Twenty years ago, when driving, you had to decide between listening to a tape or the radio. Today, you have millions of songs, podcasts, and more that are just a voice command away. This is made much easier by Android Auto.
Instead of relying on your car manufacturer’s stock software, Android Auto ensures a uniform infotainment experience. Whether your car supports Android Auto or you use it on your phone, here are a few tips to make the most of your experience.
1. Take Advantage of Google Assistant
This is the most vital tip for mastering Android Auto. Not only does it let you access information quickly, it’s the safest way to do so while driving. You don’t have to reach over to your phone to skip a song, ask a question, or place a call.
If your car features Android Auto integration, you can press the voice command button on your steering wheel to trigger it. Those who use Auto on their phone can either tap the microphone icon that shows across the app, or use the OK Google voice command.
Make sure you have this enabled by opening Android Auto, then sliding out the left menu and choosing Settings. Tap “Ok Google” detection and make sure you have While driving turned on. As long as you have Android Auto open, Google Assistant will respond even if you have the screen turned off.
Everything Google Assistant can do normally, it can do while you’re driving too. Of course, not all of this is relevant in the car, but try some of these queries next time you’re on the road:
- “What’s the news?”
- “Remind me to buy paper towels in twenty minutes.”
- “How long will it take to get to Pinewood Park?”
- “Call Mark.”
- “Did the Giants win last night?”
- “Skip this song.”
Thankfully, Google Assistant is on more phones than ever. If you don’t have it now, you should get it soon as long as you have a recent device.
2. Download Android Auto-Compatible Apps
Android Auto doesn’t support a ton of apps since it’s designed to reduce distractions while driving. Yet it still has a good selection, and you should install any of them that you’re interested in to make sure you have the best experience with it.
You can visit the Android Auto apps page on the Google Play Store to see them all in one place. Generally, you’ll find these fall into one of three categories:
- Music: Pandora, Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music
- Messaging: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Kik, Telegram
- Radio/News: iHeartRadio, Simple Radio, New York Times, ABC News, dozens of local radio station apps
Any music or radio apps you install will show up in the Music tab of Android Auto (with the headphones icon). Once on that tab, you can tap the icon again to select an app to listen to. News apps will also show up here.
Messaging apps work a little differently. If you have a compatible messaging app installed, you’ll see a notification appear when you have a new message. You can tap Reply to speak your response, or use the automatic response command to let that chat know you’re driving.
3. Specify a Music Provider
With several music apps installed on your phone, Google Assistant can get a little confused when you tell it to play a specific song.
Say you’re a Spotify Premium user. Without linking your account, you won’t be able to play your playlists from Spotify. And if you don’t tell the app that you prefer Spotify, you’ll have to add “on Spotify” to every music request. Otherwise, Assistant will remind you that you don’t have a Google Play Music subscription and won’t play anything.
This is annoying when you’re driving, so make sure to straighten this out. Open Settings on your phone (outside Android Auto), then browse to Google > Search. Under the Google Assistant header, select Settings.
Here, tap the Music entry. You’ll see a list of installed music services. Tap the one you want to set as the default. If you see a Link icon, you’ll need to link your account for that service with your Google account before setting it as your primary service.
Once you’ve done this, saying “Play some jazz music” will start playback from your favorite app. Though, for example, you can still say “Play music by Kansas on Google Play Music” to use a difference service.
4. Organize Your Contacts Ahead of Time
When you tap the Phone icon in Android Auto, you’ll see a list of your favorite contacts. Of course, it’s dangerous to scroll through a huge list or type out a search while driving. Thus, you should set up favorites in your contacts for easy access.
To do this, just open your Contacts app. Select a contact, then tap the Star icon in the top-right corner. This will add them to your favorites. You’ll see these favorites at the top of your contacts list and they’ll show up in the Phone tab in Android Auto too.
There’s one other important step you should take to make sure your contacts are Android Auto ready. If you say “Call Matt” and you have more than one contact matching that name, Assistant will ask you which one you wanted. Spending extra time on this will distract you from driving, so you should clean up your contacts as best you can.
Avoid duplicate contacts. Don’t have emoji or other strange characters in a contact’s name that might confuse Assistant. And double-check if you have contacts split up into multiple entries from way back in the day where you could only have one number per person. You might not remember you have both John and John cell when placing a call via voice.
5. Tweak a Few Options
You’re nearly ready to go with Android Auto. Take a look over a few settings, and you’re ready to hit the road! Open Android Auto and slide out the left sidebar, then select Settings. Tweak the following if you like:
- Limit Wi-Fi: Enabling this will turn off Wi-Fi when you’re using Android Auto. It sounds pointless, but it’s actually useful. Without this, if you’re in your driveway with a weak connection, your phone could have trouble playing music or getting directions.
- Auto reply: This lets you change the automatic reply you can send when you get a message. The default is sufficient, but you may wish to add a note about it being automated.
- Autolaunch: A handy setting for those who use Android Auto on their phone screen. Enable the Autolaunch slider, choose a Bluetooth device, and Android Auto will automatically open when your phone connects to your car. You can even turn on Pocket detection and it won’t open until you take your phone out.
- Screen on: You can choose when the screen should stay on. If your car doesn’t have Android Auto, you may wish to set this to Always on or When charging so you don’t have to keep turning the screen back on. Just make sure to connect a charger for long trips!
Hit the Road, Android!
These five tips will help you make the most of Android Auto. It’s a pretty straightforward interface and doesn’t feature a ton of options for tweaking. Install your favorite audio apps, make sure you’ve mastered Google Assistant, prepare your contacts, and you’ll have a great experience. Remember to be careful on the road.
Got an iPhone too? Check out how Android Auto stacks up against Apple CarPlay.