The Nissan Frontier is an inexpensive, practical, and sturdy pickup truck that happens to be spare on modern features such as basic infotainment and connectivity offerings. For example, if you own an Android smartphone and hope to use Android Auto on the Frontier, you’re out of luck.
This may surprise you since Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility plus Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming more commonplace in new vehicles. And consumers have started to expect them as well. But you won’t find any of them as standard features or even as options on this spartan truck.
What Android Auto offers
Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto is an in-vehicle interface that provides smartphone connectivity and infotainment. You access it by connecting your Android phone to your vehicle’s USB port. And you must have Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher to do this. Android recommends the 6.0 Marshmellow to get the most from this feature.
Android Auto’s integration makes a number of apps available. Of course, Google apps are at the forefront, including Google Maps, Hangouts, and Google Assistant. This last app uses voice activation to help you send and receive texts, call phone numbers, or chat with other apps.
Want tunes while you’re on the road? You can listen to them on Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and other third-party music apps. If you find the spoken or written word to be more interesting, ScoutFM, Stitcher, NPR One, Audiobooks from Audible, and OverDrive are all free on Android Auto.
Follow your favorite team on MLB at Bat or TuneIn for NBA and NFL. News apps such as ABC News and CBS News Radio are available. Other popular apps on Android Auto are Facebook Messenger, What’s App, Waze, and Skype.
Does the Nissan Frontier have other technology?
It does, but what’s offered seems rather primitive compared to what you’ll find in its competitors. The Nissan Frontier is equipped with a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen display. For this truck, it’s a big leap forward from the 5.0-inch touchscreen of previous years.
Buyers can pay for the NissanConnect option, which uses Bluetooth hands-free technology to connect with their Apple or Android smartphones. NissanConnect offers audio streaming, remote start and remote door unlock/lock using your smartphone, and Google-powered navigation. It also has SiriusXM satellite radio as well as safety and security services.
A single USB port is installed on the Frontier. It also has a simple but adequate sound system with an AM/FM radio, CD player and four speakers.
Safety tech isn’t one of the Frontier’s strong points, either. It has cruise control, front and side airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and a rearview camera—and that’s about it. Buyers will pay more for optional rear parking sensors. It offers absolutely no active safety features, such as the driver-assistance tech that is much-touted in the standard Toyota Safety Sense P package on the Tacoma or the Ford Ranger’s pre-collision system and automatic emergency braking.
Why Android Auto compatibility should be an option on the Nissan Frontier
It’s not lost on Nissan that some Frontier buyers want a more stripped-down, cheaper truck. The updates that have become popular and even expected in the past few years don’t matter to these buyers. We understand that, too, because sometimes a basic truck is all you need. It’s clear that the old-school approach, combined with the truck’s reliability, helps to maintain the Frontier’s decent sales ranking.
But, as of this year, the Frontier’s full-size sibling the Titan comes standard with Android Auto in addition to other contemporary tech features. Other vehicles in Nissan’s lineup, such as the Leaf and the Rogue also have it. It seems high time for the smaller truck to have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility as options at least. For smartphone users who happen to drive trucks, NissanConnect may not be flexible enough meet their needs.
There’s a lot to be said for having smartphone compatibility in the Nissan Frontier. Even Toyota has recently given in and made Android Auto an option on the 2020 Tacoma. That makes the Frontier the last holdout in the mid-size pickup segment, and it’s becoming harder to understand why this is so.
Where everything else about the Frontier is concerned, it could remain the rugged, uncomplicated pickup that it’s been since 2005. But adding options for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility (and a few contemporary safety features while we’re at it) would freshen up the aging Frontier. Who knows? It might even bring a few more Frontier fans into the fold as well.