What is Android Auto?

Bring your Android operating system onto your dashboard with Android Auto

BuyaCar team
Jun 18, 2018

With smartphones now such an essential part of our lives, it makes sense to be able to integrate them into our cars simply and above all, safely – which is where Android Auto comes in.

Android Auto is a rival to Apple CarPlay. Essentially, you download the Android Auto app, plug your phone into the car’s phone charging socket using a USB cable, or establish a Bluetooth connection, select your phone on the car’s display screen and sit back as the car’s entertainment system becomes your smartphone.

It shows the kind of information you need, such as directions, music and communications, without distracting you with things that aren't essential while driving.

Is Android Auto compatible with my car?

Most car manufacturers, but not all models, are compatible with Android Auto, so check your car’s brochure carefully. Alternatively, Pioneer and Kenwood sell aftermarket head units that support the technology.

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. What’s more, it doesn't require a screen, a real plus if your car is old.

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

What are Android Auto’s advantages?

Android Auto brings your apps and services into one place. You can bring your music with you using apps such as Spotify, Pandora or Google Play Music, and make calls or send messages with hands-free voice commands. You can also get turn-by-turn directions to your next destination with Google Maps.

The new 2.0 update also brings the ability to automatically start the Android Auto app when the phone is paired with Bluetooth, so consider putting your phone in a Bluetooth-supported car mount. Just say ‘OK Google’ and the system brings Android Auto to life.

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. Easier still, you can use voice commands.

Being a Google-based system, Android Auto works with the Google Maps app particularly well. It can also access your recent Google browsing history, too, so you could check a destination on your office laptop, jump into your car, hook up your phone and the system would know where you want to go. Real-time traffic information comes from other Google navigation users so it’s especially accurate.

What’s it not so good at?

You can't browse through more than 10 song tracks before the system freezes and tells you to stop the car if you wish to browse more. Also, its phone access is not much better than a decent in-car smartphone interface. Finally, being dependent on your phone for data access, it’s vulnerable to signal drop-out.

Is Android Auto free?

Absolutely! Just download it from the Google Play store. However, it’s a data-heavy service that could cost your phone contract dearly.

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