Kata Drive Review: Is it worth getting as a driving assistant?

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Kata Drive 31

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This month, Kata silently launched a new tablet, which is heavily positioned for those who drive a car. The device is technically a rebranded Kata T Mini 3, but with rehashed software to make it useful for drivers.

Kata Drive 23Allow me to take you through everything you can find inside its retail box. Apart from the Kata T mini 3, it also contains a USB cable, USB adaptor, screen protector and manual. There is a separate magnetic mount for the device, which you can easily buy for PhP400.

Flawed Positioning?

Kata has been one of the technology companies that are at the forefront of innovation in the Philippines. Kata Box was one of the products that gave them a huge break. It is an Android TV box but adorned as a gaming console. At PhP2,999, the device is such a wonder and it somehow sent the message that other Android TVs are overpriced.

This time, Kata seemingly made quite a flawed turn by positioning the tablet as a driving assistant. Given the sheer number of driving applications available at Play Store, any tablet can be a driving assistant or companion. Kata’s seeming flawed positioning is even aggravated by its pre-installed home launcher application, which sits on top (and as default) of its Android launcher.

Kata Drive 2

Kata Drive 3Kata DriverLauncher, as its default home launcher, is simply a hub of biggified shortcuts to applications. In concept, it is designed for driving; but it failed miserably in terms of execution. The icons are supposed to “assist” the driver to activate an app easily.

Kata Drive 4

Obviously, with the passing of Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, it is illegal to operate devices while driving. The launcher’s glorified shortcuts then will only be useful when vehicle is stopped. Sadly, the application doesn’t have other driving features such as in-app navigation, no-look interface and auto-read messages.

[su_spoiler title=”Read RA 10913 Here” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

[su_document url=”https://www.gadgetpilipinas.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ra-10913.pdf” width=”720″]

[/su_spoiler]

Other Apps can Rescue this

The device can still be very useful despite the flaws in its pre-installed software. Fortunately, there are other applications that can supercharge the Kata Drive, and make it useful as Kata envisioned it to be.

I simply ditched the Kata DriverLauncher and enabled the other launcher that is also pre-installed to its system. If you don’t dig this launcher, you can download other options via Play Store and customize it the way you want it to be.

Nova Launcher and KWLP + KWGT can make your homescreen look like a badass. It would have been better had Kata partnered with the developers of the mentioned apps to bring about a better software experience on the Kata Drive.

Kata Drive 1I also installed 2 free applications that can definitely improve the user experience of the Kata T Mini 3 as a driving assistant: Automate and DriveMode. These applications are free, but there are premium options that you can enable should wish to use certain features.

Kata Drive 6

Automate running on Kata Drive

Automate can totally replace Kata DriverLauncher as the UI that sits on top of the tablet launcher. It is an app that can turn your mobile device as a car dashboard. DriveMode, on the other hand, is a non-intrusive application that can go hand-in-hand with Automate. It is designed for driving, and it has features that no other driving applications have. Its no-look UI make it RA 10193-friendly, and it even has read-and-reply messages, music control and auto-navigation features.

Kata Drive 5

DriveMode running on Kata Drive

[su_spoiler title=”Automate” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

AutoMate makes common services available to while you’re driving. With AutoMate, you get the right information at the right time, so you can focus on the road.

Basic features
Maps – Search for directions and launch your favorite navigation app for turn-by-turn directions.
Places – Search for nearby places such as gas stations and restaurants, with one click.
Phone – Call your favorite contacts, see call log, and easily dial a number
Messaging – Send and reply to SMS messages, hands free replying available for many popular messaging apps
Voice – Take control of the app through voice commands for navigation, music, and more
Contextual Information – Receive weather updates, see recent searches, receive speed limit alerts, and more
Media Control – Control many popular media apps using buttons or gestures
Shortcuts – Keep your favorite apps and Android shortcuts at your fingertips. Includes quick settings toggles.
Data – View real-time engine data from an OBDII adapter with Torque integration.

Premium Features
• Set AutoMate as a launcher while it is running
• Hands free gestures! Wave your hand over the device to perform different actions
• Traffic camera alerts, never get a red light or speed camera ticket again!
• Customize wallpapers for day and night themes
• Startup options to make AutoMate even more effortless to use

[/su_spoiler]

[su_spoiler title=”DriveMode” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]

Drivemode drastically simplifies the way you use your phone while driving with a “no look” interface that allows you to focus on the road while accessing your favorite features on your Android.

You just need to rely on only broad swipes, taps or your voice to control navigation, change songs, contact friends and respond to messages without looking at the screen because as you get used to it, you’ll notice that you just need to rely on our voice narration, bright colors and large animation using your peripheral vision. Drivemode’s automotive grade interface is so safe that various automakers like Honda are talking to us to build Drivemode car. https://goo.gl/tTWdG8

It offers variety of unique features. Overlay music player on top of navigation. Voice reply to text messages, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp without leaving your favorite app. Change of destination when you receive a message with a street address. Automatic launch and close using Bluetooth paring. Smart prediction and recommendation. “Do not disturb” that ignores all calls and messages but offers auto-reply texting. A lot more.

Drivemode won the grand prize of the Android Application Award, and was featured on TechCrunch, CNET, Lifehacker and many others. It is consistently ranked as a top Android app all over the place.

Drivemode supports:
– Major navigation apps (Google, Waze, HERE Maps and more)
– Major music apps (Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music, Player.fm, Poweramp and more)
– Major messaging apps (SMS, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp)
– Major voice search (Google Now’s voice feature) from the App launcher

[/su_spoiler]

Performance

Let’s pause for a moment and detach the Kata Drive from the positioning that Kata set. As a PhP3,999 tablet, it excels in many ways. Like other sub-PhP5000 tablets around, the Kata Drive or the Kata T Mini 3 isn’t the fastest and the most powerful around, but it surely packs the necessary stuff to make it useful as a tablet.

Kata Drive 26What ticks beneath its aluminum back frame is an MTK8321 SoC with 1.3GHz Quad Core processor. It has 1GB RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. More than 50% of the RAM is consumed by system processes, and an average of 300MB is free at initial boot. As expected, there were a few performance hiccups during my tests, and had to reset the device several times to improve my experience.

The device is rigged with too many pre-installed applications. Almost 50% of the 8GB internal storage is consumed by system files and bloatware. Fortunately, the pre-installed apps (except for DriverLauncher) may be uninstalled, which should give you enough space to install some apps or games.

I did some benchmarks on the device to further test its gaming and productivity capabilities. I got 1.86fps when I rendered a 1280 x 800 Garden with Real Time Shadow on Antutu 3D. Don’t get disappointed just yet though. Games like Pokemon Go, Minecraft and Flip Diving are playable with minimal and manageable issues. It isn’t the best tablet for gaming, but it can definitely be a good source of entertainment after every stop.

Connectivity

Kata Drive 28You can make and receive calls and SMS on Kata Drive. While it doesn’t have LTE connectivity, it can connect up to 3G speeds, which is fine by my standards. With such speed, the device should be able to connect with popular navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps. When downloading offline map data, I highly recommend that you connect via WiFi as doing so via 3G might take some time especially when downloading large files.

The device does not have any GPS locking issues, which is a very strong point for a device made to be a driving assistant. Despite its software issues, its ability to lock to GPS flawlessly is a good indication that it has a good future ahead. A single software update that is aimed to fix the aforementioned issues can totally change the experience

Battery

The device has a 3300mAh battery. During the first part of my review, I used it solely as a driving assistant. I had it connected to my Belkin Road Rockstar for a total of 4 hours in the morning and evening during weekday. On the second part of my review, I took out of its dock and used it purely as a multimedia and secondary communication device. It can stay up for more than 10 hours without charging at medium usage. It is acceptable by my standards, but it could have performed better if it had less pre-installed applications, which consumes hardware resources.

Verdict

We love Kata, and as a company that has been striving to position their products relatively, they need to rethink and improve Kata T Mini 3 or the Kata Drive. They wanted it to be the best companion for drivers, but utterly failed in executing so due to poor software performance. As earlier said, a single software update that is aimed to fix this glaring issue must be pushed over the air. For now, the best solutions to make it fulfill its position is to ditch DriverLauncher and replace it with 2 applications, which I have tried and tested: Automate and DriveMode.

As a tablet (and not a driver companion or assistant), it excels in many ways. It is priced well and its value does not totally diminish because of its software shortcomings. It is worth giving it a chance, but Kata has to act swiftly.

Gian
 | Website

Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of gadgetpilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.

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