Infotainment systems have experienced an explosive growth in popularity, but a lot of us are still driving around cars and trucks that have dumb radios and mechanical instrument clusters. Upgrading your whole car might not be an option for a while, but that doesn't mean you can't rig up your own little infotainment system in the car you already have.
If your vehicle was built during or after 1996, then you can plug an interface device into the OBD-II connector and hook it into your phone or tablet. A Bluetooth interface will work with your Android device, but you'll be better off with a Wi-Fi interface or one that uses a dock connector if you've got an iOS device. After you're all hooked up, there are a bunch of apps out there that will let you access data from the connection. Torque is one option for Android that provides a free version to try out.
That might not be enough for you, and I know it wasn't enough for me. Infotainment systems also include music, navigation, and other features. Luckily enough, so do our phones and tablets. If your head unit has an auxiliary input, then you can jack in and listen to your MP3s or music apps, but you can always use an FM transmitter if it doesn't.
This might be a little more Frankenstein's-monstery than a true infotainment system, but it's also far more customizable and way cheaper.Photo © Jeremy Laukkonen