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After you've mounted your Android phone (this review is based of the Google Nexus 6P) in your car for your road trip, do you just use standalone apps or a wide reaching app that can simplify using your phone in the car by showing all large font for easy viewing while driving? As a huge Google fan, I've been waiting since May 2016 (Google Conference). Though Android Auto is now available in all cars as of Nov 2016, I've spent a great deal of time using DriveMode.
I tried a handful of apps and DriveMode was the most intuitive to use. None of them, including DriveMode, is perfect, as its difficult to integrate directly with every single app. Depending on my mood, I may want to stream music with Spotify. Other times I may want to listen to Podcast using BeyondPod. In those examples, the ability to control the song or podcast is VERY limited.
Where DriveMode strives is their main load page. Where everything is large and controls are exceedingly intuitive. My favorites are swipe up and down to increase and decrease the volume. And navigate to your favorite locations. Additionally, whenever I've had a question, their online user community is fast reacting to answer the question and suggestions. And for such a high quality app, I'm surprised it's both free and updated frequently.
That being said, there are aspects of DriveMode I dislike. When I use "WakeLock Detector Lite", DriveMode is frequently at the top of the list when sorted by CPU Wake locks and duration (this is not a good for battery life), even when I didn't use DriveMode at all. That makes me wonder what is happening in the background that requires CPU time. A high number of WakeLocks prevents the phone from entering Doze mode.
The biggest problem I've had with DriveMode is the occasional sluggish performance while I'm on the road. I've tested it many times, sometimes even when in someone else car without issue. But there were a few times when I was depending on DriveMode to provide information when the system hangs forcing me to find a safe place to pull over to then just start up to Google Maps application. The sluggish performance, even on a fairly new Nexus 6P, was an indication to me that DriveMode is likely taxing the CPU more than necessary. Perhaps just running Google Maps is still the cleanest way to provide driving information.
Now that Android Auto has been released, I am going to try both side-by-side to determine which one is most useful. As much as I am a fan of Google apps because they can integrate closer to the OS, I also admit that a handful of the Google apps are often half developed or full of battery draining problems. DriveMode has a very good head start against Android Auto and the competition between the apps is good for the future of in-car driving apps.