Android Auto for Everyone! (but what can it do???)

Yes, we know that texting and driving is dangerous, but what if you could use your phone in the car without being a danger to other people? That's exactly what Android Auto is designed to do. Google premiered Android Auto a couple of years ago now, but up until recently you needed an Android compatible car. Since few people were willing to go out and buy a new vehicle just to get Android, Google found that they didn't have too many users. However, Google have now opened up Android Auto to everyone, and all you need is the free app, your phone, and your existing car. What can it do? How does it work? We're here to tell you everything you need to know!

Disclaimer: Before we get started, we need to warn you about two things. Android Auto will need a data connection, and since you're unlikely to have WiFi in your car that means using your mobile data plan, which could result in big bills depending on your phone contract. Additionally, anything that distracts you whilst driving can be dangerous. Essentially, Android Auto should be no more risky than changing your radio station, but still, better safe than sorry. Keep your eyes on the road!

What Can Android Auto Do: The Basics

Android Auto has three basic functions (though there are other options, as we'll discuss below). It will give you quick and easy access to Google Maps, your Phone, and your Music. Once you're all set up (which again, we'll discuss below), opening the Android Auto app gives you a screen with three big buttons. These allow you to quickly and easily access Maps (for GPS and step by step directions as you're driving), Phone (to use Bluetooth to answer or make calls), and Music (you can connect to whichever music player you prefer, including things like Google Play Music and Spotify).

The “big button” lay out makes accessing an app as easy as changing the channel on your radio. However, Android Auto does also have voice control using the same Google Assistant found in Google Now. This means that you can answer calls, for example, hands free, which is as safe as it gets.

What Can Android Auto Do: The Extras

There are some added extras though, mostly to do with messaging, whether that's SMS, WhatsApp, Viber, or any other supported messaging system. When your phone receives messages, tapping on the message bubble will allow Android Auto to read you the message. You can then reply using voice commands if you choose to. You'll also get a mute option for messages, so no one can bother you, as well as an auto reply feature, so anyone who messages you will get the automatic answer of “can't talk now, I'm driving.”

Plus, at any time you can hit the little microphone icon in the corner and use that to voice search Google for anything you like, which is pretty convenient. Of course, you'll need to try out all these functions and set them up as you like them BEFORE getting into your car. But functionality is pretty intuitive, and with a bit of practice you should be able to use Android Auto without taking your eyes off the road.

What Do I Need?

In order to run Android Auto you'll need a phone that runs Android 5.0 or above, and the free Android Auto app. You'll also want a mount so that you can mount your phone in your car where it's easily accessible (making it faster and safer to press buttons), and you'll need some kind of Bluetooth device (unless your car has built in Bluetooth). Other than that, you should be good to go. Android Auto should function with all but the oldest of vehicles, though having a decent stereo system and speakers won't hurt since you'll get better sound quality that way.

Android Auto Set Up

Set up is really easy. Download and open the app and you'll be asked to grant permission for the app to access your phone and messaging services, as well as music services. Grant these permissions and move on to the next step where you'll be asked to register your Bluetooth device. This step will more easily be done inside your car where your phone can get a good connection with your Bluetooth device. And that's pretty much it. As long as your Bluetooth device and Bluetooth phone receiver are switched on, you should be able to mount your phone and open Android Auto when you get into your car and be ready to go. Simple.

If you'd like to customise your Android Auto experience then hit the sidebar that appears on the app and you'll find a Settings menu. This allows you to do things like change the auto reply message to anything you like, as well as limit the amount of data the app can use. Do be aware that constantly streaming music from an online app like Spotify, or using Google Map's step by step spoken directions are both likely to suck down mobile data, so make sure you have a big data limit phone plan! One handy setting is the “Auto Launch” feature, that allows Android Auto to automatically open when it connects to your vehicle's Bluetooth device (so you don't have to do a thing).

Android Auto really is that easy to use. It's convenient, and considering the fact that you won't have to invest in a pricey GPS unit is a money saver too. And ideally, Android Auto should be safe, and it's certainly a lot safer than actually using your phone when driving. So brighten up your morning commute and never get lost on long car trips with Android Auto. After all, it's free, so why not?!

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