Ever go to check your phone while waiting for five minutes while your factory navigation tries to search for your destination? What about that feeling of anxiety you get when you receive a new text message but since you’re driving you don’t want to fumble around for your phone to see what it says? Enter Google’s connected car solution, Android Auto.
Android Auto is an application that allows you to use your phone with a variety of 2015 and newer models and aftermarket head units as a source for navigation, messaging, phone calls as well as playing music.
As long as your phone is running Android Lollipop 5.0 all you have to do is connect your phone to an Android Auto compatible head unit via micro USB-to-USB cable (Update: You can also use Android Auto as a standalone app as well). In the future there will be options to connect wirelessly via Wi-Fi, but this feature is not currently available. Once connected the screen on your phone will be disabled to prevent use while driving and Android Auto will launch on your vehicles head unit.
Once connected, Android Auto will launch on top of your head unit’s existing operating system, it does not replace the current system so if you want to access something from the head unit that Android Auto does not control all you need to do is disconnect your phone.
Upon launching you will be shown suggested destinations based on your Google Map history, current weather, missed calls or text messages and currently playing music. From there you can either use the touch screen to navigate the various menus and functions or for hands free use just touch the mic button on the touchscreen to initiate voice commands.
The four basic functions you can control are navigation, messaging, phone calls and music/news/entertainment.
Google Maps is one of the best navigation apps out there and in most cases will always be more accurate and up to date then any OEM navigation unit. How you use Google Maps to navigate is exactly how you would on your phone, also unlike Apple CarPlay you can pinch to zoom in on the map. While not currently available at the time of writing, Waze will also be coming to Android Auto in the near future.
When you receive a text message it will not be displayed on the screen but you can have it read out loud for you. To reply or send a new text message all you have to do is tap the microphone icon on the touchscreen and then say your message out loud and it will be converted into text for you. Because Google tries to have a more open platform you can also use some popular messaging apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and Kik.
Pretty straight forward, using a Bluetooth connection you can place and receive phone calls using the touchscreen or go hands with voice command.
Google created Android Auto to ultimately make driving safer by making sure you keep your eyes on the road and not distracted by your phone. Because of this not all of the apps you have on your phone will work while using Android Auto. However, there are over 50 Android Auto compatible apps on the Google Play store to choose from. The majority of these apps are music/entertainment apps and messaging, services so whether you want to stream the latest music on Spotify and Pandora or send a message using Skype there are plenty of options.