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Android Auto: the best of your phone in the car

Unbeatable hands-free Android integration

Driving with Android

What is Android Auto? Android Auto is the easiest and safest way to use your phone in the car. It gives you larger icons and takes advantage of your phone's voice control functions to give you access to more of what your phone can do. 

In this article, we'll explore how it works and, more importantly, how to make Android Auto work in your car.

If you're an Android user, there's no better way to go hands-free than with Android Auto. It makes your touchscreen car stereo compatible with your Android phone by giving you a streamlined, voice control-driven interface. The idea is simple — integrate everything you need from your smartphone into an easier-to-see, safer-to-use format in your dash, so you can drive more responsibly.

Android phone with Android Auto

Is your smartphone compatible with Android Auto?

So, here's the thing – not every Android phone is compatible with Android Auto at this point. I found that out quickly by opening the Google Play app store on my Motorola DROID MAXX phone and selecting the Android Auto app for download (it's required for using Android Auto). Instead of an "Install" button, I saw a message that read: "Your device isn't compatible with this version." A bummer, for sure, but better to know now, than after installing a stereo in my dash.

If you're in the market for a new smartphone and want to choose one that's an Android Auto match, make sure it's running on Android 5.0 Lollipop or above. And try to download the app onto your phone as a way of double-checking your phone’s compatibility.

How do you get Android Auto in your car?

Android Auto will only work on compatible double-DIN touchscreen car stereos. So, either you buy a new car into which it's been factory-installed, or you can install one of these Android compatible head units in your vehicle. Once you've installed the stereo, you'll need to update its firmware to ensure compatibility with the latest Android phones running on Lollipop 5.0+. Don't worry, it's a pretty pain-free process as long as you have a computer, an internet connection, and a USB drive or SD card handy. Go to the stereo manufacturer's website for instructions and details, or if you purchased the stereo from us, call Crutchfield tech support.

Android Auto and Bluetooth

For Android Auto to work with your phone, you'll need a Bluetooth® connection with your Android-friendly head unit in order to send and receive phone calls as well as for notifications like calendar events; and you'll need a wired connection via the microUSB-to-USB cable that came with your smartphone for more complicated data transfer. I recommend buying a lengthy microUSB-to-USB cable for a permanent installation in your vehicle. Because all of the touchscreen receivers featuring Android Auto have rear-mounted USB ports only, you'll want to plug in that cable during installation so you'll never have to touch it again, and run it to a location with easy access.

Everything you love about Android on your car stereo

Now, the fun part. If you're familiar with Android's Google Now card format, which gives you regularly updated, personalized info on your phone, then you'll be a fast learner with Android Auto. A well-designed interface gives you a card-based home screen, quick access to Google Maps, phone functionality, and music choices. You'll have touchscreen control over all features, but the biggest advantage is Google's voice control for making calls, sending texts, searching for music, getting directions, and a lot more, all hands-free.

AVH-4100NEX

When you use Android Auto, you'll be locked out of hand-held operation of your phone, but that's the whole point of the feature. Everything a responsible driver (ahem, you) should need will be accessible on your stereo's touchscreen. 

Android Auto Favorite: More and more, I've found myself using my phone exclusively as an audio source when I'm in the car, mainly because my impulsive listening habits are satisfied by Spotify and because I've gone off the deep-end for podcasts. If you use music apps supported by Android Auto (and the app list is growing all the time), you'll be able to switch easily between your favorites and you'll have satisfying control over each.

How does Android Auto work? 

Get a hands-on look at Android Auto as Harry from Pioneer walks you through its features on a Pioneer NEX Series stereo in the video below.

And Pioneer isn't the only powerhouse that offers Android Auto. Check out our full selection of car stereos compatible with Android Auto.

Android Auto Tip: Thanks to Android Auto, a compatible DVD receiver becomes a super value by sneaking voice-controlled Google Maps navigation from your phone into a non-navigation receiver. 

Trouble with extension cables?

Many people report that USB extension cables have compromised the functionality of Android Auto on a variety of car stereos. Please be aware that using a USB extension cable can create problems. For best results, use only the stereo's USB cable coupled to your phone's charging cable. You might want to purchase a second phone cord to leave in the car.

More questions?

If there's anything else you'd like to know about Android Auto, you're sure to find it on Google's stand-out Help page, or give one of our advisors a call at 1.888.955.6000. Whether you're looking for the cheapest Android Auto head unit or the best Android Auto stereo, our advisors can help you find the one that's right for you. 

  • Matt from EDWARDSPORT

    Posted on 7/9/2018

    I bought the pioneer avh 4201 nex package from you, to install in 06 silverado. Easy install and everything worked well except the android auto, which was the whole reason for the upgrade. I installed the supplied USB cable in port 2 and my galaxy s8 charger to that. Only thing it did was slow charge phone. I've tried several different cables with no results, how can I get android auto to work?

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield on 7/10/2018
    Matt, so sorry to hear that. Please call our Tech Support team for free help troubleshooting your system. You'll find the info you need on your emailed receipt, or just give us a call at 1.800.955.9091. They'll help get to bottom of this.
  • Jack from San Jose

    Posted on 1/22/2018

    How old is this article?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/14/2017

    Aaron, Android Auto will not give you screen-mirroring capability. You can find more about compatible apps and phones here. Your phone will need to use OS Lollipop (5.0 or newer) and a mini-USB to USB connection for Android Auto. As far as screen-mirroring goes, the receiver you have will only do so with MHL-enabled phones and an adapter cable. Note that you'll also need the parking break engaged for that feature on your receiver. If you have any questions, give us a call.

  • Aaron from Bethalto

    Posted on 6/9/2017

    I purchased a Kenwood DDX9902S and I have a motorola Droid Force Z phone. I am putting this in a Jeep and often use offroad trail mapping apps on the phone. So not google maps. ViewRanger is one and Maprika is another. Will android auto let me mirror my phone screen on the head unit screen for various apps? My phone only has a USB-C port. No type of HDMI port. If I need anything other than the phone and head unit to do that, what will I need to get my phone screen to show up on the head unit screen?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/31/2017

    Jay, you sure can!

  • Jay from Staford

    Posted on 1/30/2017

    Can I view the Google Maps app while listening to the FM radio?

  • Frank from smithfield

    Posted on 11/25/2016

    Just purchased and installed Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX . Everthing worked except android auto. When It didnt I purchased the pioneer CD-AH200 cable kit. Still no luck. upgraded firmware on head unit and phone (GalaxyS7 VRZN OS Marshmallow 6.01) No luck there. Called Crutchfield support was told it could possibly be the OS. Removed radio, checked all connections, tried different usb cables, Still no luck. Finally today, after reading internet posts I tried the Samsung charging cable hooked to usb cable coming from radio. It worked! went around house and found an old Blackberry cable , it worked! Retried the pioneer cable and a couple of others of a thicker gauge, still didn't work. My thought that all cables were alike was totally wrong. All usb (M/F)extension cables coming from head unit were fine.It was the cable from extension to phone which has issues .All the thinner gauge USB -Mini USB worked. Thicker cables did not. Go figure. I hope this helps others.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/15/2016

    Stephen, I've reviewed the links in the article and they still point to car stereos with Android Auto. Additionally, at any point, when shopping for car stereos you can filter your search for Android Auto using the options on the left rail of the page. Hopefully, you'll find this helpful, but if you'd like to speak to an advisor regarding Android Auto choices, please give us a call.

  • Stephen from York

    Posted on 11/14/2016

    Your links no longer point to stereos with Android Auto. That would be helpful. It would also be helpful if in your search criteria this was an option too. I used to be a big supporter of Crutchfield but starting to look elsewhere.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/11/2016

    Jim, give us a call. Since you bought your gear with us, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system.

  • JIm from Poughkeepsie, NY

    Posted on 11/8/2016

    Why are these units so cable sensitive? I am installing an NEX 4200 Pioneer from you and trying to incorporate dash mounted, OEM looking USB ports, yet consistently have difficulties. I tried your PAC extensions and bought 2, one for Android Auto and the other for my wife's Apple Car Play. Most oddly, one worked part way during my Android test using the Android USB output on the back (I got a partial screen and icons), while the other had icons and only a black screen. In short, why is this so difficult? Its a CABLE, not a super computer!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/11/2016

    Jeff, thanks for your comment. We've updated the links you mentioned to point to car stereos with Android Auto.

  • Jeff Lentz from Atlanta

    Posted on 10/7/2016

    It would be helpful if the links in your article returned the radios that actually are Android Auto compatible, rather than just "all radios". Limiting searches to just Android Auto radios is tough. Also, be careful recommending a lengthy USB cable. I've tried using a 10 foot cable with a rental car and the Android Auto would lose connection a lot. Use the shortest, best USB cable you can get.

  • Bryan from Baltimore, MD

    Posted on 8/18/2016

    Go on Google Play Store and download the free AutoMate app. It is a clone of Android Auto and you can use your phone as the touchscreen and your car's bluetooth for the audio.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/11/2016

    Nessy, there's nothing quite like you're describing, but perhaps your simplest solution is to invest in one of our phone mounts and connect your phone or tablet to your factory stereo via Bluetooth. We have a wide variety of mounts for a wide variety of in-car application. I use a magicMOUNT mount in my car and find it indispensible.

  • Nessy from Levittown, NY

    Posted on 5/10/2016

    I;m new to this. My husband just got a new Honda 2016 Sport, but he went with the base model that does not have android auto compatibility. I see everywhere that its possible to just install a compatible radio (I have a compatible android phone too) and with a little work, you can have a car with major updates. However, are there any model of radios that can be used more like a tablet or non-installation required? I ask because the new car is a lease, and Im not sure (i doubt it in fact) that I can mess around with a leased car by ripping out the radio and installing my own. So I was wondering if there are any models I could use android auto on while in the car that does not have to be physically installed as a radio? Thanks so much!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/9/2016

    Jen, the actual loading of the firmware may take less than ten minutes, but it's very possible that the input that needs to be accessed for the update may be at the rear of the receiver. In that case, it may be necessary to disassemble your vehicle's dash (and reassemble it). It sounds like the dealership is making sure to quote you a reasonable amount of time to get the job done (depending on their workload).

  • Jen from Brick, NJ

    Posted on 5/6/2016

    How long does it take to update the firmware? I purchased a car that has to have android auto updated & was told it would take a few minutes but when I went to the dealer they said it's at least 2 hours. Thanks!

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