What is Android Auto?

Bring your Android operating system onto your dashboard with Android Auto

BuyaCar team
Mar 30, 2020

We use our phones for everything nowadays; you're probably reading this on your phone, too. But such is life in 2020 that you can't go anywhere without these little accessories organising our lives for us. 

They're everywhere, so it makes sense that they can be put to use in a car as well. Smartphone technology behemoths Apple and Google realised this, and came up with systems that would allow you to integrate the functionality of your phone into the computer system in your car. Apple came up with CarPlay, while Google introduced Android Auto. This is generally implemented with a Bluetooth connection.

The idea is you can still be connected to your phone without the need to have it distracting you in your pocket, or worse in your hand. By safely connecting your phone to your car's media system, you can control phone calls, messages and other apps including music and maps via your dashboard display.

Technology like this is everywhere in the car market these days, as manufacturers have recognised it as an integral feature for modern car buyers. So if you're an Android phone user on the search for your next car, getting one with Android Auto is something you might be interested in.

Is Android Auto compatible with my car?

The overwhelming majority of new cars are sold with Android Auto capability included as standard these days, but this is not universal, so it is worth checking in the brochure to be certain before purchasing - especially if you're looking towards the budget end of a model range.

Alternatively, tech brands like Pioneer and Kenwood are now producing aftermarket head units that support the technology, so you might also consider that approach if you're set on a particular model without Android Auto included.

What if it isn’t compatible?

Don't worry because in November 2016 Google, which owns Android, began rolling out Android Auto 2.0. This updated system is compatible with any car and what’s more, it doesn't require a screen, a real plus if you're driving something that's a few years old.

Instead, you put your phone (it must be running Android operating system 5.0 or later) in a cradle and its screen becomes your entertainment screen.

What are Android Auto’s advantages?

The best thing about Android Auto is that you can bring the apps you use everyday into the car with you - for free. So if you need your favourite Spotify playlist on the go, it's right there waiting for you. Gone are the days when you have to put up with the tastes of radio DJs.

Seeing as its owned by Google, you'll also be able to make use of Google Maps, which will often be more useful than the standard sat-nav built in to your cars media system - if it has one at all. You'll have access to all your search history, meaning finding places you've been to recently should be a doddle.

While you won't be able to make use of every app you have installed on your phone, having things like games available would be obviously innapropriate. But you'll still have access to functions like voice control (if your phone is capable), so you'll be able to control everything by speaking to your phone without needing to take your hands off the wheel at all.

Meanwhile, if you’d rather use your car’s entertainment screen, and assuming it’s compatible, you’ll find Android Auto displays only a few easy-to-prod buttons making it safer and less distracting to use while driving.

The latest inplementations of Android Auto available since 2019 will also be able to read out notifcations to you, including messages and emails. Yet another useful function to ensure your attention is not distracted from the road.

What’s it not so good at?

It can be a little buggy at times. For example, scrolling through much more than 10 albums on the Spotify app will cause the computer to crash, requiring you to restart the car to rectify it.

Also be aware that anyone running with restricted data access on their monthly contracts will want to be aware of how much they use their phones when they aren't connected to Wi-Fi. The latest and greatest cars are fitted with their own Wi-Fi hotspots, so that's less of a problem if you have the money to spend.


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