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Android Auto, What is Android Auto

Android Auto: Do I need to have it?

Do you need to have Android Auto in your life? We’ll try to help you decide.

What is Android Auto?

Launched by Google in 2014, Android Auto is a free mobile application that connects smartphones to the dashboard head unit of cars. Once plugged in or connected via Bluetooth, supported Android Auto apps show up on the car display allowing drivers to access them via touch screen, console buttons, or via voice commands (through Google Assistant). 

Android Auto, What is Android Auto, All About Android Auto in less than five minutes, All About Android Auto
Android Auto interface

On your way from the office to your home? Just mention to your Google Assistant your destination, and Google Maps and Waze will display the best route for you. 

How about your next road trip playlist or your favourite audiobook? Start by saying “Hey Google” and play your choice media while navigating safely every turn and traffic.

Even your calls and chat messages are accessible without taking off focus on the road. With just a voice prompt, answering and making calls now becomes hands-free. Similarly, your head unit can now read your messages aloud and compose replies for you by simply speaking to your device.

What Apps function with Android Auto?

As of last year, supported Android Auto apps include:

  • Navigation apps: Google Maps, Waze
  • Live news, sports, and radio apps: Pandora, BBC Sounds, MLB, ABC News
  • Music streaming apps: Spotify, Deezer, YouTube Music
  • Audiobooks & podcast streaming apps: Google Play Books, Audible, Overdrive
  • Messaging apps: WeChat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Telegram

Also, popular on the Android Auto interface is Google Now. An integrated calendar helps workers on-the-go update schedules and get meeting directions on their display interface. Meanwhile, weather updates and important reminders are on display with one click.

You can visit the Google Play Store to view the list of all apps available for Android Auto.

Is your device or vehicle compatible with Android Auto?

Compatibility requirements for Android Auto are as simple as operating the app. The smartphone should run at least Android 6.0 Marshmallow (or higher). And since some apps need the internet to function (i.e. navigation, some messaging apps), you also need to have a data plan or Wi-Fi connection at the ready. 

New smartphones now have Android Auto as a built-in app to allow immediate access to its benefits. These phones are also going wireless to enhance the safe designs of the new-gen cars. USB wires can still be a nuisance while driving and taking advantage of Bluetooth/wireless technology is now the way to go.

An Android mobile phone

As a general guide, car models from 2019 with touchscreen consoles can now play Android Auto once you plug in or connect your device. However, it is always wise to ask your car dealer about your vehicle’s compatibility with any app or system.

Android Auto, What is Android Auto, All About Android Auto in less than five minutes, All About Android Auto
Android Auto projected on a head unit

Meanwhile, the car display should support connectivity with Android devices. And if the vehicle or head unit is not yet wireless-capable, a high-quality USB cable should do the trick. Just make sure that this wire will not hinder your driving.

What are the limits of Android Auto ?

With all these features mentioned, what are the things Android Auto cannot do? 

One is that, since this is a drivers’ assistance app, it cannot display social media apps such as Facebook or Twitter on your head unit screen. Google also limited its search engine features when the app is in use. 

Apps not supported in Android App will not appear on the car console interface as well. And if you’re planning to watch a movie or play a mobile game while driving (which is illegal, by the way), Android Auto completely blocks the use of video streaming or gaming apps. 

How to troubleshoot Android Auto?

Android Auto is not just an app but also a system that connects more than a few moving parts together (i.e. smartphone, vehicle, USB cable, head unit, mobile apps, internet). And sometimes, these parts do not work properly with the others. Here, we’ll try to list down things to check when your Android Auto cannot function correctly:

1. Smartphone 

Check on the operating system used by your phone. As mentioned, Android Auto only functions on Android 6.0 or higher. Newer Android-powered phones come with the latest OS usually, thus problems may occur more often with older smartphones.

2. Vehicle and its Head Unit

Older cars, especially those produced pre-2019, may not have compatible head units with Android Auto. The only solution here is to replace your centre console with one that can connect with the app. 

The latest head unit models are mostly plug-and-play or connect-and-play. However, there are also head units that need a bit of a set-up for it to function with the app. Depending on the device, you may need to turn on its connectivity settings before you can use it with Android Auto or similar apps. Browse through the vehicle or head unit manual, to be sure.

3. Connection

Most of the apps in the Android Auto system use the web (and GPS) to function, so make sure a reliable internet connection is available. Also, check if you turned the Bluetooth on, and your head unit functions with a wireless connection. 

If wireless connectivity is not possible, you’ll do well by investing in a highly durable USB cable. If you’re purchasing aftermarket cables, ensure that one of its heads can connect with the port of the console and the other with your smartphone.

What if your head unit does not have Android Auto?

The increased usage and support for in-car driver assistance apps like Android Auto has forced manufacturers of vehicles and aftermarket car consoles in recent years to develop products that are more compatible with these systems. Over 500 cars and stereo models can now support Android Auto, with future designs already geared to sync flawlessly with the app.

Therefore, one option you have is to purchase one of the vehicles included in the list. The stock console of new models today now facilitates unhindered connection with apps such as Android Auto. This may be a bit impractical unless you have around $40,000 to spare or are really planning to upgrade your vehicle. 

A more realistic option is to purchase an aftermarket head unit that supports Android Auto. The newer models of named brands such as Kenwood, Sony, Pioneer, and Alpine are likely to be compatible with an app such as Android Auto. One of these head units will cost around $500 to $1,000.  

The most feasible option

But since you’ve gone so far in this article, we’ll give you a third option. And that is to use an Android head unit. This is the same aftermarket console that fits on your dash and operates as a normal infotainment system. It runs on the existing Android operating system and functions similarly to the Android Auto app.

But the great thing here is you can use it as a stand-alone device – which means no need to connect to a smartphone! 

With this head unit, you can: 

– Download the full suite of available apps working on Android
– Use navigation and other functions without your phone
– Download offline music
– Browse the web

– Access to social media accounts

– And much more.

It basically functions as another smartphone and a car head unit in one. These Android head units are another product of the fast pace of technology development happening all over the world and their abundant supply of means they are more affordable.

This sounds good, but where can I purchase one now?

Vhedia vehicle media systems is a direct-to-consumer brand that focuses on ensuring our customers have the latest technology and best quality devices for their vehicles. The quality of Vhedia head units’ RMS/speaker power, screen resolution, wireless capability, and USB ports are comparable (and may even exceed) those of the name brands.

They also offer similar physical designs and sizes (i.e. single DIN or double DIN) as with mainstream brands or in-house head units, so you can easily swap these head units in. And don’t worry about the durability of these systems as they are made from high-quality parts and pass through stringent quality tests.

Our Final Word

Android Auto is one of the great innovations in vehicles from the past few years. It promotes both convenience and safety, as the app removes that additional step of using your smartphones while driving just to open the applications you need.

With 78% of drivers still multitasking while on the steering wheel, any deterrence to potential road accidents needs serious thought from all. Just make sure to study and research the app and its functionalities to ensure that smooth and safe drive.

However, even we fit all technological advances in the world in one car, if a driver still does not follow basic traffic rules, all will be for naught. Good, old road discipline complemented by modern safety tools means safer travels for all!

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