Car infotainment systems are slowly improving nowadays, but the vast majority remain unintuitive and quickly grow out of date. So what if, instead of being stuck with whatever your carmaker thinks is right, everything could just run on your smartphone instead? That's partly the idea behind CarPlay and Android Auto, sure, but both of them run on your existing head unit. Drivemode is doing things a bit differently; the company's Android app can turn your mobile device into the central screen in your vehicle. It's not mirroring anything onto a larger display; you just plug your phone into the empty head unit slot, and then it'll start displaying your speedometer, navigation, music apps, incoming calls / texts, and so on.
Since your phone is smaller than most infotainment displays, the Drivemode app puts simplicity first with oversized buttons and easy-to-read text. But reaching for something that's not the steering wheel is less than ideal, so the company has partnered up with Honda and Panasonic to make a concept car with full steering wheel controls. Things like music controls and voice search work just as they would on a regular infotainment system, and Drivemode will even display the feed from the vehicle's backup camera. All of the companies involved note this is still years from being a shipping product, but it's easy to see the appeal — especially in lower end vehicles that might not even offer the popular Apple and Google solutions. For now, Drivemode is available on Android only, though an iOS version could be coming down the line.