Tips and Advice

Android Auto: everything you need to know

In-car smartphone connectivity is a hot topic, and Android Auto is taking on Apple CarPlay

Android Auto, Google’s answer to Apple CarPlay, is designed to replicate your Android smartphone’s operating system on your car’s infotainment screen with a simplified, familiar interface just like the one on your smartphone.

Through Android Auto, you can use apps such as Google Maps, Waze navigation, Google Play Music and Spotify, plus it’ll read out your text messages and manage phone calls for you. It can play music, podcasts and audiobooks.

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All you have to do is connect your phone with a USB cable - wireless Android Auto is still in development. The system will sync with your car and the Android operating system will be shown on its screen. You can control it using the touchscreen or controller (depending on which your car has) and it all works in a similar way to a smartphone.

As with CarPlay, Android Auto aims to make life a bit simpler for drivers, with the same operating system we’ve become used to on our phones and the same apps we use every day. Obviously, only a certain number of apps are safe to use on the move, but voice control can also be used to work your way through apps and control the whole system without taking your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.

Google’s infotainment system has been given a new look and a few new features for 2019. There’s a new navigation bar and a notification centre, allowing you to easily get to your most-used apps and to see and reply to updates when it suits you. You can also use voice control to set your destination; saying ‘Hey Google’ wakes up the voice recognition feature. Android Auto now suits more screen sizes, so it can be better integrated if you have a widescreen display. For 2019, the fonts and design have been slightly tweaked to make it easier to read.

One particular feature of Android Auto that might appeal to tech-savvy drivers is that useful information is organised by the system and shown on the infotainment screen as a ‘card’. Android’s example of this in action is a reminder to buy sun cream if the sat-nav has been programmed to direct you to a beach.

For those looking for the best audio experience, Android Auto also offers users a 90-day free subscription to Google Play Music to stream songs on the move.

Also like Apple’s system, Android Auto isn’t widely available in every car right now. It’s still being rolled out by various manufacturers, but it won’t be long until it’s standard or optional on the majority of cars on sale. If you have an older car, many aftermarket radio units now come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Cars with Android Auto in the UK

Android Auto isn’t on every vehicle yet, so if you’re keen for your next car to have it, make sure you check the manufacturer’s specifications to see which cars are available with the system – either as standard or as part of an option pack. We can’t list every car currently available with Android Auto, as the list would be huge and constantly changing, but more and more cars are now offered with the software. We’d always recommend checking with the dealer first, as specifications can change regularly depending on the model year.

Check out our guide to the best free driving apps and the best paid and free sat-nav apps for your phone.

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