Android Auto app guide and how it works

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Android Auto app guide and how it works, is what you’re going to learn in this article! If you have ever got into a friend’s new car and marveled at the infotainment system, it’s only natural that you start to wonder how you can upgrade yours.

With so many apps, everyone you ask will probably give you different advice about Android Auto and how it works. Realistically, Android Auto is a simple solution to connect your smartphone to your car’s dashboard display, but for those who are new to the game, we have a complete guide for you.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Android Auto
  2. Android Auto: how it works
  3. How do you get Android Auto?
    1. Setting up Android Auto
    2. What can you do with Android Auto?
    3. The best music apps for Android Auto
    4. The best navigation apps for Android Auto
    5. The best messaging apps for Android Auto
  4. Android Auto and Google Assistant
  5. Frequently Asked Questions
    1. What is Android Auto?
    2. Do you need the Android Auto app?
    3. How do you set up Android Auto?
    4. Does Android Auto have GPS?
    5. How much does Android Auto cost?
    6. How much does it cost to install Android Auto?
    7. Is Android Auto better than Bluetooth?
    8. Is Android Auto necessary?
    9. What are the benefits of Android Auto?
    10. What apps work on Android Auto?
  6. Wrap Up

What is Android Auto

Android Auto is an infotainment system integration similar to Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink.

It’s a system that allows you to use your favorite apps without having to handle your Android phone, mirroring its info on your car’s infotainment screen. Aside from the convenience, it’s a far safer way to use your phone while you are driving.

Android Auto: how it works

In a way, it is similar to how you would cast a film or music from your phone to your TV. It is a case of merging your smartphone with the controls that are already in your car. For example, if you have a playlist of your favorite songs on your mobile, you will be able to listen to it and see it through your car display.

If you want to skip a song or adjust the volume, you can use the controls on your steering wheel or through the touchscreen of your car’s display.

Android Auto isn’t limited to playing music. It will also allow you to safely see and respond to messages, make calls, and navigate. All of this we will talk about further on.

How do you get Android Auto?

Before getting too excited, you will need to check the compatibility of your car and your phone as not every vehicle or mobile device is able to use it. It is also worth checking if your aftermarket stereo is compatible if that’s the case.

Pioneer has an excellent range of aftermarket stereos that work well with Android Auto. If you have an Android 10.0 or higher you will find it with your built-in apps, if not you can download it from the Google Play store.

Setting up Android Auto

There are two ways you can use Android Auto: via USB connection or wirelessly on some latest vehicles and Android setups. Either way, you will need a USB cable to begin the process and you have to make sure your car is in parked mode.

  • Once in Park and after your phone is unlocked, turn Android Auto on your car display;
  • Turn on your Bluetooth (and Wi-Fi is possible);
  • Pair your phone and your car;
  • At this point, you might be asked to download or update some of your apps. It is recommended that you do this now;
  • Allow Android Auto permission to access your apps and turn on your notifications.

If you are using a USB cable, every time you connect it, the Bluetooth will automatically turn on. If you have auto wireless, you need to select the Android Auto option on your dashboard display. This might take a few seconds so don’t feel the need to start touching other buttons.

You will notice that once you are connected, your phone screen will go blank. This is to prevent you from being tempted to use it while you are driving.

What can you do with Android Auto?

You won’t be able to use every Android app with Android Auto. Logically, the idea behind the Auto app is to allow you to use only your Android phone for the essentials while driving.

You also won’t be able to use video playback (at least in a straightforward and legal way) to avoid distractions. Again, the Play Store has all of the apps that you can use but we are going to talk about some of the most popular.

The best music apps for Android Auto

Now that you have Android Auto set up, you will be able to play your favorite songs through your car stereo without losing any sound quality. The most popular music apps include SpotifyPandora, and YouTube Music.

The music app icon will appear on your dashboard screen and from here you can select the songs, artists, playlists, and depending on the app, a radio station. As we mentioned before, you will be able to select songs and change the volume the same way as you would in your car stereo.

The best navigation apps for Android Auto

Since Google developed Android Auto, it makes sense that one of the best navigation apps is Google Maps. Another popular option is Waze, which also notifies you about police hazards and toll roads.

Here WeGo can be used as a journey planner but it’s also a handy app to help you find public transport around cities.

The map or route you enter will be displayed on the screen just as it would your phone or navigation system.  And, you will still hear notifications through your car stereo.

The best messaging apps for Android Auto

The apps available will also depend on safety. Facebook isn’t compatible whereas Facebook Messenger is. WhatsApp and Skype are compatible and work very well.

Messages are read to you so that you can keep your eyes on the road. Android apps that support voice-to-text will allow you to reply to messages without having to text from your Android device.

Android Auto and Google Assistant

All of the apps we have mentioned, as well as many more, will work alongside Google Assistant. Using voice commands will completely eliminate the need to even touch the display screen. As soon as you are in your car and Android Auto is connected, say “ok Google” to get started.

Specific voice commands let you make a phone call, choose songs, or even get weather and news updates. Here are some examples of voice commands to use Google Assistant with Android Auto:

  • “Call” and then the name of person/number/home you want to call;
  • If you say “reply” it will reply to the last message you received, or “text name”;
  • “WhatsApp video” or “WhatsApp call” and the name of the person;
  •  “Play dance music”, or you can say the artist, playlist, or a particular song. The default app is Google Play Music. If you want to use another  music app, just include the name of the app;
  • For navigation, you can say the address or commands such as “navigate home” or “navigate to the nearest gas station”.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Android Auto?

Android Auto is Google’s interpretation of Apple CarPlay, the in-car entertainment system originally created back in 2013. Android Auto is essentially software that connects your Android phone to your display unit in a compatible vehicle and shows a simplified display of your phone screen. The display in your vehicle will show the compatible apps that can be used in your car.

Some of these functions include listening to podcasts, making phone calls, and also using a navigation system, however, Android is always working on new apps that can be used to make your driving experience better.

It’s not available for all cars, however, new models that are coming out are featuring these connected displays as lots of consumers are demanding this kind of technology. However, it can be expensive to build these features in a car so some brands are reluctant to do it.

Some brands have stopped designing vehicles with their own built-in navigation systems now as they know customers just prefer to use their own navigation apps on their phones.

What is android auto

Do you need the Android Auto app?

Yes, if you want to use the Android Auto system in your vehicle and you have an Android 9 or below, then you will need to download the Android Auto app from the application store on your device.

However, Android 10 and any new models will come with Android Auto automatically built into the phone so you don’t need to download it.

How do you set up Android Auto?

Android Auto can be used via USB or wirelessly, but it will depend on the model of your car. You’ll need to check with your car dealership or the manual handbook with your car to see if it is compatible with Android Auto wireless.

The best way to set up your Android Auto is to make sure the app is completely up to date, you’ve got a good wifi or data connection on your phone and your car is completely compatible with the app.

If you’re setting up your Android Auto for the first time by USB, then follow these steps:

  1. Turn Android Auto on in your car’s settings when the engine is running
  2. Plug the USB cord included with your Android into the USB port in the car and the other end into your Android phone
  3. You’ll then have instructions come up on the display which you’ll need to follow to complete the set-up

If your car is compatible with Android Auto wireless then you can follow these instructions to set up your phone for the first time:

  1. Turn your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi/Mobile Data, and Location Services on your Android phone
  2. Plug the USB cable into the USB port of your vehicle and into the USB port on your Android phone
  3. You may be required to update the latest version of the app at this point
  4. Follow the onscreen instructions, your wireless connection may take a few seconds to start and an Android Auto icon should appear on the screen of your vehicle

You can now say ‘Hey Google’ or press the voice-activated button on your steering wheel to active voice control to give Android Auto demands like ringing someone or requesting directions to a location.

Once everything is set up, you should spend time browsing through the apps and figuring out how everything works properly before driving off, as you don’t want to be fiddling around with the display whilst you’re driving.

You’ll need to be aware that when Android Auto is connected to your vehicle, it automatically turns the Bluetooth on as well. So if you want to save your battery then make sure to turn the Bluetooth off when you’ve arrived at your destination.

Does Android Auto have GPS?

Yes, Android Auto has GPS navigation supported by Google Maps, this will give you voice-guided instructions, and estimated time of arrival depending on the traffic of your route, it’ll also give you the option to change your navigation if there is an accident or an obstruction ahead that is causing traffic.

Many people prefer to use the GPS included with Android Auto over their built-in navigation system. The navigation apps on Android Auto are constantly being updated with new developments and data whilst you’re driving so you can always be in the know of the traffic around you.

Android Auto also supports a GPS app called Waze which can warn you of any upcoming speed camera, speeding officers, or even potholes on your journey and also provide more real-time traffic updates so you can get to your destination on time.

The GPS apps on Android Auto are much easier to use and understand with directions and instructions being almost instant, so you can take the correct turns and exits instead of the navigation system being delayed and reminding you once you’ve driven past where you were supposed to go.

How much does Android Auto cost?

If you have an Android 9 or below then you can download Android Auto completely free of charge from the Google play store, however, if you have an Android 10 or new models, then you will have Android Auto built-in for free onto your device.

You don’t have to pay any subscription fee for the app, but some apps on Android Auto may cost a subscription fee like Spotify or Google Play Books.

However, there are still plenty of free beneficial apps that are available to use on Android Auto like Waze, Google Maps, or the free versions of subscription-based apps.

Running Android Auto will require a mobile data connection and a lot of the apps included are data-heavy and will quickly drain your data allowance or rack up an extensive bill at the end of the month.

You may experience some connection dropouts with Android Auto because it does rely heavily on the mobile data connection, which can be frustrating if you’re using a GPS to find your way to a destination.

How much does it cost to install Android Auto?

If you have an Android and a car that is compatible with Android Auto, then it will not cost you anything to install Android Auto into your vehicle.

However, if you have an older model of car then it might be not compatible but you can purchase an aftermarket radio to be installed into your car that will be compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Some good brands for these sorts of radios are Sony and Pioneer and could cost you anywhere between $100 to $500 to buy from a retailer.

If you’re knowledgeable about installing tech like this into a vehicle, then you should be able to install it yourself free of charge, however, if you’re not clued up on this area then we’d recommend hiring a professional or taking it to a garage for someone else to install.

The total cost of installing the new radio – including parts, could be anywhere from $200 to over $600 depending on where you go. Older car models may require more time to be spent trying to install as they may not have the correct or up-to-date wiring as new models, therefore the cost will be larger.

Is Android Auto better than Bluetooth?

Yes, Android Auto is better than Bluetooth. Whilst some of their functionings are very similar, if not identical, Android Auto offers a safer and more efficient driving experience by providing voice activation so you can navigate the app.

When you connect your phone to your vehicle using Bluetooth, you’ll still need to touch and use the display to navigate your phone.

For example, if you need to phone someone, you’ll need to select from the list of numbers on your phone to find the correct name, which can be dangerous as you’ll be taking your eyes off the road for short periods.

Whereas with Android Auto, the driver or passenger can say ‘Hey Google, call whoever’ and the system will call the person you need, without the need to search through lists of numbers.

When it comes to playing and browsing music, Android Auto is more efficient. Some vehicles will not allow you to browse your music library via Bluetooth.

So either you have to keep skipping songs until you come across one you want or you have to go on your phone to select one, which defeats the object of having wireless Bluetooth connectivity.

However, with Android Auto, you can ask Google to play a certain playlist, or a song, or play something on YouTube as well without having to look at your phone.

However, sometimes you can have issues with voice control, and Google may not understand your request and do the wrong function, although this is a common problem with voice-activated technology.

If you’re looking to stay on a budget, then Bluetooth can be the better option as they are built in as standard into modern-day cars, whereas some brands are reluctant to build Android Auto connectivity into their vehicles.

This upgrade of built-in Android Auto may boost the price of your vehicle significantly and if you didn’t already have it installed, you’ll have to pay a professional to install a compatible radio into your car so you can sync up Android Auto.

Is Android Auto necessary?

Yes, if you’re someone who likes to listen to a variety of audio, make phone calls, and do other functions when driving then Android Auto should be on your radar as it’ll allow you to use your phone’s features in your car whilst driving without being on your phone.

The navigation apps compatible with Android Auto like Google Maps and Waze are extremely helpful when you’re driving long distances to places you’ve never been and often trump built-in navigation systems from car manufacturers.

However, if you’re someone who doesn’t listen to music or make phone calls in the car, then getting a vehicle with Android Auto will be a waste of money.

You’ll still have the option to listen to music if you wish to do so, via a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection if your vehicle supports it.

What are the benefits of Android Auto?

One of the best things about Android Auto is the continuous updates that Google does to make sure all data and information are up to date, which is key for navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze.

It also allows you to make and receive calls more easily without having to play around with the controls on your steering wheel or display, which may take your eyes off the road.

Android Auto is also compatible with messaging apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and even Skype now, so you can stay in contact with everyone you need whenever you’re on the road.

What apps work on Android Auto?

You can access lots of different apps that are compatible with Android Auto by searching on the Google Play Store on your cell phone.

There are lots of different categories of apps that are compatible with Android Auto including social media apps, messenger apps, streaming services, and lots more to keep you and your passengers entertained while you are driving.

If you are worried about being detached from your cell while you are driving then Android Auto removes this worry because Android Auto is compatible with most messenger apps.

These apps include Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Kik. So with Android Auto, you never have to worry about being detached from the world outside your vehicle.

There are also lots of apps that you can use to safely entertain yourself while you drive. If you like to stream music then you will be happy to hear that Android Auto is compatible with Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and a lot of radio apps.

If you prefer to listen to audiobooks while you drive then you can also safely do this with Android Auto as it has apps that are compatible with Google Play Books, and Audible.

So it is clear that a wide variety of apps work on Android Auto. If you want to find out more about the wide variety of apps that work on Android Auto, check out our complete guide to Android Auto apps.

Wrap Up

If you spend a significant amount of time in your car, Android Auto is definitely a wise choice. Your infotainment system becomes a mini copy of your Android smartphone so that you can focus on driving.

Knowing the Android Auto app guide and how it works really is simple, and as you are probably using all of the apps you need already, it will just be a case of downloading the Android Auto app and connecting it to your car.

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