Android Auto Is Now Available for Everyone: What Can It Do?

Ben Stegner 14-11-2016

As Android smartphones have become more advanced, better ways of integrating them into the car Droid Your Ride - 3 Ways To Bring Android Into Your Car Curious about setting up an Android device as an in-car entertainment system? Here's is everything you need to know. Read More have launched. You can stick with the basics and connect your phone to your car’s audio system How to Connect Your Android Phone to Your Car Audio System Want to listen to music from your Android phone in the car? Here are your best options on how to connect, from aux cables to Bluetooth. Read More , or you can try using Google Now in the car to interact with your phone Do Everything in the Car Hands Free With Google Now You don't have to text and drive. In fact, you can do a lot with only your voice while driving -- even more than texting! Read More without ever touching it.


Aware of this, Google released Android Auto almost two years ago. Until recently, the app required a compatible car to function What Is Android Auto And How Can You Get It? Android Auto generated a lot of buzz at CES this year, but what exactly is it and how can you get your hands on it? Let's examine it. Read More , but that’s changed. Now, anyone can use Android Auto to enhance their driving experience.

Let’s take a look at how to get set up with the Auto experience and what it can do for you.

Warning: Using your phone while driving is dangerous! While Android Auto simplifies the interface and in theory is only as dangerous as fiddling with the radio, your focus should always be on the road when driving. Do not use Android Auto in a way that could endanger yourself or others.

Getting Set Up

To start, download the Android Auto app from Google Play. It requires Android 5.0 Lollipop or above, which all but the oldest phones should have. You’ll also need a data connection Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More to use the app, since you won’t have Wi-Fi in the car.

The setup is pretty straightforward. The app will ask you to grant the needed permissions What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care? Do you ever install Android apps without a second thought? Here's all you need to know on Android app permissions, how they've changed, and how it affects you. Read More to access your phone calls and other information.


After this, you’ll be asked which Bluetooth device you want to associate with Android Auto. If your vehicle has built-in Bluetooth or you use an adapter, select it here. If you don’t have Bluetooth in your car, you can add it with a cheap adapter (I use this one, but there are plenty under $20).

Note that you’ll want to buy a mount for your phone as well to keep it accessible. Magnetic mounts are popular; these usually clip onto your vents. If your car has a CD player that you don’t use, you can also buy a mount that inserts into the CD slot. We don’t recommend suction-cup mounts, as those can obstruct your view and tend to fall, which could damage your device.

Once you’ve done preliminary setup in the app, you’re good to go! You’ll be greeted with a basic home screen and can start digging into the features.

What Can Auto Do?

Android Auto is your driving companion 4 Useful, Safe Android Apps You Can Use In Your Car Using your phone while driving is dangerous! Stay safe with these hands-free techniques for Android. Read More . It allows you to use only driving-friendly apps (like Google Maps) to avoid the temptation of texting and driving. It presents these apps in a simple interface (portrait or landscape) with big buttons The 6 Best Simple Android Launchers for Parents and Grandparents Are your parents or grandparents confused by their new Android phone? A simple Android launcher can make things easier! Read More so you can safely make changes when needed.


Like Google Now, the main screen populates with cards What Is Google Discover? How to Use the Google Feed on Android Here's an explanation of Google Discover, how Google cards work, and how to personalize your feed to make it more useful. Read More to bring you pertinent info. You’ll see upcoming calendar events as well as weather info. When driving, Google may also suggest destinations if you’re not en route to a specific place.

Music, Calling, and Maps

The three main buttons at the bottom of the screen bring you to Maps navigation, the Phone menu, and your music. Each portion gives you the most important view for its app as soon as you open it, and it provides a slide-out menu on the left for more control when you’re stopped.

Tapping the music icon for the first time asks you to choose a compatible app from your phone What Is the Best Way to Stream Music for Free on Android? There are a ton of free music-streaming apps for Android, but how are they different and which is your best option? Read More . Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, and Audible are all supported. The music portion gives you a simple Now Playing screen, along with controls specific to that app. For Spotify, you’re able to access your library Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify is no longer content to just compete with radio, now they're competing with the idea of even owning music. Read More , check your queue, or browse recently played music — perfect for being on the go.

The phone section presents you with your recent call history, along with the ability to dial a number. You can also listen to your voicemail and check your missed calls, though those are probably not activities you need to do while driving.


Finally, the Maps feature presents you with Google Maps’s Driving view Get There Faster - 10 Google Maps & Navigation Tips Google Maps is still the most powerful mapping service ever, despite what Apple might say. Whether you’re using Google Maps in a browser on your desktop or an app on your mobile phone, Google Maps... Read More by default. Even if you’re not using Maps for directions, this view provides you with live traffic, so you can foresee slowdowns. Using voice control, you can say “Navigate to Wendy’s” or “Drive to Houston” for directions.

Android Auto Menus

At any time, you can jump back to the home screen using the circle Home button. This also allows you to exit the app if you tap it on the Home screen.

Extra Functionality

Even though most apps don’t fall into the above three categories, you can still work with a lot of them in Android Auto. When you receive a text (or a message from WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. 5 Best Free Messaging Apps for Android Need a free way to send messages to friends and family with your phone for free? Check out these apps. Read More ), you can have Auto speak the message The 7 Best Text-to-Speech Apps for Android Text-to-speech is a handy feature on your Android phone even if you don't have a disability. These apps take it to the next level. Read More from a notification balloon. If it’s urgent, you can send a reply with a voice command.


You can deal with group chats or non-essential messages too. If you’re getting slammed with messages Identify Unknown Numbers and Block Spam Text Messages with Truemessenger for Android Truemessenger is a fantastic new app for sending and receiving text messages, and it can tell you who an unknown number is and block spam. Read More , a mute option keeps them from bothering you. You’re also able to add a canned response so that with one tap you can reply “I’m driving right now” or similar. This lets people know that you’re not ignoring them while also removing the pressure to tap out a (dangerous) reply.

At any time, you can harness Google’s power by tapping the microphone icon 6 Google Now Features That Will Change How You Search You may already be using Google Now on your Android device, but are you getting all that you can out of it? Knowing about these small features can make a big difference. Read More and searching via voice. While you hopefully won’t need to use this often, you could quickly look up ratings for a restaurant or send a text to someone without taking your eyes off the road. You can also use it to make changes to running apps, like skipping the current song.

To add even more functionality, check out the apps with Android Auto integration.

Check the Settings

To round out your use of Android Auto, there are a few settings you should change. Tap the slide-out menu on the left side of the screen, then Settings to open them.

You can change the Auto-reply message to whatever you’d like. By default it says I’m driving right now, which should be sufficient. If you like, you could also add a note about it being an automated message.

Since you’re likely only going to use Android Auto in the car where there’s no Wi-Fi, you can Limit Wi-Fi to disable that connection when using the app. Though it could save battery 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More , this isn’t necessary for most people. You should probably have a car charger when using Android Auto anyway.

Under Auto Launch, you can choose whether your phone automatically pulls up Android Auto when it connects to certain Bluetooth devices. You can also adjust the Bluetooth devices that this applies to.

Finally, you can adjust Screen on to keep the screen always on, on only when charging, or to use your device settings. The best option here depends on how you’re navigating.

In an unfamiliar area, you probably want to have Maps up at all times, but if you’re just listening to music, you probably don’t need the screen on. Note that you should avoid keeping the display on for too long if you have an AMOLED screen AMOLED Burn-In Can Be Avoided! And It's Easy! AMOLED burn-in can be reduced with the right tricks. This article lists the apps and options for saving AMOLED screens. Read More .

Will You Add Android Auto to Your Commute?

No matter what kind of car you have, Android Auto is a great way to enhance your driving experience. The app isn’t perfect yet — a particular sore spot is the lack of support for Waze GPS What's the Best Maps and Navigation App for Android? Using the rights maps and navigation app can mean the difference between making it to your appointment on time or being late -- so we examine the best of them for you! Read More . However, the app is always getting better, and simply having a clean interface to access your music and navigation is great.

Looking to use your Android phone with your car even more? Check out how your phone can monitor your car’s performance How To Monitor Your Car's Performance With Android Monitoring tons of information about your car is incredibly easy and cheap with your Android device -- learn about it here! Read More , or try some other dashboard car mode apps The 5 Best Dashboard Car Mode Apps For Android Compared Want a safe way to use your Android smartphone while driving? These car mode apps make it easy. Read More .

Will you try out Android Auto in your car? Do you prefer another dashboard app? Share your experiences with Auto in the comments!

Related topics: Android Auto, Google Maps, SMS.

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  1. Bwahahahaha
    November 16, 2016 at 2:41 am

    I guess I don't understand what parts of this are better than my existing setup in an non-android auto vehicle? I use maps and connect through bluetooth for music and phonecalls.

    Perhaps the selling point is the simplified interface and restricted menu options? Ifso, not really necessary in my opinion.

    • Ben Stegner
      November 16, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Auto is definitely better if you have a compatible car, but yes, you've basically got the point. This is to make your phone feel like more of an integrated part of your driving experience.

      I use Spotify for music in my car and Maps for navigation, and I'll appreciate having these in a simpler form if I need to change the track while driving. In addition, having the quick reply and screen always on in an app is better than manually changing settings every time you drive.

      It certainly won't be for everyone, but I think having an interface specific for driving is pretty useful, myself, and I'll be using it for sure.

  2. Pritish
    November 15, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Bound to flop like google plus. Likely to increase the traffic accidendts. It will keep your phone screen on all the time. Seeing all these hassles it is better to have independent NAVIGATION AND STEREO DOUBLE DIN in car which will serve all the purpose and will not depend on data.
    Secondly MIRRORLINK is a better technique because it allows your headunit ti control the phone.

    • Ben Stegner
      November 15, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      I don't think kit can really be compared to Google Plus, since that's a social network while this is a simplified interface of your phone for use while driving.

      It's not necessarily better to have a separate stereo and navigation. If you already have an expensive phone with GPS capabilities, why spend $100+ on a GPS unit that does the same thing? And with music, you can turn a playlist on and forget about it. Also, Google Maps and most music apps allow you to download offline, which means you'll use minimal data.

  3. Richard Makepeace
    November 14, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    I began using it immediately upon learning of its availability last week. Purchased a vent mount as suggested. I now drive a with 21st century technology.

    • Ben Stegner
      November 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      I'm glad you can use it! The vent mount is a small expense but quite convenient, especially if you use your phone for navigation. It's great how these tools can bring new tech to older cars.

  4. bullshitradar
    November 14, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Bullshit. Not accessible in Poland.