. :)  :D  

Well, I hope people don't nitpick apps you design so critically.

I want people to nitpick apps as critically as I do.  That would mean they care about it and want it to be better.  I want the Smart Cross Connect app to be good.  At the moment I am deeply disappointed in it. The only thing it does well is fix the design flaw of having the phone dock (which itself has a massive flaw of only holding 5" and smaller phones) block access to the radio controls. But it manages to screw that up by claiming the audio output rather than sharing it like a good Android citizen.

I expect speed limit signs being changed to take a while for an app to be updated,

All of the roads I was on were built no later than 2010 and none of them have changed their speed limits.  The app isn't just wrong.  It is dangerously wrong.  It shows a 45 mph speed limit whenever it doesn't know the speed limit.  Going 45 mph in 25 mph zone is legally reckless driving.  Also, I compared the app to OsmAnd which uses data from the OpenStreetMap project.  It managed to not show the speed limit when it didn't know it and managed to show the speed limits for the on/off ramps to the state road and the state roads speed limit accurately.

The Fuel Monitor shows green trees when one backs off the throttle, a few less trees when one is somewhat in the middle with throttle, and it turns into a brown polluted looking desert when you jump on the throttle.  It gets its point across, just like countless economy cars (including the smart 450 and smart 451) do with an upshift arrow during fuel consuming revving that may be avoided.

That information is available in a much more usable format on the on-board computer's display.  You may not know this, but every feature you add to a program comes with costs: design, development, maintenance, and QA.  The first two are sunk costs at this point, but the other two are ongoing costs.  Useless features drain time and money from useful features.

And I never expected an obviously predominantly French and German import car heavily influenced overseas, countering an American culture, with an app that was on the market overseas for a year and a half, and only 6 months in the USA barely getting out of its USA beta stage, to outdo GOOGLE when it comes to maps.

The question is why they even tried.  As I said earlier, features cost time and money.  The app is not going to be able to compete and isn't designed to compete with the big mapping apps, so why add it?  And if they wanted a mapping feature, well, Android, iOS, and even Windows Phone all provide a way to embed their respective mapping apps in another app.

You called the app a "terrible mess."  I strongly disagree.

That much is obvious, but I still can't see why.  You make a lot of excuses for it, but you don't really tell me what you like about it (other than the things I had already said were "the only parts of the app that do anything useful at all").

All the other automakers are scrambling to force Android Auto and Apple Carplay as a way of best integrating your phone and car.  But guess what?  The smartphone cradle and integration makes Android Auto and Apple Carplay pretty much obsolete when they are just barely getting popular.  Nothing is better than using the actual phone itself.

The idea that Smart Cross Connect obsoletes Android Auto or Apple Carplay is farcical.  The only thing it does well is cover up a massive design flaw in how the car was designed (the dock blocks the radio buttons).  A flaw than can be fixed just as easily as with a spider tablet holder for $35 (rather than the $100 official dock):

Well... GOOD NEWS!  Not sure if you've heard, but Google apparently realized the stupidity of requiring an integrated head unit in a vehicle that supported Android Auto, so I guess at some point in time, Android Auto will also function as just the standalone app using the Android Auto interface on your phone.... no supporting head-unit required.  They announced it at Google IO the other week.


Kamaal said:

All the other automakers are scrambling to force Android Auto and Apple Carplay as a way of best integrating your phone and car.  But guess what?  The smartphone cradle and integration makes Android Auto and Apple Carplay pretty much obsolete when they are just barely getting popular.  Nothing is better than using the actual phone itself.

The cradle will fit an iPhone 6.  Any suggestions that the cradle is unusable are ridiculous.  Does the cradle hug all 4 corners of an iPhone 6?  Or Samsung Note 4, or 5, or 6?  No.  But it will hug 3 and will squeeze the phone tight enough to not vibrate needlessly or fall out.  It certainly is more sturdy and stable than that spider crab looking phone cradle. 

I know.  I've been using the spider crab looking cradle, both the large and the small one, for at least 3 years now.  Bought mine at Fry's Electronics in Burbank, years ago.  You have to bend the spider legs around the phone or tablet, and there are little tapped holes in case you want to screw it down to a wall or an object. 

The spider cradle works, but mounting it in your car is a pain in the butt.  I don't know how anybody in the world believes it can possibly be a better option than the smart phone cradle in the new smart 453 that will never fall off, never fail to grab a reasonably sized phone (i.e., most smartphones on the market expect for the largest couple of phones on the market), and it places it in the center of the dash in easy enough access for a driver or passenger to easily type or text or push buttons on it while driving.

I had a passenger in my car watching HBO Now in my car, through my HBO Now app, while I was driving the car through Pasadena a few days ago...  just to prove a point. 

No blocked air conditioner vents.  No suction cups to hold the phone until you're on the freeway going 65 miles per hour and the cradle and phone comes crashing down to bounce off the dashboard unexpectedly while scaring the driver halfway to death.  No long cables and wires tangling themselves up and snagging on you and other things in your car. 

There is absolutely zero need for Android Auto if you can use your phone and every app on it while you drive.  Android Auto limits the features you can access on your phone through a vehicle's entertainment system.  With the smartphone cradle, there are no limitations because you can easily use every app your phone is capable of using... directly through the phone itself.  No middle-man-apps necessary.

I'm done for now.  The glass is full on this side of the table.



Kamaal said:

The cradle will fit an iPhone 6.  Any suggestions that the cradle is unusable are ridiculous.  Does the cradle hug all 4 corners of an iPhone 6?  Or Samsung Note 4, or 5, or 6?  No.  But it will hug 3 and will squeeze the phone tight enough to not vibrate needlessly or fall out.  It certainly is more sturdy and stable than that spider crab looking phone cradle.

I don't know what dock you got, but I can't even fit my Nexus 6 (just a squosh larger than an iPhone 6) into the dock that came with my car:

The spider cradle works, but mounting it in your car is a pain in the butt.

Not really, You bend the front two bottom legs in a loop to hold the bottom of the phone and the front top two so they touch the bezel of the phone,.  You slide the four back legs between the radio mount and the dash with enough separation to hold it firm.  Friction holds them in place quite securely.  Getting the phone in and out is just a matter of slightly lifting up the on the front top two legs and pulling on the top of the phone.  The legs snap back into place if you don't use too much force.  You put it in the same way (put the bottom corners of the phone in the loops and push the top back while gently pushing the top legs out of the way).  I haven't gotten in an accident yet (and hopefully never will), but I have had to brake pretty hard a couple times and the mount hasn't gone anywhere.

  I don't know how anybody in the world believes it can possibly be a better option than the smart phone cradle in the new smart 453 that will never fall off, never fail to grab a reasonably sized phone (i.e., most smartphones on the market expect for the largest couple of phones on the market), and it places it in the center of the dash in easy enough access for a driver or passenger to easily type or text or push buttons on it while driving.

Again, I don't know what dock you have, but mine won't fit any phone with a display larger than five inches and many phones are larger than that now.  The dock also blocks access to the radio buttons due to poor design. A phone mount above the radio buttons would have been preferable.  You are right that mounting it a little higher up is a bit more inconvenient.  A proper design would have had the radio buttons below the radio and a mount right where it is today.

I had a passenger in my car watching HBO Now in my car, through my HBO Now app, while I was driving the car through Pasadena a few days ago...  just to prove a point. 

Don't let the cops catch you doing that. It violates [27602.a](http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group...) (assuming you meant the Pasadena in CA) and adds to the argument that phones should not be allowed to be used in cars at all.

No blocked air conditioner vents.  No suction cups to hold the phone until you're on the freeway going 65 miles per hour and the cradle and phone comes crashing down to bounce off the dashboard unexpectedly while scaring the driver halfway to death.  No long cables and wires tangling themselves up and snagging on you and other things in your car. 

My solution does not block the air conditioner vents (unless you have found a way to seat someone in the center of the car).  I plug into the USB port on the lower right of the radio and it wraps around the back part of the stereo mount (this also aids in keeping the spider mount steady).  It does not interfere with anything. 

There is absolutely zero need for Android Auto if you can use your phone and every app on it while you drive.  Android Auto limits the features you can access on your phone through a vehicle's entertainment system.

Your information is out-of-date.  Android Auto has a specialized launcher that runs on the phone to make operating the phone while driving easier.  The vehicle's entertainment system can also be used to control the phone (for those cars that have a suitable entertainment system).

With the smartphone cradle, there are no limitations because you can easily use every app your phone is capable of using... directly through the phone itself.  No middle-man-apps necessary.

A smartphone cradle is a good thing.  I just wish the Smart Fortwo 2016 version wasn't designed so poorly.  The Cross Connect app could be a good thing, but it too is poorly designed and implemented.

I'm done for now. 

If you could post pictures of your dock, it would be helpful in determining if my dealer is flat out lying to me about there only being the one dock available.  Based on what you have said, there must be another dock since there is no way my dock could hold an iPhone 6.  The difference in size between an iPhone 6 and a Nexus 6 is 1.16mmx5.18mmx2.96mm.  The largest phone this dock will hold is 140mm (the Nexus 6 is 160mm and the iPhone 6 is 158.1).

You chose to mount your Nexus 6 the way you did in that picture.  Bring it to me and I'll show you how to mount it so it doesn't fall out.  It takes 3 seconds and it is in there.

With regards to my HBO Now comment, I had a passenger in my car and I asked him to go ahead and use whatever he found of interest on my phone while I was driving the car.  HE opened up various navigation apps, music apps, the Internet, and HBO Now and my passenger agreed that my pitch about the phone cradle is right. You disagree.  Cool.  I'm just here to balance out your "terrible mess" rating with the complete opposite so that folks on the sidelines can see there are two sides to the story. 



Kamaal said:

You chose to mount your Nexus 6 the way you did in that picture.  Bring it to me and I'll show you how to mount it so it doesn't fall out.  It takes 3 seconds and it is in there.

Is this how you are "mounting" it?

It doesn't seem very secure and is not how the dock is intended to be used.

With regards to my HBO Now comment, I had a passenger in my car and I asked him to go ahead and use whatever he found of interest on my phone while I was driving the car.  HE opened up various navigation apps, music apps, the Internet, and HBO Now and

It does not matter if your passenger or you turned on HBO Now.  It is against the law in California and many (if not most) other states.  If the cops see you doing it, they will pull you over. 

my passenger agreed that my pitch about the phone cradle is right. You disagree.  Cool.  I'm just here to balance out your "terrible mess" rating with the complete opposite so that folks on the sidelines can see there are two sides to the story. 

I don't disagree completely.  A dock is a wonderful thing (otherwise I wouldn't have put in my spider dock).  An app that can display information from the car is also a wonderful thing, if implemented well.  The Cross Connect app is currently not implemented well.  The fact that it turns on the radio every time it starts up is enough to ruin its benefits, the rest of the app being pointless (g-force, gas efficiency), substandard (mapping, streaming audio), or dangerous (speed limit) is just icing on the cake.

The remedies for these problems are not hard:

  • make a larger dock for people with six inch phones
  • remove the useless/substandard cruft from the app
  • follow Android/iOS guidelines (don't steal control of the audio unless using it, respect the last choice made WRT the audio source, etc)

But the won't get fixed unless we complain about them.

Of course, all of this is ignoring the elephant in the room: security.  Having the ability to modify some settings in the car via Bluetooth may be opening up the car to other attacks.  I have no specific information about weaknesses in how they developed the interface, but if the auto industry's previous track record (tying this stuff into the CAN bus, the software being developed in assembly by the lowest bidder, etc)  is anything to judge by, then it is at least a little worrying.  I hadn't brought it up before because I think the attack vector exists regardless of whether or not you have the app installed.

Chas... i actually found a reasonable solution... that being just carving out the end stop on the arm on the right (opposite where the USB port is).

Holds my Nexus 6P quite nicely, and that's even with a Seidio Surface case on it.  Granted i still have to either slide it all the way in from the side, or put it in at an angle, but it works.

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