What Android Auto Is and How to Use It

Make almost any car your high-tech toy

This article explains how to use Android Auto to control your phone while driving. Android Auto app is only available for devices with Android 6 through 11.

Beginning with Android 12, Google no longer supports the Android Auto app. People with Android 12 or later should use Google Assistant Driving Mode instead.

How to Connect to Android Auto

Connecting a phone to the radio or infotainment system in a car with Android Auto is easy, but a couple of things need to happen before you get started. First, the phone must run a version of Android between versions 6 and 11, or Android Auto won't work at all. The phone also needs to have Android Auto installed, and the car radio or infotainment system needs to be compatible with Android Auto.

If all of those boxes have been checked, then connecting a phone to Android Auto is an easy process:

  1. Check your phone's internet connection. It needs a strong Wi-Fi or mobile data connection for this process to work.

  2. Ensure the vehicle is in park.

  3. Turn on the vehicle.

  4. Turn on the phone.

  5. Connect the phone to the vehicle via a USB cable.

  6. Review and accept the safety notice and the terms and conditions for using Android Auto.

  7. Follow the on-screen prompts on your phone. If you haven't set up Android Auto before, grant the app access to various permissions.

  8. Select the Android Auto app on the display of your car radio or infotainment system and follow the on-screen prompts.

After you perform this process the first time, you can plug in your phone via USB to activate Android Auto any time you want. If using a wired connection isn't convenient, you can pair your phone via Bluetooth instead.

What Is Android Auto?

Android Auto is more of an alternate way to control an Android phone so that it's easy to use while you're driving. The display is designed to be easy to read at a glance, and voice controls are integrated via Google Assistant.

While Android Auto can function as a standalone app, it's built with touchscreen car radios in mind, which means that you can use other apps along with it. When connected to one of these compatible car radios, the app can mirror the phone display to the radio display and integrate with features like steering wheel audio controls.

Your smartphone must be connected to the vehicle for you to use Android Auto. You can use a direct USB connection or Android Auto Wireless to accomplish this.

What Can It Do?

Android Auto can do almost anything that an Android phone can do on its own; it's just tweaked and fine-tuned for an automotive setting. The basic idea is that fumbling with a phone while driving is difficult and inherently dangerous, and Android Auto alleviates some of that.

what is android auto

The three primary functions of Android Auto are to provide:

  • Turn-by-turn directions
  • Hands-free calling
  • An audio player

However, the system can be customized beyond that. For example, the turn-by-turn directions in Android Auto are handled by Google Maps, but Waze integration is supported as well. You can also customize Android Auto by personalizing the launcher screen and enabling dark mode.

The audio player in Android Auto is flexible. The default is YouTube Music, but you can listen to the local library of songs on your phone or YouTube Music Premium if you have it. The app also supports integration with Pandora and Spotify, podcatchers like Pocket Casts, and others.

Android Auto includes a built-in weather card to show the conditions in your current location, which is useful on long road trips. It can integrate with your phone's dialer and supports other chat and voice apps like Skype.

When you receive a text message or a message through an app like Skype, Android Auto can read it out loud. In summer 2021, Android Auto made its overall messaging experience even easier to use, letting you access and use your messaging app of choice from the launcher screen. Read and send messages from Messages or WhatsApp without ever taking your eyes off the road.

how to use android auto

How Android Auto Works

There are two ways to use Android Auto: as a standalone experience on your phone or in concert with a compatible car radio or infotainment system. Both methods provide similar utility, but integrating Android Auto with a compatible touchscreen car radio is a superior experience.

When using Android Auto by itself on a phone, a few options are available. The first is to fire up Android Auto when you get in your car, place the phone in an easily accessible mount or cradle, and call it good.

This basic use of Android Auto provides access to hands-free calling, as the phone defaults to speakerphone when placing or receiving a call. The phone display is easier to read in this mode than it is without Android Auto running due to large text and a lack of clutter.

For a greater degree of integration, the phone can be paired with any Bluetooth-enabled car radio or connected to the radio via an aux cable, FM transmitter, or any other similar method. This type of connection allows audio from Android Auto, like music from Spotify or directions from Google Maps, to play over the car audio system.

The other way to use Android Auto is to connect a compatible phone to a compatible car radio or infotainment system. This is accomplished by running Android Auto on the phone and connecting it to a compatible vehicle via USB or Bluetooth. Doing so mirrors the phone's display, in a slightly modified fashion, on the radio display.

When a phone is connected to a car radio via Android Auto, the phone display goes blank, and the radio display takes over. The same information that would normally display on the phone can be seen on the radio display. Since car radio touchscreens are typically bigger than phone screens, this makes it easier to glance at turn-by-turn directions or skip to the next song in a Spotify playlist than it is with the phone.

Using Google Assistant With Android Auto

Google Assistant directly integrates with Android Auto, which means you can access all the information you normally would without backing out of the app.

For example, if you ask for nearby gas stations, Google Assistant pulls up a map of nearby gas stations without closing Android Auto. If you have a route in progress, it shows gas stations along that route.

Google Assistant integration goes beyond your car. If you have smart lights or a smart thermostat hooked up to Google Home, you can ask Google Assistant, via Android Auto, to make sure things are nice and comfy when your long commute is finally over.

android auto google assistant

Using Apps With Android Auto

Built-in apps make it easy to use Android Auto right out of the gate. For example, it includes EV charging, parking, and navigation apps to make your trips effortless and seamless.

In addition to the basic functionality that comes baked into Android Auto, it also supports other apps. The support is limited, and most Android apps don't meet Google's stringent guidelines for Android Auto compatibility, but a ton of popular entertainment, information, and communication apps have made the cut.

To use an app with Android Auto, you first need to download and install it. If you have an app like Waze or Spotify installed on your phone, you're good to go. Since Android Auto only changes the way things display on your phone, there's nothing additional to install.

Some apps, like Amazon Music and Pandora, work whether or not the phone is connected to a compatible car radio. These apps can be accessed by tapping the headphone icon twice and then selecting the desired app.

Other apps, like Waze, only work when the phone display is mirrored to a compatible car radio display.

What Phones Does Android Auto Work With?

Android Auto works with most Android phones. The main requirement is that the phone runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) through Android 11.

The capabilities of any given phone will also affect how well Android Auto runs. For instance, if a phone is slow and unresponsive, it is unlikely to run Android Auto well even if it has an appropriate version of Android installed.

What Cars Does Android Auto Work With?

Android Auto compatibility is available from most automakers and a number of aftermarket car radio manufacturers. The list grows and changes with every new model year, but Chevrolet, Honda, Kia, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Volvo, and others all offer Android Auto integration in some or all of their vehicles.

On the aftermarket side, head units compatible with Android Auto are available from manufacturers like Kenwood, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Sony.

Google maintains an exhaustive list of vehicles that are compatible with Android Auto, including current and planned models.

FAQ
  • How do I turn off Android Auto?

    To disable Android Auto, on your Android device go to Settings > Apps > See All Apps. Select Android Auto and choose Disable. You can also turn off Android Auto through your car's interface.

  • How do I fix it when Android Auto isn't working?

    If Android Auto isn't working, update your phone and your Android Auto app, clear the cache, and reboot. If you still have problems, remove all paired vehicles in the Android Auto app, and then try setting up Android Auto in your car again.

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