Who wouldn’t want an auto navigation app by none other than the creators of Google Maps themselves? Android Auto has numerous features that you can put to use for a smarter, more entertaining ride with fewer unsafe distractions. And you don’t have to run out and buy a new car, or even a special stereo system, because the Android Auto standalone app is now available. Use it on your phone screen or compatible car display.
You can also use Android Auto to enjoy Google Play Music and other audio streaming services, OK Google, and safer texting. You aren’t going to mind Android Auto being a backseat driver, either, not when it can remind you about upcoming appointments, suggest destinations, and inform you about the weather. Enjoy what the internet has to offer in your car, effortlessly. Let’s explore the ways Android Auto puts traditional car infotainment systems to shame, and how you can get the most out of it.
Use Either Your Phone Screen or Car Display
You can simply download the Android Auto app and use it right there on your screen – or, if compatible, integrate it into your car’s infotainment system. Having Android Auto on your car display is bound to be the most immersive experience, but for those without that option, a phone screen can also work just fine.
To use Android Auto in your vehicle, you need an Android phone running 5.0 Lollipop or greater. Once your Android is connected to the vehicle system, your phone may request that you update or download certain apps, such as Google Maps.
Call Contacts & Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
Make a phone call to your contacts hands-free. You’ll find that many of Android Auto’s features are voice-activated. Just use your voice to tell your phone to call a contact.
To use voice-control, you might have to long-press the icon that shows sound waves coming from a person’s mouth (the talk button). A short-press deactivates the feature.
Use OK Google
Android Auto’s voice recognition is one of the key features that makes it stand out from similar apps. If quick and easy is how you like your technology, you’ll want to utilize OK Google in Android Auto. If you’ve tried it before and were disappointed, give it another shot because enhancements have been made recently. Just say “OK Google” to send messages, play music, make phone calls, search for the place you want to go, or find the difference between a squid and an octopus.
Easily Listen to Music
We aren’t talking about easy listening, unless that’s your thing. We’re talking about an easier and safer way to stream and play music from Spotify, Google Play Music Playlists, Pandora, and iHeartRadio. Driving is far more dull without music, but you probably shouldn’t spend a ton of time and effort fumbling with controls on your phone or stereo.
To choose your music player, long-press the headphones icon, or just use OK Google.
Download: Google Play Music
Download: Pandora Music
Helpful, Distraction Free User Interface
With large and consistent buttons across the Android Auto platform, it makes it easier to identify what you need quickly in those instances you are able to take your eyes off the road safely. The screens are built not to be a distraction, and for intuitive use. The touch screen affords you quick access to your music, the weather, and navigation. If you currently or have ever used an Android device, the interface will look familiar, but simplified.
Vehicles that Support Android Auto
Android may have released the standalone app in part due to car manufacturers being slow to get on board (naturally, they prefer that you use their own features), but that’s not to say the number of manufacturers that have implemented Android Auto is insignificant.
About 400 brands of cars use Android Auto. If you are in the market for a new 2017 car, odds are that it will have Android Auto, at least as an available option at an additional price. Manufacturers with compatible cars include Cadillac, Mercedes Benz, Chevrolet, Honda, Kia, Volvo, and Volkswagen. Cars with Android Auto are available in more than 30 countries.
Supported Messaging Apps
Even the most hilarious text won’t seem that funny if you get into a wreck trying to send it. Luckily, Android auto offers Text to Speech and Speech to Text to send messages, and other third-party messaging apps can be integrated.
Is your favorite messaging app eligible? Currently, there’s Skype, Google Hangouts, Kik, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. To view all available apps within Android Auto, tap the Menu button or swipe right and choose Apps for Android Auto.
To get Android Auto from your phone to your car display, you must have a USB cable. You really also ought to have a backup just in case that one breaks.
When you first connect, your vehicle will need to be in park and in an area with good data reception. There’s an Auto Launch option in Settings so that when you connect your Android to your car’s Bluetooth Android Auto will automatically launch.
I don’t know how many times a day I reach for my smartphone automatically, especially to check for messages. But this action can have serious consequences in the car if you are driving. To reduce the risk, you can set up auto-reply using Android Auto’s Settings menu (you can also create a custom response). At the very least, you can opt to have your text messages read aloud to you by selecting the notification.
Keep Your Contacts Organized
If you associate a picture with your contact, the picture will show on your dashboard when they call, at least on integrated car displays. Of course you won’t be able to browse through your selfies while driving, but it’s still nice to see who’s calling.
It’s also helpful to create a group of favorite contacts, and eliminate and/or specify duplicates. For instance, how many people with the name Matt (or other common names) do you know? If your contacts aren’t organized, you could end up calling the wrong person.
Save on Data and Battery
If you don’t have unlimited data, use the ancient trick of initiating directions while you are still connected to Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that with Android Auto, it’s your phone that does the heavy lifting. Therefore, your Android may get hot, and you may see an increase in data usage—especially if you are just using the app on your phone and not with a head unit. On the other hand, there’s also a Wi-Fi Suspend Mode to disable Wi-Fi so you don’t waste any battery searching for a signal that’s not there.
Enter your email at the bottom of Android Auto’s homepage to receive the latest news about Android Auto. Android Auto itself also receives frequent updates, unlike competing car manufacturer’s infotainment technology. However, some manufacturers like GMC have been offering free Android Auto software upgrades on select 2016 Canyon, Sierra, and Yukon models. If you are using an aftermarket receiver, such as Kenwood or Pioneer, it’s important to keep your firmware up-to-date so that Android Auto can function properly.
Android Auto Apps for All Occasions
We’ve already discussed some of the music and messaging apps available for Android Auto, but there are many more. There are lots of eBooks available from AudioBooks by Audible, NPR One to keep up with current issues or hear stories, and MLB.com at Bat and TuneIn: Stream NFL for sports. Other apps with which you can listen to music are Slacker Radio, Amazon Music, Deezer: Music Player, Music by Sony Mobile, jetAudio HD Music, Rocket Player: Music, 7digital Music Store, myTuner Radio app, Scanner Radio, and Simple Radio. Waze is also available for turn-by-turn navigation, Plex for media streaming, and ABC News for US and World News. Stitcher can give you podcasts.
Download: AudioBooks from Audible
Download: NPR One
What You Need in Your Car
If you aren’t in the market for a new car and you don’t want to drop $1,000 on a new head unit, what can you do to get the best experience only using your phone? One helpful option to keep your Android in its place on your dashboard is a mount like Belkin Car Vent Mount.
Of course, the idea is to prevent you from staring at your phone while driving, so you will only be allowed to scroll through about three pages in apps like Google Play Music without the parking brake on. So is a separate head unit really worth the cost? Some might say so, but with the capability of the app on your phone for free versus the high cost of a new car or aftermarket stereo, it may be hard to justify spending the money unless it’s burning a hole in your pocket or you’d like an upgrade for other reasons, too.
Above all, use your phone in a safe and smart manner when you are driving, which can sometimes mean not at all. But mostly that pertains to looking at your phone screen, which you won’t have to do with Android Auto. With this handy feature, you can drive more safely, gain all of the benefits of your smartphone, and be entertained, all hands free. And you don’t have to spend one dime to do it.
Do you have any suggestions for other uses of Android Auto? What other apps do you use to keep yourself safe behind the wheel? Share your thoughts in the comments!