A very common question that we are asked is 'What is the difference between a Retrofit Module and a Head Unit?'
Before we explain further, it's important to understand the 2 different technologies that we refer to when describing the products.
Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
The terms CarPlay & Android Auto both refer to the software that Apple and Google install on smartphones to allow access to certain applications and key information from your phone via the display and controls of your vehicle.
The software allows you to connect your phone to your car and use navigation apps such as Waze or Google Maps, play music through Spotify/Apple Music, answer phone calls and reply to messages via Siri/Google Assistant.
Android Operating System (OS) is the software you will find running on an Android smartphone or tablet.
Like iOS on iPhone/iPad, the Android system is found on devices from manufacturers such as Samsung, Google, LG and more.
It provides access to the Google Play Store, the ability to watch videos & movies, access to Facebook & social media and much more.
For users of iOS, Android is basically the equivalent Google software and can perform most tasks that you can perform on an iPhone/iPad and more.
This is the system that is adapted and installed on the Android Head Units that we sell, so as you can imagine the capabilities are far more than just CarPlay/Android Auto functionality.
Android Operating System is referred to as just 'Android' and it is important to note that it is completely different to 'Android Auto'.
Simply put, the Retrofit module enables CarPlay & Android Auto functionality via your cars original stereo and display.
It aimed at users who want an OEM+ experience, where the technology is integrated into the factory system, and there is no visual trace of an aftermarket installation.
The original display is untouched and functions as usual after installation of the module, however you are now able to connect your compatible iPhone or Android device to use CarPlay & Android Auto in your vehicle.
This gives you access to navigation, music, messages, voice commands and all other supported CarPlay/Android Auto apps, just like what you would find in a car that originally supported these functions.
The term 'retrofit' is used as you are retrofitting this new functionality into a vehicle which was not originally equipped with it.
Head Units will replace your original factory screen with a larger touch screen display, however usually the factory features will still be retained and accessible.
There are two types of software that the head units may run, which we will describe below:
Android Head Units
The display itself will run the Android OS described earlier in the article, so it acts as a large smartphone/tablet embedded in the vehicle, where you can install apps from the Google store directly onto the screen, connect to the internet and browse the web, play games and watch Netflix.
You can still connect to an Android head unit with your smartphone, and use CarPlay/Android Auto through it, but you also have access to many other functions.
On cars with original infotainment systems such as BMW & Mercedes, you will still be able to switch back to your original car menus and they will be displayed on the new screen.
This means you don't lose access to important information such as servicing and vehicle information.
CarPlay/Android Auto Multimedia Head Units
These displays offer the upgrade to a touchscreen, and a larger display in some cases. However they do not run Android OS and will only allow CarPlay/Android Auto functionality via a smartphone.
These displays are priced lower than the Android systems, and they are ideal for users who always have their smartphones with them and do not desire any of the additional features that a Android system provides, but still want a touchscreen display rather than an OEM+ Retrofit module.
You can still access and view your original vehicle menus with these displays, so no original functions are lost.
If you need any further clarification or have any questions please get in touch with our customer service team and we will be happy to help!