What is Android Auto and how does it work?

Android Auto BMW

All of Android Auto’s functions are accessed via large icons and voice commands

Want to know more about Google’s popular smartphone mirroring service? Take a look at our complete guide

As more cars begin to wear technology on their sleeves, it’s no surprise that you can actually use your infotainment system as if it were your smartphone screen (albeit a simplified version).

Android Auto is a service that lets you connect your Android phone to the car’s infotainment system to display sat-nav apps, legally take phone calls, reply to messages and play audio. 

All of these functions are accessed via large icons and voice commands. The premise of the system is to reduce your levels of distraction as much as possible, so the icons should be easy to reach when you’re driving. 

As car manufacturers try (and sometimes fail) to grapple with the smartphones’ relentless pace of development, many drivers prefer to use mirroring services like Android Auto over the standard operating system (OS) fitted to their car. It’s no surprise, then, that around 150 million cars are currently specified with the Google-developed system.

To access it, use the Android Auto app, which will come pre-installed on your phone if it’s operating on Android 10 or above. If not, it’s found on the Google Play Store and free to download.

Connecting to the car is quite easy: it works using a USB cable, Bluetooth or a wi-fi connection between your phone and your car. Depending on how old the car is, you will be able to connect in any one of those three ways. If you’re unsure, have a quick look at the car’s manual.

Is my phone compatible with Android Auto?

There are a few caveats to this one, but stick with us. To connect your phone using a USB cable, it has to be running on Android 8.0 (Oreo) or higher and have an active data plan.

If you want to connect it wirelessly to the infotainment system and you have an Android phone that isn’t made by Samsung or Google, make sure it’s running on Android 11.0 or later. Samsung or Google phones can use Android 10.0 or later, while Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, or Note 8 work with Android 9.0 or later.

All phones require an active data plan and 5GHz wi-fi support. Most phones have the latter, but if you’re experiencing connection issues, it may be down to this. To resolve it, contact the manufacturer.

How do I enable Android Auto in my car?

There are two ways of doing this: via USB connection or wirelessly. Firstly, ensure your car is compatible with Android Auto. To do this, consult Android’s guide to every car compatible with the system here

If you’re using a USB connection, make sure your phone is in range of your mobile data network and plug the USB into your car’s port and your phone. The port can be either a USB-A (rectangular) or a USB-C (oval) connector. Instructions will then appear on your car’s infotainment screen; follow those steps to continue. You don’t need a Bluetooth connection if you’re using this method.

If you’re connecting wirelessly, make sure you’re connected to your mobile network and find the Bluetooth menu within your phone’s settings app. Making sure your phone is discoverable, press and hold your car’s voice-command button to open the menu to pair your phone.

You may also need to make sure your infotainment screen has Bluetooth or wireless connections enabled. On-screen instructions will then appear on your infotainment display.

Once your phone is paired with your car via Bluetooth, Android Auto should start within a few seconds. 

Is Android Auto free?

Android Auto is free to use and the app is free to download to your phone. Some manufacturers only include it on higher trim levels, however, or as an optional extra on entry-level machines.

Source: Autocar

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