Officially, Android Auto is still not available in the Netherlands. However, that does not alter the fact that there are already many users of the special software for the car. But how does Android Auto actually work and what does the future look like? We will tell you all about it.
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Android Auto review 2021: on the road again
Android for in the car to be able to navigate, play music, make calls and to receive and send messages? Then we are of course talking about Android Auto, the software specially developed by Google to use on the go.
This makes your car a lot smarter and more usable, with safety being of paramount importance. Android Auto has been around for years and the Android Planet editors use it regularly. So it was time to write down our experiences and in this Android Auto 2021 review you can read all about it.
What do you need for Android Auto?
To be able to use Android Auto you need three things, starting with a car that has support for this. Not every car has this on board as standard. In general, cars that came on the market from 2015 can handle the Google software.
For example, we have been on the road with two models of Toyota with Android Auto support, such as the Yaris or Rav4 Business Edition, but I also regularly drive cars from other brands with support for Android Auto. Do you want to know if your car can handle this? Take a look at the special website of Google or check this at your car dealer.
The great thing about Android Auto is that it can also be added to your current car later. For this you can go to manufacturers such as Pioneer, JVC and Sony, who offer aftermarket systems that you can install or have installed.
You also need a smartphone with the Android Auto app installed. If you run Android 10 or Android 11 on your device, the app is automatically embedded. If you are still using an older Android version, you will have to get started manually.
Downloading from the Play Store on a device with Android 9.0 (Pie) or lower is not possible, simply because it has to wait until the app officially appears here.
Android Auto – Google Maps, Media & Messaging
Finally, you need a good USB cable to connect the phone to the system. Some cars also already support Android Auto Wireless, the wireless variant, but these can still be counted on one hand.
Have you checked and completed the above steps? Then it’s time to use and discover Android Auto. Just connect your smartphone to the car’s infotainment system and you can get started right away with all the options.
How exactly does Android Auto work?
Android Auto should be seen as a simplified version of Android on your smartphone, where the changed interface immediately stands out. The app icons are large and all control buttons look large. This makes it easier to operate, and it also has to do with Google’s rules for developers.
No fiddling or small print, but a simple interface that you immediately understand how it works. What’s nice is that you can now adjust the home screen yourself in terms of shortcuts. If you always use an app when you get into the car, you pin it somewhere pontifically on the screen. If there are apps that you never use, you don’t even show them. Unfortunately it is not yet possible to change the background.
You can also see a lot of other settings in the app. Think of whether or not to display weather information and whether or not to automatically play media when you get into the car. It is also possible to set whether or not the content of an incoming message is displayed on the screen. All in all, those options allow you to personalize Android Auto to a certain extent.
Google Assistant plays an important role
In addition to operation via the physical touchscreen, the Google Assistant also plays a major role. Thanks to the smart voice assistant you can, for example, easily and quickly navigate to work, home or another location. In addition, you can play music via a command. The voice command “Hey Google? Play music from [artiest] on Spotify ”causes the app to play music from that selected artist or band.
The Assistant is also used to read incoming messages from apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram. However, a bug that has been present for months means that the reading of WhatsApp messages often happens in a mix of English and Dutch, which is quite annoying. Several Google forums are full of this, as are numerous websites that write about it and our editorial inbox is also flooded with similar experiences.
To date it still affects most of the people and here too, which is why I have disabled the feature at the moment. Finally, you can also use Google Assistant to dictate messages and then send them. This way you don’t have to type anything on the onscreen keyboard and driving remains a lot safer.
Useful apps for Android Auto
The apps that you have on your phone (unfortunately) do not all work in combination with Android Auto. As said, this has to do with rules drawn up by Google and developers who have to prepare their apps for this. For example, you cannot get started with YouTube or Netflix, for example, and games do not work by default, all for security reasons.
Apps for the smart software in the car that do work can be divided into three different categories: navigation, media and communication. Of course everyone has their personal favorites, but below you will find our list of cool and useful apps.
Navigate with Android Auto
Google Maps is a widely used app to navigate and also works with Android Auto. Explanation about Maps is probably not necessary, because it usually works the same as on your smartphone. This way you can navigate to all (un) known places.
Google Maps – Navigate & Explore
Waze can also be used in combination with Android Auto and also from Google itself. With this navigation app, users are even more central. This way you can easily report accidents, road works or inspections, which are immediately visible to other users.
Waze – GPS, Maps, Traffic Alerts & Live Navigation
Android Auto and media apps
One of the most famous apps to play music is and remains Spotify and this service also works in the car. Search for your favorite song, artist or genre or use Google Assistant. Then you navigate in the right direction with some lovely music.
Spotify: Listen to podcasts & find music you love
If you want to enjoy all kinds of (worldwide) radio stations, MyTuner is a handy app. You can get started with the paid version below, but a free version is also available.
myTuner Radio Pro
Appgeneration – Radio, Podcasts, Games
Of course podcasts are also a perfect match for in the car and with Pocket Casts you can listen to all kinds of delicious shows. From short stories on various subjects to longer podcasts: great for when you have a long drive ahead.
Pocket Casts – Podcast Player
Podcast Media LLC
Finally, listening to an audiobook can be a nice combination with a car ride. Audible is from Amazon, offers thousands of audiobooks and therefore something for everyone.
Audible: audiobooks, podcasts & audio stories
Communication apps for Android Auto
WhatsApp is the most popular chat app and also works fully with Android Auto (aside from the long-running read-aloud bug). This way you can still ‘chat’ in the car in a safe way.
Telegram is also a nice app that works in the car and offers the same basic functions as WhatsApp. Playing messages via the Assistant or dictating works the same.
Android Auto in the future
Android Auto will undoubtedly get new functions in the future, just like Android on your smartphone. For example, we have been waiting for the Android Auto 6.0 update, with various pre-selected adjustable backgrounds and shortcuts for the Google Assistant. However, we do not know whether Android Auto can finally be used officially in the Netherlands from that update.
We would like to see more personalization options in the future. Set your own photo as background, for example, or use an iconpack to adjust the entire interface.
Fortunately, Google has now realized that it does not only want to use its own Maps or Waze, but also other navigation apps. For example, you can already get started with a beta of Flitsmeister, but TomTom and Sygic can now also be used in combination with Android Auto.
The successor to Android Auto is already in sight
Although Android Auto is already accessible to many people, there is still a long way to go before it applies to everyone. In addition, its successor is already in sight: Android Automotive. That is a much more extensive version of Android, because that system is completely woven into the car itself.
You can also read sensors such as the level of the batteries or adjust the air conditioning, seat heating or suspension thanks to Android. You will of course also read our experiences with that operating system soon Android Planet.
Conclusion Android Auto in 2021
Android Auto already has a lot to offer in 2021 and a stable basis has already been there for a long time. The software can be used in almost any car and ensures a pleasant and safer way to drive, navigating and consuming media.
However, there is always room for improvement. For example, we are still waiting for official support in the Netherlands and more apps that can work with it. Just like with Android on your smartphone, updates appear regularly that make the system even more attractive.
Despite the fact that Android Automotive is ready as the successor to Android Auto, the accessibility of Android Auto is a big advantage. As far as we are concerned, the availability and affordability ensures that the system will remain on the market for years to come, and we are happy with that.
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