Android Auto for Beginners: 5 Big Questions Answered

Android Auto is available in over 200 million vehicles 15 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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Android Auto is already available in approximately 200 million vehicles on the road, with the adoption numbers increasing as new models launch with built-in support.
Google has also become more committed to improving Android Auto, mainly because it's an essential part of its automotive strategy.

Google never planned to build a vehicle (unlike long-time rival Apple), so its automotive ambitions are centered around software and services, including Android Auto, Android Automotive, and Google Automotive services.

Here's what you must know about Android Auto if you're new to this world.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

You don't need to download Android Auto.

Like CarPlay, Android Auto is integrated into phones, so you won't have to download it. However, unlike its Apple sibling, Android Auto is serviced through the Google Play Store.

This approach produces major benefits, as Google can ship new features and improvements independently from operating system updates.

Apple can only update CarPlay with iOS updates, which typically land once a month or rarer. New Android Auto versions are published on the Google Play Store, and if you enable automatic updates, they are downloaded automatically on your device.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Wired and wireless.

Android Auto can run wirelessly or with a cable. However, the connectivity options depend on the support baked into your vehicle.

Most cars with a wireless connection also support a wired connection (a connection between your phone and the vehicle with a dedicated cable), but not all cars with wired Android Auto support the no-cord experience.

However, if your vehicle only supports Android Auto wired, you can always update it to wireless mode using a dedicated adapter. This device must be plugged into the USB port of the vehicle and connect to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. It acts as a middleman for the connection between the phone and the car.

The main benefit of Android Auto wireless is the lack of a cable to power the connection. Android Auto cables have often caused connection issues, sometimes making it impossible to run the app because the head unit did not detect the mobile device. However, if you run Android Auto wireless, you should also expect a battery drop, as the wireless connection requires more power than a wired connection (where you also get a small battery increase thanks to the phone being plugged in).

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

You need at least Android Oreo.

Android Auto comes with basic requirements, and even devices running older versions of Google's mobile operating system can run it.

A wired connection requires at least Android 8.0 (also known as Oreo), while the wireless version needs at least Android 11 (certain phones, including Google Pixel and Samsung models, also support Android Auto wireless on older Android versions).

Otherwise, a compatible Android version is all you need to launch Android Auto in your car. For Android Auto wired, you also need a compatible cable, while for a wireless connection, you can pair the device with the media receiver without further requirements. Android Go, the operating system aimed at devices with low-end hardware specifications, is not supported.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Any Android phone will work.

While some old versions of Android are not supported, any device that runs Google's mobile operating system is compatible with Android Auto as long as it runs a supported OS.

Many users believe Android Auto only supports Google Pixel phones, but this is incorrect. Android Auto comes pre-loaded with every phone running Android so that you can run the app with Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and any other brand shipping phones with this operating system.

The experience with Android Auto doesn't typically depend on the phone's hardware specifications, but an older and slower phone could struggle to run multiple apps simultaneously.

Most Android Auto users run navigation apps (Google Maps, Waze, or others), music streaming like YouTube Music and Spotify, and make phone calls and send text messages. If your phone can already handle all these tasks simultaneously, it should run Android Auto flawlessly. The phone could get warm when running multiple apps, especially with Android Auto wired, where it's also plugged in to charge.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Voice commands.

The support for voice commands is integral to the Android Auto experience because it allows users to interact with their apps without taking their eyes off the road.

Voice commands on Android Auto are powered by the Google app. If you already configured the Google app on your mobile device, you should also be able to use voice commands on Android Auto.

The Google app gets updates regularly, and once you update it on the mobile device, the latest improvements are also available in the car if they are aimed at Android Auto. If something goes wrong (which happens frequently), you should try to reset the Google app by deleting the cache and the data and removing the latest updates.

The Google Assistant integration is available in Android Auto and the supported apps (if the developer added voice command support), so you can use it to make phone calls, send messages, control navigation, and listen to music.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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