Whether chatting to friends, streaming music or checking social media, the rise of smartphones means that we’ve become accustomed to being connected at all times. That is, until we get into a car, when all these activities become far too distracting. Android Auto was first introduced in 2014 as Google’s solution to enhancing your vehicle’s infotainment system, using a safe operating system optimised specifically for driving. With a simple interface, it powers your car’s infotainment system using the best features and connectivity of your phone.
Unless you have an iPhone, which runs Apple’s iOS, then it is likely that your phone is running a version of Android. Android is the most common operating system on smartphones, with over 85% of the global market share. Android-compatible phones include those manufactured by Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Lenovo, LG and Google.
Android Auto works with any phone running the Android 5.0 (Lollipop) operating system or above, although it is now recommended that for best results, Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) is desirable. To find out which version of Android your phone is running, select your phone’s gear-shaped ‘Settings’ icon and scroll to the bottom. Then, tap the ‘About phone’ option. You will then see a list of information – look for the item labelled ‘Android version’.
The first step to connecting Android Auto is to download the app. This can be found by clicking on the Google Play Store, searching for Android Auto, and installing the app when prompted.
There is no wireless connection for Android, so you’ll need a USB cable to plug it into your existing system. You’ll also need to pair your device using Bluetooth with the car’s infotainment system in order to use the features. Once paired and connected, Android Auto should appear on the car’s touchscreen.
Although Android Auto was designed to replace fiddly systems like in-car phone cradles, not all cars are compatible. With the use of a dashboard or vent mount, you can use the app with your phone acting as a screen, and create your own infotainment system. All you need to do is download the app and connect via Bluetooth. Using Android Auto this way will mean that the screen will be in constant use, so make sure you have enough battery or a charger to hand.
When you’ve connected your phone to your car, Android Auto will automatically launch and be displayed and controlled through your touchscreen. The interface is based on Google Now, the card-based assistant used on Android phones. This is a simplified version of Android OS, with cards displaying vital information and large icons controlling basic functions, allowing you to keep your attention on the road at all times.
You can also use Google’s voice assistant, activating it with the simple command ‘OK Google,’ allowing you to make phone calls, send text messages and set reminders.
Integrating Google Maps into your car is perhaps the most desirable aspect of Android Auto. Offering regularly updated maps and live traffic information, it allows you access to the most complete satellite navigation system available.
Google Play Music comes pre-installed on all Android phones and offers the perfect solution to managing your playlists. Streaming can also be used, with applications including Stitcher, which allows you to keep up with podcasts, and Spotify, allowing you to stream your favourite tunes. You can also keep up with your favourite radio shows using BBC Media Player and catch up on your audiobooks through Audible.
If you can’t bear to be away from your messages, WhatsApp is fully compatible with Auto and will read your messages out loud – you can even reply using voice commands.
With new apps developing integration all the time, expect functionality to increase to meet your every need when driving.
Android Auto is available on a wide range of car manufacturers including: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Citroën, Chrysler, DS, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, ŠKODA, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo. Check your manual to find out if your specific model supports Android Auto.