A guide to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Many new cars on the market include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard within their infotainment systems. The software started to appear in vehicles around six years ago, but despite being around for several years, we’re now receiving more and more calls from AA Members wondering what they’re all about.

Essentially, these systems combine the power of your smartphone by mirroring your device through the infotainment system.

They can be used with a range of useful applications that are installed on your smartphone, and they also allow you to access your phone’s digital assistant to use voice commands while driving.

One of the key benefits for those drivers currently using this software is that you get access to the most up-to-date maps. These are constantly being developed and optimised unlike some older portable GPS units or built-in navigation systems that come with the car. By using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you receive real-time traffic conditions and alternative routes on the fly to ensure you always take the quickest route possible.

Apple CarPlay

To connect, you need an Apple iPhone 5 (or a later model), and the device must be running iOS 7.1 or newer for the app to work.

  • Turn on your car
  • Make sure that Siri is on and your phone is unlocked
  • Connect your iPhone to your car

If your car supports Apple CarPlay, plug your iPhone into the USB port in your car. (The USB port might even be labelled with a CarPlay or generic mobile phone icon).

Your infotainment system should detect and launch the apple CarPlay application automatically, but sometimes your phone may ask you if you wish to connect to apple CarPlay in the first instance.

Once connected, you will have access to Maps for navigation and your music streaming service (Apple Music or Spotify). You can also receive messages or dictate messages to send and make hands-free calls via your infotainment system, and much more. Other third-party applications are also compatible.

It’s important to keep your phone up-to-date to get the most out of Apple CarPlay. Newer models may also support wireless connections, giving you the same features without requiring a USB connection to operate.

Android Auto

Android Auto is very similar, and is essentially Google’s version of Apple CarPlay. Launching around five years ago, it too has continued to evolve to adapt to the latest technology.

Unlike Apple, there is no guarantee that your device will have Android Auto pre-installed unless your device is running Android 10 or higher, which has the application built in.

Any phone running Android 5.0 or higher can run Android Auto, so again, you don’t need the latest and greatest device to use it – it might just need to be downloaded from the Google Play store if you can’t find it on your phone.

Similarly, in some instances, Android Auto can be connected wirelessly to some vehicles equipped with the technology. Just to be on the safe side, having a spare USB charger is advisable.

Here are the common steps you should follow for a wired connection.

  • Turn on your car
  • Unlock your phone’s screen
  • Launch the Android Auto application
  • Plug your phone into the vehicles primary USB port
  • If prompted, download updates and agree to the terms
  • Accept the prompt to turn on notifications
  • Turn on Bluetooth (6.0 Marshmallow and higher will automatically turn on Bluetooth for you when you connect the USB cable)
  • Select Android Auto from the car’s touchscreen and you’re done, (this may launch automatically)

Many manufacturers are now including these systems for familiarity purposes. Smartphones have been part of everyday life for years now, and the layout of these two systems is effectively a landscape version of our phones. They’re easy to use and to navigate, with the added luxury of voice activation features to maximise safety.

One of the downsides of these systems is that your phone will be using data whilst in operation. So be mindful of this if you have a plan with limited data, especially if you like to stream your music.

While these systems can be operated hands-free, please ensure you’re careful and maintain maximum concentration on the road when driving.

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