How to Get the Most Out of Android Auto

Android Auto brings a familiar smartphone interface and app ecosystem right into the car; here are a few tricks to know.

Ford Expedition infotainment systemAustin Lott | Capital One

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Almost every new vehicle supports Android Auto, a smartphone-powered interface for your vehicle’s infotainment screen. Connect your phone to the car with a USB cable or wirelessly, and you gain access to several familiar apps, not to mention the Google Assistant, via your car’s main screen.

Here’s what you need to know to get started with Android Auto.


To use Android Auto in your car, you need a smartphone running the Android operating system. With just a few exceptions, any device without the Apple logo on the back should work.

Beyond that, there are slight differences between Android Auto functionality based on the version of Android running on the phone. Older phones running Android 9 or lower will need to download the Android Auto app from the Google Play store to use Android Auto. Newer devices running Android 10 or higher have the app built-in.

Furthermore, owners of older cars without Android Auto support can still get some functionality. The smartphone will run the Android Auto app just like any other app, but with an interface that works in place of a car's audio head unit—perfect for a phone mount. Newer devices feature the Google Assistant Driving mode interface instead.

Android Auto is free, though you may have to pay one-time or recurring fees for some apps. Android Auto relies on your phone's mobile data connection to work correctly.


Some apps are designed to work great with Android Auto. Download them to your phone through the Google Play Store, and they'll appear when you get into your car.

While Google Maps can provide excellent navigation directions, users after the fastest or safest route may want to download the Waze app, which features user-generated reports of traffic, police speed radars, potholes, road closures, and more.

There's Spotify or Pandora for music, especially if you have a subscription to those services. For radio, there's iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Those looking for podcasts and audiobooks should try Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, and Audible. There's also Overdrive to access and play audiobooks from your library subscription.

Android Auto also supports several messaging services and will read out incoming messages and allow you to respond via voice dictation. Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp are all supported, as is your phone's SMS app.

Voice Commands

Android Auto features the Google Assistant, meaning it responds to voice commands. You must prompt it to listen to you by pressing the microphone on the screen, pressing a voice recognition button on your steering wheel, or just saying, “Hey Google.”

Some common commands are:

"What's the forecast?" or "Call" or "Text [contact name]."

You can even specify a service with,

"Send a [Whatsapp, Messenger, Telegram] message to [contact name]."

To get around, you can say:

"Directions to" or "Navigate to [destination]."

Or for media say:

"Play music" or "Play music on [Spotify, Pandora, etc.]."

Pick a playlist by saying:

"Play Easy Rock on Spotify" or "Play playlist Coffee House on Spotify."

Or if you want some fun, try saying:

"Play Lucky Trivia" or "Tell me a riddle."

A good rule of thumb for users familiar with the Google Assistant, or Home ecosystem, is if the command works on the phone or speaker, it will likely work on Android Auto.

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Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad is an award-winning automotive journalist who has contributed to several automotive, electric vehicle, luxury lifestyle, and technology publications. His work isn't just limited to the written word, as he's also hosted YouTube videos and podcasts. Having grown up in the '90s, he has a strong sense of attachment to that era's style, though he also loves to geek out about the modern, futuristic tech and powertrains rolling out today.