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Is Android Auto an App? If Not, What is It?

Close up of Android Auto on the screen of a modern car.

Have you ever felt like life would be better if your car could do all that your phone can do? Unfortunately, car makers tend to be a bit slow when it comes to keeping up with the relentless progress of cellphone manufacturers. In most instances, by the time a new car is launched, its navigation and entertainment system will already be obsolete.

As a result, you end up just using your phone instead. Fortunately, you can now use your car to harness the power of your smartphone. With android auto, it’s now easier to mirror your mobile phone’s apps on your vehicle’s infotainment screen. 

What is Android Auto? Is it an App?

The short answer is yes. Android Auto is an app that was developed by Google. This app has been around for a while now, and you can find the interface in the majority of modern vehicles. Some smartphones come with the app preinstalled, and others don’t. If yours doesn’t have it, you can simply download and install it from the Playstore.

Android Auto allows you to connect your smartphone to your vehicle’s entertainment system. You can either do this wirelessly or using a cable. Once connected, you can use your car’s entertainment system to send text messages, make and receive calls, use navigation and even run third-party apps. All of this can be done on an interface that’s less distracting. 

In simpler terms, Android Auto replaces the default user interface of your car’s entertainment system and delivers more options. It basically provides a way to mirror your mobile phone’s screen to your vehicle’s infotainment system.

The main idea behind this app is to enable drivers to use the apps on their phones and perform various tasks without getting distracted while on the road. The system displays large buttons, icons, and menus that are easier to interact with. You can also make use of voice as your primary input method. That way, there will be no need to take your eyes off the road while you navigate to your destination.

Related: Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto | Is Android Auto Free?

What Tasks Can You Do With Android Auto?
Close up of a man's hand selecting the Android Auto application of navigation or maps on the car dashboard.

It’s generally not advisable to try and use your phone while driving. Android auto eliminates the need to hold your phone by enabling you to use your voice as an input method. For instance, instead of looking for the Maps app on your phone and typing in a location, you can just use Google Assistant to pull up the app and navigate to your destination. Similarly, instead of picking up your phone each time you get a text message or call, you can simply respond to both using voice input.

You can also use android auto to do basic tasks like controlling the media play through large buttons on the screen or using Google Assistant. It’s also possible to use the car’s rotary knob control to move through the options in the user interface. While the knob normally controls the car’s stereo system, it’s automatically assigned to Android Auto when it’s active. 

Entertainment Android Auto supports apps like Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, and many other music apps. You can also access news and radio apps like BBC Sounds, NPR One, and TuneIn. If you like listening to audiobooks and podcasts on the road, this is something you can do with Android Auto as well. Android auto comes with super versatile commands for music apps. You can choose artists, songs, playlists, and podcast topics using voice commands. You can also rewind and skip songs.

Android Auto is made in such a way that it can automatically adjust to any screen size. If your car’s infotainment system has a large screen, apps can be displayed in split-screen mode. This means you can use apps like Maps and Spotify simultaneously.

You will get a navigation window on one side of the screen, and the media will play on the other. More recently, Google has even thrown in the ability to change your wallpaper. You can also add Google Assistant shortcuts.

Is Every Car Compatible With Android Auto?

Not every car comes with support for android auto. However, this doesn’t mean you can never have it. If your vehicle’s default stereo system doesn’t have support for Android Auto, all you need to do is get a third-party system that has support for it. There are lots of Android Auto Head Units that you can use to replace your existing stereo system. Once the new one is in, you will be able to connect your phone and use Android Auto.

If you don’t have the budget for a new head unit, you can still use Android Auto on your phone’s screen. All you need to do is mount it on a dock then you can use the app from the phone’s screen. 

Related: Can You Add Android Auto to a Car?

How to Use Android Auto

Close up to male driving and using navigation appliction Google Android Auto.

If your car and phone have support for Android Auto, the next thing to figure out is how to connect the two. Connecting your phone to your car’s infotainment system is not difficult. You can either do it wirelessly or using a cable.

This all depends on the support that your car and phone have. Some cars and phones only support Android Auto through USB cable connections, while some modern phones can do it wirelessly.

If you have a smartphone that’s running Android 11 or better, then you can use Android Auto wirelessly. This means there is no need to connect the phone to the stereo system using a USB cable. However, this only works if your vehicle has wireless support too. Using Android Auto wirelessly is quite convenient.

You won’t need to perform the extra step of disconnecting your device each time you want to leave your vehicle. To use Android Auto wirelessly, you need a vehicle with a head unit that supports a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection. While this connection happens through Wi-Fi, you will still require an active data connection on your phone to access the internet on Android Auto.

Pros of Android Auto

Android Auto is the best way to access your mobile phone’s features while driving. When your phone is connected, you can use steering wheel buttons, voice commands, your stereo system’s touch screen, and the rotary knob to control your phone’s features. A lot of popular apps like Zoom, Facebook, and WhatsApp are compatible with Android Auto.

Perhaps the most important feature that comes with Android Auto is Google’s excellent speech-to-text capability. You can use this to read text messages without physically going through your phone. You can also respond to messages without letting go of the wheel. By simply saying commands like “Hey, Google, text mom,” your system will set up a text to the contact listed on the phone as your mom. Instead of typing, you can dictate the message. The moment you stop speaking, Google Assistant will playback the message to ensure it typed everything correctly before asking for permission to send it. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Android Auto

A view of different applications on screen with android auto app.

My car is failing to detect my phone for Android Auto; what do I do?

There are several reasons why your car could be failing to pick up your phone for Android Auto. First, there are some vehicles that have a toggle to turn on Android Auto support. This means you first have to set this up on the car’s infotainment system. Once this option is turned on, try connecting the phone again to see if you will receive a prompt.

Android Auto is not launching automatically when I connect my phone; what do I do?

The first time you connect your phone to your car, you will see a prompt on your stereo’s display asking if the car should automatically start Android Auto each time you connect your phone. If you want to make use of this functionality, you should make sure you agree to let your car and phone sync on their own each time.

My USB cable is not working with Android Auto. How do I know which one to use?

If you want to run Android Auto through a wired connection, you will need a high-quality USB cable. Most cables that come along with smartphones can synch data. Therefore, they should get the job done. If you don’t have that cable anymore, you will need to look for a separate compatible cable that you can keep in your car at all times. You must look for cables that are USB-IF-certified.