Android Auto is an app which lets you use many of the functions of your Android smartphone hands-free while driving, thanks to Google Assistant. With the power of your voice, you can command Google Assistant to do a variety of useful things. For example, you can start navigation with Google Maps, request music from your favourite streaming service, listen to and reply to text messages, and much more. Is Android Auto any better than your car’s existing infotainment system? Let’s find out…
Advantages of using Android Auto
The most distinct advantage of Android Auto is that your car doesn’t need to have an up-to-date infotainment system, or any at all for that matter. I will add that if your car supports Bluetooth audio or has an aux input, it’s worth connecting this to your smartphone. Even if your car does have smartphone integration, it’s quite likely that Android Auto provides features that it doesn’t.
Firstly, Android Auto can be updated through the Play Store with new features, whereas car infotainment systems often don’t receive feature updates. Secondly, Android Auto can use your smartphone’s data connection to provide many additional features such as live traffic updates and on-demand music streaming. Lastly, Android Auto integrates seamlessly with Google Assistant (if your smartphone supports it), giving you full access to the virtual assistant while you’re driving.
What can you do with Android Auto?
Once you open the Android Auto app, you’re launched into a big-picture mode which has a straightforward clutter-free interface with large buttons. At the bottom of the screen, you’ve got large buttons for home, navigation, phone and music. The home screen shows your notifications, including concise widgets for music control and navigation directions.
Navigation is powered by Google Maps as default, with the option to switch to Waze if you prefer. For music, you can choose from many of the popular streaming services. I personally use Spotify, which works flawlessly, but Android Auto also supports Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Deezer and Amazon Music. In my opinion, Android Auto duly reflects Android’s philosophy of flexibility, which I genuinely appreciate.
What do you need to set up Android Auto?
As per the Android Auto web page, you need a smartphone running Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer to support the Android Auto app. Certain car infotainment systems will integrate with your phone to mirror the Android Auto app, but I won’t be focusing on that in this blog, in part due to a lack of experience with this particular function. Needless to say, the experience should be very similar, merely with a larger screen built into the dashboard.
In addition to a compatible smartphone, I also recommend getting a USB charger to keep your smartphone topped up while driving, the screen is always on and it uses a fair amount of battery otherwise. It’s also recommended to have a data connection while using Android Auto, otherwise Google Assistant won’t work and the app will have very limited functionality.
Is Android Auto legal?
According to gov.uk, the law states that “it’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving”. On the other hand, it’s legal to use a phone when it’s enabled for hands-free access. What this means is that Android Auto is completely legal to use while driving as long as you rely on voice commands and you aren’t distracted from the road.
Android Auto was built on the solid foundations of Google Assistant. As a result, voice commands have worked flawlessly in my experience and I haven’t found any reason to touch the screen while driving. If I receive a message via SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger or Hangouts, I have been able to say “OK Google, read my messages”. Google Assistant proceeds to read my messages and gives me the option to dictate a reply, should I wish.
In conclusion, I think Android Auto is worth a shot if you’re dissatisfied with your car’s existing infotainment system (or lack thereof). Have any of you used Android Auto? Are you tempted to give it a go? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with Android Auto in the comments below.