Android Auto Wireless: What It Is and How to Use It

What to Know

  • To run Android Auto Wireless, you need a car radio or headset that's Wi-Fi enabled and compatible with the app.
  • Set up Android Auto Wireless by connecting your phone to your car radio with a USB cable. Then, follow the on-screen instructions.
  • Advanced users can make Android Auto Wireless work with an incompatible headset using an Android TV stick and a USB cable.

This article explains what Android Auto Wireless is, what you need to use it, and how to set it up. Instructions apply to Pixel phones with Android 8 through 11 and Samsung phones with Android 9 through 11.

How to Use Android Auto Wireless

If both your phone and your car are capable of using Android Auto Wireless, here's how to set it up:

  1. Connect your phone to your car radio with a USB cable.

  2. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the initial setup procedure.

  3. Disconnect the USB cable.

  4. The next time you get in your car, Android Auto Wireless automatically connects your phone to your car radio.

What Is Android Auto Wireless?

Android Auto is an app that makes your phone easier, and safer, to use when you're driving. It supports a number of apps that make your driving experience better and easier. For example, it includes EV charging, parking, and navigation apps to make your travels fluid and seamless. Android Auto lets you easily and safely access messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, and read and send messages directly from the launcher screen.

Android Auto also lets you connect your phone to compatible touchscreen car radios, and it's easy to customize Android Auto with a personalized launcher screen and an available dark mode.

All of Android Auto's functions are accomplished primarily by connecting your phone to your car with a USB cable, but Android Auto Wireless allows you to keep that connection after removing the USB cable.

The main benefit of Android Auto Wireless is that you don't need to plug and unplug your phone every single time you go anywhere. If you're planning on a longer trip, or your phone needs a charge, you can plug it in. Otherwise, Android Auto Wireless can automatically connect your phone to your car radio as soon as you get in your vehicle (after the initial USB cable connection).

Illustration of a car dashboard with Android auto on the screen
Lifewire / Luyi Wang

How Does Android Auto Wireless Work?

Most connections between phones and car radios use Bluetooth. This is how most hands-free calling implementations work, and you can also stream music over Bluetooth. However, Bluetooth connections don't have the bandwidth required by Android Auto Wireless.

In order to achieve a wireless connection between your phone and your car, Android Auto Wireless taps into the Wi-Fi functionality of your phone and your car radio. That means it only works with vehicles that have Wi-Fi functionality.

Compatibility is further limited to specific car radios and phones that are designed to work with the system.

When a compatible phone is paired to a compatible car radio, Android Auto Wireless works exactly like the wired version, just without wires. Your phone does all the heavy lifting, the information is displayed on your touchscreen car radio, and things like driving directions and answers that you ask Google Assistant are all played through the car speakers.

What Do You Need to Use Android Auto Wirelessly?

If you want to use Android Auto wirelessly, you need two things: a compatible car radio that has built-in Wi-Fi, and a compatible Android phone. Most head units that work with Android Auto, and most phones that are capable of running Android Auto, can't use the wireless functionality.

Here's what you need to start using Android Auto Wireless:

  • A compatible head unit: Your car radio, or head unit, needs to be capable of running Android Auto. It also needs to have Wi-Fi, and it needs to be certified to use its Wi-Fi connection in this manner.
  • A compatible phone: Your Android phone needs to be running Android 8.0 Oreo or newer if it's a Pixel phone. The Samsung Galaxy S8 series and Note 8 series, and newer, all support Android Audio Wireless if they're running Android 9.0 Pie or higher.

Can Other Phones and Head Units Use Android Auto Wirelessly?

While Android Auto is available in any car on your phone, and it's capable of integrating with a lot of aftermarket and original equipment car radios, the wireless compatibility is much more limited. If your phone, or your car radio, doesn't support Android Auto Wireless, all you can do is wait for an update that may or may not come.

Advanced users can use Android Auto Wireless with almost any head unit that's capable of running Android Auto, but it takes a lot of extra work. This is an unofficial method discovered by an Android enthusiast, so it isn't supported by Google.

To use this method, you need:

  • An Android TV stick
  • A USB cable
  • A head unit that can run Android Auto

The basic idea is that the Android TV stick acts as a Wi-Fi antenna for the car radio, which allows you to connect wirelessly with your phone. It's a lot more complicated than that, and it requires a lot of tinkering that most users will be uncomfortable with, but it is an option for anyone who has the necessary experience and expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I connect Android Auto without a USB cable? You can make Android Auto Wireless work with an incompatible headset using an Android TV stick and a USB cable. However, most Android devices have been updated to include Android Auto Wireless. For the initial connection, you will need to connect Android Auto to your car stereo with a USB. After connecting with a USB, Android Auto will automatically, and wirelessly, connect your phone to your car stereo.
  • Which cars support Android Auto Wireless? Most cars that were built in 2020 and after support Android Auto Wireless, and according to Android, availability for compatible cars and stereos is rapidly increasing. Consult your automobile manufacturer to confirm compatibility.
  • Why am I having trouble connecting Android Auto to my car? If you're having issues connecting wirelessly, check to make sure your Android is updated and that Android Auto is on in your vehicle's infotainment system. If you're using a USB cable and have a compatible vehicle, you probably need to use a new or higher-quality USB cable that's under six feet long. Quality USB cables include the USB icon.
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