What Is Android Auto and How to Use It: the Driver’s Guide11 min read24/08/2018
Android Auto is likely to revolutionize the way we use entertainment solutions in our cars. FM radio and CD player are no longer the only components of the multimedia capabilities of most vehicles. Today’s in-car infotainment systems provide drivers with different types of useful information that can significantly simplify a road trip. The need for having a bunch of CDs with music files and paper map in the glove compartment passed away long ago. The only thing you need is a smartphone.
Some car brands have taken a step further and allow drivers to manage both navigation and stereo systems through a touchscreen of the in-car entertainment solution. While these manufacturers develop their own systems, Google has created software that potentially can be used in nearly any new car model regardless of its brand. Android Auto is only gaining momentum in the automotive industry, but it has remarkable advantages over native systems.
What is Android Auto?
Android Auto is an in-car infotainment software that provides drivers with access to useful features like navigation and stereo. By connecting your Android smartphone to the in-car entertainment system, the mobile app system projects a simplified operating system onto the infotainment system display.
The system created by Google is aimed at making the use of a smartphone while driving as safe possible. For example, by connecting an Android smartphone to your car, you will be able to call a person in a hands-free manner using voice commands.
Unfortunately, the infotainment solution is not yet available on all new cars. However, the list of cars with Android Auto is continuously expanding. Nearly half of all new cars across the U.S. and Europe support in-car infotainment systems from Google and Apple. Car brands deploy Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in their vehicles since their own solutions can’t compete with these technology vendors.
The main advantages of Android Auto over built-in infotainment systems are a user interface design, high performance, and access to multiple music services like Spotify or Google Play Music, and regular updates that provide drivers with the real-time information about road conditions.
Features of Android Auto:
- Radio and music. You can listen to favorite music without the need for having a CD or flash memory card.
- Navigation. You can find best routes on a large screen of the in-car infotainment system using voice commands
- Calls. You can make calls while keeping an eye on the road with your hands remaining on the steering wheel.
- Messaging. You can dictate and listen to received messages.
- Notifications. You get notified about incoming calls or messages on a display of the in-car infotainment system.
- Web surfing. You can surf the Internet using the “Ok, Google” voice command.
- Voice Assistant. You can control the features of Android Auto through voice commands.
In this article, we will review the basic features.
Android Auto allows drivers to use either Waze or Google Maps for navigation. The latter mobile app is one of the best Android Auto apps. With the integration with your car, you get a complete navigation solution right on the screen of the in-car infotainment system. This allows you to use a stable digital map with regular updates while driving. Furthermore, you will receive real-time information about traffic jams which will enable you to choose the best routes taking into account the road conditions.
The interface of Google Maps on the in-car infotainment system display responds quickly to your taps. Routes get quickly updated if you have a stable Internet connection, the route parameters are quickly updated. In addition, you can fully control Google Maps with a wide range of voice commands. All you need to do is to say “Ok Google” or tap “Speak” with a microphone symbol.
What you can do using voice commands for Google Maps:
- Search for routes
- Mute/unmute voice guidance
- Show/hide traffic jams
- Navigate to specific points like home or restaurant
- Learn your next turn
- Avoid/enable tools, highways, or ferries
- Find nearby gas stations or hotels
- Learn the weather in a particular city or town.
The system may sometimes perceive voice commands improperly, but it’s rather a rare case caused by the noise in the car because of the opened windows. One way or another, the voice recognition feature in Android Auto works better than most built-in in-car infotainment systems.
Since the mobile app uses data from your Google account, you can pre-route using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Then you can use your route in your car. Android Auto will automatically open your route on the digital map as soon as you connect your mobile device to the in-car infotainment system.
Because of the safety measures, Android Auto system limits the number of available mobile apps while driving. That’s why, to surf the Internet, you can use only the official web browser Google Chrome. Since typing while driving can cause fatal consequences, the vendor allows drivers to browse the Web using voice commands. By saying “Ok, Google”, you make the voice recognition feature launch Google Chrome and generate web search results upon your request.
Since listening to streamed music requires a stable Internet connection, you may face some problems when using such audio apps as Spotify or Google Play Music. That’s why you better storage your favorite music on your smartphone. Otherwise, you can drive in the absolute silence. To control the audio player, you can use voice commands.
Messaging and calls
Texting and driving are mutually exclusive things that’s why the screen keyboard remains available while driving. However, since a road trip can take a lot of hours, you can miss an important message or call. So Google powered its Android Auto with a voice synthesizer that can read received message out loud for you. Furthermore, you can dictate messages and send them to specific contacts using voice commands.
Android Auto supports a wide range of messaging apps that include:
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Allo
- Pulse SMS
- Plus Messenger
- Zap Zap Messenger
When you receive an SMS, you will not be able to read it while Android Auto is running. In this case, you will have to enable the option that will read the text of incoming messages. When replying to messages by voice, you can face the problem of the improper word recognition. So you can use the auto-reply function to send a template message.
To answer an incoming call, you should tap on the corresponding button on the display. To call a person, you can use voice commands. Furthermore, you can call a person you have multiple phone numbers for in your contact list. In this case, the system accurately recognizes which number exactly you need.
How does Android Auto work?
The Android mobile app requires the Internet connection to provide access to its features. To use Android Auto, you should first download and install the app on your smartphone. The solution runs on the mobile device and only projects the visual content onto the display of the in-car infotainment system.
Once the connection between a smartphone and car is set, the screen of your mobile device becomes locked with Android Auto logo on it. However, in March 2018, Google released a new feature that allowed using a mobile device when connected to the in-car infotainment system. They also launched a feature that allowed the wireless connection between a smartphone and car via WiFi. Unfortunately, there are few car models that support this technology.
In addition, Google Play contains many third-party applications that can work with Android Auto. For example, you can download an app to listen to streamed music or Internet radio. It also supports different messaging apps like Skype or Facebook Messenger.
Android Auto compatible apps:
- Scout FM
- JAM FM
- Facebook Messenger
- DS Audio
- IRC Cloud
- Antenna Pod
- KSL News
- Podcast Go
- NYTimes – Latest News
- VLC Player
- Google Maps
- Google Allo
- Google Play Music
- ABC News
- Radio Paradise
You can check the Android Auto apps list on the Google Play Market website.
How to use Android Auto in your car
Connecting your smartphone to Android Auto is exactly as simple as connecting it to other mobile devices via Bluetooth.
- At first, you have to download the official Android Auto app from Google Play and install it on your gadget.
- To connect your smartphone to the in-car infotainment system, you should make sure that your mobile device currently has a stable connection to mobile networks since the app uses data from Google’s services.
- Then connect the smartphone and in-car entertainment system via USB.
- On the display of your smartphone, you will see a notification with a request to allow the connection between a car and mobile device. Click on the corresponding button that will enable the smartphone to connect to the in-car infotainment system.
Once the first connection is successfully established, the system will further automatically connect your car every time you plug in your USB cable.
In case you have your Android Auto not working
The good news is that no matter what kind of a car you have, you still can use Android Auto. Furthermore, your in-car stereo system may not even have a display to be at least partially compatible with the mobile app, However, in this case, you will only be able to use speakers of the native entertainment system in your car by connecting your smartphone via the AUX output.
To use all capabilities of Android Auto, you must have a compatible car, compatible mobile device, and live in a country supported by the Google’s app. Use our tips if you have any issues with the mobile app.
Android Auto supports a wide range of new cars produced in 2015 and later. The newer your car is, the more likely it’s compatible with the mobile app. It’s worth noting that the solution supports most popular car brands except Toyota (Lexus) since the concern currently sees some privacy concerns in this mobile software.
Brands of Android Auto compatible cars include:
- Alfa Romeo
- Land Rover
To check whether your vehicle is among cars compatible with Android Auto, you can visit the official Android website.
If you are just going to purchase a new car, then you should check the information about whether the car supports Android Auto in the car dealer’s showroom. If not, you can consider buying a third-party in-car infotainment system. For example, specific head units from Pioneer and Kenwood support Android Auto.
The mobile app supports mobile devices based on Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher. The vendor recommends Android 6.0 Marshmallow for better performance.
A list of some Android Auto compatible phones:
- Sony Xperia XZ2
- Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Google Pixel 2/2 XL
- Google Pixel/Pixel XL
- LG V30
- Nexus 5X
- Nexus 6P
- Android One Moto X4
- Sony Xperia XZ1
- HTC U11
- Samsung Galaxy S8
- LG G6
If you connect your smartphone to the car while the Android Auto application is running and get a blank screen, you may need to update the operating system of your smartphone to make the built-in infotainment system compatible with Android Auto.
If you have a compatible smartphone and car, but cannot download the mobile app from the Google Play, then you may try using it in an unsupported country.
Android Auto currently works in the following countries:
- Dominican Republic
- United States
- Puerto Rico
- Costa Rica
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
Even though your country is on this list, the mobile app may not support some particular regions or specific functions may not be available in your region.
Despite all the requirements and limitations of the Google’s solution for drivers, our Android Auto review proves that it has the potential to become the main in-car infotainment software in a few years. The mobile app contains the basic functions you need during a road trip: navigation, music, messaging, and calls.
Is Android Auto worth it? Definitely, yes. The solution has a familiar design and combines approved apps that won’t distract you and allow you to focus on driving rather than controlling the infotainment system. Android Auto is much safer than native in-car infotainment systems because of its performance, user-friendly interface, and voice recognition feature.