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10 things you need to know about Android Auto

Android hits the road in 2015: car manufacturers will be offering Android Auto in many of their new cars, and third party firms will be offering aftermarket systems to bring Android Auto to older cars. But what is it, and why is it exciting? Here are 10 things you need to know about Android Auto.

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Android Auto: it's Android for your car. / © Google

Android Auto is what’s known as a telematics system. That’s a catch-all term that covers the use of technology in cars to monitor their performance, to control them, to work out where they are and so on. In Android Auto’s case it’s a system that turns your Android phone into the centre of your car’s entertainment, navigation and communication systems.

1 It’s all the Android you need

Android Auto looks like a simplified Android, and that’s effectively what it is: at the moment it supports maps, music, telephony, texts and web searching but not, say, Angry Birds. A software development kit will enable developers to create their own Android Auto apps, but they will be limited to music and messaging APIs for the short term at least - so partnerships such as Major League Baseball will probably invoice audio streams and score alerts rather than streaming videos. Which you shouldn’t be watching anyway.

2 Your phone does all the work

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Android Auto is just an interface. Your phone does the heavy lifting. / © Google

Android Auto is really just a way of turning cars into Android phone docks: your phone runs the apps and the in-car screen just acts as a display and input device. Your phone connects via USB and your apps run a car-specific user interface.

3 It’ll probably turn up in your favourite new car

Partners already announced include… deep breath… Abarth, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, RAM, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Volkswagen and Volvo. You’ll have noticed a lack of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Jaguar Land Rover, Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota: they’ve all gone for Apple’s CarPlay instead. Many firms are sitting on the fence and will offer a choice of Android Auto and CarPlay to their customers.

4 It’s designed to keep you loyal to Google

We replace our phones regularly, but we tend to keep our cars for longer - and if you’ve bought an Android Auto car, you’re likely to stick with Android until it’s new-car time. If Google doesn’t make it easy for iPhones to work with Android Auto and Apple keeps CarPlay iPhone-only, the hassle of switching not just phones but entire in-car systems will be immense.

5 Google isn’t just in it for Android

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People's driving data could be a big help for self-driving car projects. / © Google

Remember, Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information - and if it goes everywhere in our cars, that’s an awful lot of additional information it can gobble up. Google will know what people do, where they go, what apps they use and how they drive. That information could be awfully useful if you happened to have a division mapping the world and another developing self-driving cars, couldn’t it?

6 You won’t need to buy a new car

Good news: you won’t need to splash out for an entire car if you want the Android Auto experience. Third party in-car entertainment manufacturers such as Kenwood, Pioneer and Alpine will bring out their own Android Auto devices this year so you can update almost any car - and some of them will work with both Google’s and Apple’s platforms in case you decide to change loyalties a few years down the line.

7 Android Auto isn’t backwards compatible

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To benefit from Google Now-style voice control, you'll need a Lollipop phone. / © Google

If you want Android Auto cars to play nice with your phone, it’ll need to be a fairly recent one: Android Auto is designed to work with phones running Lollipop onwards.

8 Android Auto will be able to use in-car hardware

Android Auto runs on your phone, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to your phone’s hardware. Apps will be able to access the car’s own GPS and GPS antenna (if fitted), steering wheel controls, the sound system, the car’s wheel speed, its compass and any mobile antennas, and there are moves to access car data from the vehicle’s own computer too.

9 Android Auto cars aren’t actually running Android

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Your phone provides the in-car interface for Android Auto to display.  / © Google

In many cases they’ll be running BlackBerry’s QNX, which many car firms have been using for a while. Remember, the Android bit is running on your phone: the operating system that connects it to the car’s own hardware doesn’t really matter.

10 It’ll differ from car to car

Here’s something that could be horrible: manufacturers will be able to change the way Android Auto looks, so for example Volvo has elected to display some of its own buttons and information alongside the Android Auto stuff while other firms may just go with the stock Google design. There’s nothing to stop firms making Android Auto look just as good and work just as well as their own in-house in-car systems. Yes, that last line is sarcastic.

What do you think? Will Android Auto drive your dreams?


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  • Hello, just got off the phone with Honda USA customer service. To my surprise, Android Auto is only available in the 2016 Honda Accord. We have a 2015 LX (so, a still new but base model) with a 7 inch display for the radio and trip computer in the dash (no Navigation). I was shocked to find out that Honda does not offer a backward compatibility software upgrade to make use of that big screen with Android Auto! I was willing to pay for the upgrade, but the customer service had no clue at all!
    Wondering if anyone knows or heard of something about this. Thank you!

  • Bunch of crap this won't work on 2013-2015 cars with touch infotainment systems. If the phones are doing all the work then why not go back to recent model vehicles. Oh and why is Chevy anti Android? Apple loving SOB's.

  • Wong CS Jan 12, 2015 Link to comment

    Adding a new comment to set notification for new cinema

  • Wong CS Jan 12, 2015 Link to comment

    It seems that Android Auto relies almost exclusively on voice input and there no option for keyboard input. What happens if you're unable to get get it to understand the location you need to get to? Is there a fallback to manually key in the location?

  • I'm almost 18 yo and am amazed of how far technology has gone. in 10 years I think self-driving android-auto cars will be the standard. We're getting closer to a fully functional K.I.T.T from Knight Rider :)

  • I don't see Bugatti on the list. I'm fucked : (

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