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Is Android Auto Wireless? Does It Work With Bluetooth?

On board computer in a modern car displaying available phone connection services like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

When Google announced Android Auto in 2014, it took another year for the tech giant to roll it out with different car models. At the moment, this feature is now supported by the majority of major car manufacturers and aftermarket head unit makers. While screen sizes for different infotainment systems vary, one of the things that were common with every car model and aftermarket head unit is that you needed to connect your mobile device with a cable to use Android Auto.

Fortunately, this changed a while ago with the addition of the wireless Android Auto.

What is Android Auto Wireless?

Android auto car navigation system.

Android Auto has a lot of impressive features, and one of them is the ability to pair your phone and car without using any cables. This enables you to get the same functionality you would get if you used a cable. It will still let you access your messaging app and take phone calls on the road.

For your safety, you can also use pre-set replies through Google Assistant. As you might imagine, this greatly minimizes distractions. As mentioned before, in the past, you needed to connect your phone to the car using a USB to access Android Auto’s functions.

Android Auto Wireless lets you maintain that connection after disconnecting the USB cable. One of the main benefits of using the wireless mode is that there is no need to keep plugging and unplugging your phone each time you go somewhere. If you drive long distances and need to charge your phone, you can plug it in.

Otherwise, Android Auto will automatically connect your mobile device to the car’s stereo system the moment you get into the car. 

How Does Android Auto Wireless Work?

Spotify starting up on an iPhone 8 connected to a new Skoda car.

The majority of connections between vehicle radios and phones use Bluetooth. This is how most hands-free devices work. You can also use Bluetooth to stream music.

However, Bluetooth connections between phones and car radios do not have enough bandwidth to support Android Auto wirelessly. If you want to use Android Auto wirelessly, you will need to tap into the Wi-Fi functionality of your mobile device and car radio. As you might imagine, this means Android Auto only works with cars that have Wi-Fi functionality.

Furthermore, compatibility is limited to specific stereo systems and mobile phones designed to support Android Auto. When a car radio pairs with a compatible phone, you can use Android Auto like the wired version. Your phone will do all the heavy lifting, and you can access information stored on it through the car radio.

For instance, you can use driving directions, and you will still be able to get your answers from Google through the car speakers.

What is Needed to Use Android Auto Wirelessly?

Pairing smartphone with car multimedia audio system.

To use Android Auto wirelessly, you will need a compatible Android device and a car radio with built-in Wi-Fi. The majority of head units that support Android Auto are not able to use wireless functionality. Even if your stereo system has Wi-Fi, it needs to be certified to use its connection this way.

Apart from the stereo system, you also need a phone that runs 9.0 Pie through Android 11. The only phone that will work with Android Auto even if it has Android 8.0 is the Google Pixel. 

Is It Possible to Use Android Auto Wirelessly on a Phone or Head Unit that Doesn’t Support it?

If your phone or head unit doesn’t support Android Auto straight out of the box, you can choose to either wait for an update that may not come, or you can improvise. Unfortunately, unless you are very tech-savvy, improving might be a bit tricky for you. If you are an advanced user, you will be able to use Android Auto wirelessly with almost any device that can run Android Auto.

However, that takes a lot of extra work. Also, this is an unofficial method, so you won’t get support from Google. To get Android Auto wirelessly on a head unit that doesn’t natively support it, you will need a USB cable, an Android TV stick, and a head unit that supports Android Auto.

The general idea is to use the TV stick as a Wi-Fi antenna for your stereo system. This will enable it to connect wirelessly to your phone. Unfortunately, it’s still a lot more complicated than just connecting the TV stick to your radio.

If you want to do this, you may need help from a user with more experience. 

How to Setup Android Auto Wirelessly?

Adding a device to a new car via a phone connection.

The first time you set up Android Auto wirelessly, you will need to use a USB cable to plug the phone into the car’s USB port. Before you do this, ensure that the infotainment display and the ignition are turned on. You will likely receive a prompt to download the Android Auto app from Google’s Play Store.

Once the app is downloaded and installed, you will see another prompt on the screen asking for permission to connect your car’s stereo to Android Auto. Once accepted, Android Auto will start initializing. For most car models, the system should automatically fire up.

However, you may need to locate and press the dedicated Android Auto button. In some cars, it might be labeled as a smartphone connection button. If the stereo system supports wireless Android Auto, it should stay connected once you disconnect your phone.

If it disconnects, check to see if the phone and vehicle’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are switched on. Once the phone connects, Android Auto will switch on each time you turn on the engine. 

Which Android Phones Support Android Auto Wirelessly?

Hand holding a smartphone with bluetooth connected, playing music in the car.

While most phone models support Android Auto, only a limited number support the app wirelessly. Android Auto is generally available on phones running Android 6.0 and above. However, Android Auto can only run wirelessly on phones with Android 11 or higher.

These phones also need to have 5GHz Wi-Fi. If your phone doesn’t fit the description, you will only be able to connect using a cable until you upgrade. There are some phones that can connect to Android Auto even if they run Android 10.

These include the Google Pixel 1, 2, 3, 4, Google Nexus 6P, Google Nexus 5X, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, 9, 10, and the Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, and S10. To check your phone’s software, head into the Settings menu and select About. From there, click the Android version option to see which flavor of the operating system is installed on your device.

Is Android Auto Better Than Bluetooth?

This is one of the most popular questions regarding Android Auto. Most people use Bluetooth to connect their phones to their stereo systems. This makes it possible to play music and answer phone calls through the stereo system’s head unit.

The only problem is that Bluetooth doesn’t have the required bandwidth to do other tasks that are not making calls or playing music. You will find that because of the bandwidth issue, sound with Bluetooth isn’t that great. This results in choppy audio.

You also won’t be able to properly control playback on your device using the controls on the head unit. Fortunately, the connection quality with Android Auto gives you the highest quality audio and faster responses. 

Does My Car Support Wireless Android Auto?

Autonomous car and wireless communication network concept.

There is an extensive list of cars that support Android Auto. However, there aren’t a lot of cars that support the wireless version. Car makers have been fairly slow when it comes to adopting wireless Android Auto.

Generally, all vehicles running the wireless version of Android Auto need to meet the same requirements. This includes support for Android Auto, Bluetooth, and a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection. Most modern cars come with Bluetooth.

The only thing that your car might miss is the 5GHz Wi-Fi. If you don’t have it, your android device and car won’t be able to exchange data. As a result, you won’t be able to use Android Auto wirelessly. 

The best way to check if your car supports wireless Android Auto is to do some research. Chances are your car manufacturer will clearly state if your car supports wireless Android Auto. A quick search on Google should give you this information as well.

Once Android Auto is up and running wirelessly in your car, it’s worth getting to grips with other things your vehicle can do. For instance, you should look into essential tips for Map. You should also take a look at some Android Auto-themed guides.