Set up An­droid Auto in any car

Skip the ex­pen­sive in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. An An­droid phone and a few ac­ces­sories will do just fine, writes JARED NEW­MAN

Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

An­droid Auto will work in any car, even an older car. All you need is the right ac­ces­sories—and a smartphone run­ning An­droid 5.0 (Lol­lipop) or higher (An­droid 6.0 is better), with a de­cent-sized screen. Add a few handy apps and phone set­tings, and you can make your smartphone ver­sion of An­droid Auto just about as good as the dash­board ver­sion.

An­droid Auto wasn’t al­ways this easy. When it de­buted in 2015, you needed ei­ther a new car or pricey af­ter­mar­ket hard­ware to run Google’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem of the future. Google brought a stand­alone An­droid Auto app to smart­phones the fol­low­ing year, al­low­ing any­one with an An­droid phone to use the sim­pli­fied menu sys­tem for mu­sic, nav­i­ga­tion, phone calls, and mes­sages. More re­cently, An­droid Auto added sup­port for Google As­sis­tant and all the same voice com­mands you’d use with a Google Home speaker.

Step 1: Get a car phone mount

Us­ing An­droid Auto on your phone makes sense only if you can glance at the screen with­out los­ing sight of the road. Car mounts for this pur­pose cost around £20, and can at­tach to your phone’s dash­board, wind­screen, CD player, or air vent.

In my case, I used a Br­effo Spi­der­podium Tablet (£24.99 from, whose bend­able arms fit snugly into my Nis­san’s air vents. The re­main­ing four arms cra­dle my Pixel 2 XL se­curely when it’s in­serted from above.

Step 2: Add Blue­tooth to your car

Un­less your phone needs charg­ing, you shouldn’t have to mess around with ca­bles ev­ery time you get in the car. Con­nect­ing your car to Blue­tooth re­moves the ex­tra bit of fric­tion that might stop you from lis­ten­ing to mu­sic or ask­ing for di­rec­tions.

If your car al­ready has Blue­tooth built in, you’re in great shape. Just pair your phone through the car’s

in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, and pro­ceed to the next step. Oth­er­wise, you’ll need some ex­tra hard­ware to add Blue­tooth to your car.

For cars with an aux­il­iary 3.5mm au­dio in­put, Blue­tooth re­ceivers are avail­able for cheap. Mpow sells its Blue­tooth Re­ceiver (£9.79 at though you may want to splurge for the Blue­tooth 4.1 Re­ceiver, which has a ded­i­cated on-off switch. (The cheaper model re­quires you to press and hold a but­ton to power it on, which is slightly less con­ve­nient.)

The re­ceiver has a built-in bat­tery, but you’re better off keep­ing them con­nected to a car charger. RAV Power’s tiny dual-USB car charger costs just £6.99

at, and it al­lows you to charge the Blue­tooth re­ceiver via any Mi­cro-USB cable. Use the sec­ond slot to charge your phone on long trips.

Don’t have aux­il­iary in­put? You can still use a Blue­tooth FM trans­mit­ter, which grabs au­dio from your phone and cre­ates a short-range broad­cast for your car ra­dio. The most pop­u­lar pick on Ama­zon is the Blue­tooth Trans­mit­ter from VicTs­ing (£15.90 at, which has a dial for quickly select­ing an open ra­dio fre­quency. The car charger also has a spare USB slot in case your phone needs a boost.

Step 3: Au­to­mate An­droid Auto

Once you’ve got a Blue­tooth so­lu­tion and paired it to your phone, in­stall the An­droid Auto app from the Google Play Store. But don’t stop here. The real magic hap­pens when you cre­ate a rule to launch An­droid Auto when it con­nects to the car via Blue­tooth.

Launch the An­droid Auto app, then press the menu but­ton in the top-left corner and se­lect Set­tings. Scroll down and se­lect Au­to­launch, then flip on the tog­gles for Au­to­launch and your car’s Blue­tooth con­nec­tion. You may also turn on pocket de­tec­tion so the app doesn’t launch pre­ma­turely.

To make your phone feel a bit more like an ac­tual in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, you can run An­droid Auto in land­scape mode. Be­cause I nor­mally keep my phone locked in por­trait mode, I used a pop­u­lar app called Tasker (£2.99 at to au­to­mate the screen ori­en­ta­tion. Down­load the app, then fol­low th­ese steps:

• Un­der Pro­files, press ‘+’, then press State, then se­lect Net, then se­lect BT Con­nected.

• Un­der Name, press the mag­ni­fy­ing glass, then se­lect the name of your car’s Blue­tooth de­vice.

• Un­der Ad­dress, press the mag­ni­fy­ing glass, then choose your car’s Blue­tooth de­vice again.

• Press the back but­ton in the top-left corner, then press New Task

• On the Task Edit screen, press ‘+’, then Dis­play. Next, se­lect Dis­play Auto Ro­tate, then se­lect On from the Set menu. Hit the back but­ton in the top-left corner, then press the back but­ton again on the next screen.

Your phone will now au­to­mat­i­cally dis­able ro­ta­tion lock when it’s con­nected to the car. When the con­nec­tion ter­mi­nates, it’ll re­turn to por­trait-only mode and exit the An­droid Auto app.

Fi­nally, you can pre­vent the phone from feed­ing au­dio to the car at low vol­umes with the free Blue­tooth Vol­ume Con­trol app. Af­ter down­load­ing the app, add your car’s Blue­tooth with the ‘+’ but­ton, and set the vol­ume to 100 per­cent.

Step 4: Get comfy with An­droid Auto

An­droid Auto is a spe­cial ver­sion of the An­droid in­ter­face, with larger but­tons, sim­pli­fied menu items, and fewer dis­trac­tions. The head­phone icon pro­vides quick ac­cess to com­pat­i­ble mu­sic apps such as Pan­dora and Spo­tify, the nav­i­ga­tion icon pro­vides di­rec­tions from Google Maps (or Waze, if you’ve in­stalled it), and the phone but­ton lets you place calls.

In many cases, though, it’s eas­ier to use voice com­mands. Hit the mi­cro­phone icon or say “Hey

Google”, then ask for mu­sic, di­rec­tions, a phone call, or a text mes­sage. This works with all Google As­sis­tant ac­tions, so you can even dic­tate to-do list items, add calendar ap­point­ments, and turn down the ther­mo­stat at home.

One more thing: To curb dis­tracted driv­ing, An­droid Auto hides all no­ti­fi­ca­tions ex­cept phone calls and texts from sup­ported mes­sag­ing apps. For the lat­ter, Google will only of­fer to speak the mes­sage in­stead of showing it on screen. You can then re­spond by voice or with a canned mes­sage, cre­ated through the Set­tings menu. (By de­fault, it’s ‘I’m driv­ing right now’.)

When you’re fin­ished driv­ing, An­droid Auto should rec­og­nize that the Blue­tooth con­nec­tion has ter­mi­nated and will exit the app au­to­mat­i­cally. But if not, tap the cir­cle icon, then press Exit to re­turn to your reg­u­lar phone in­ter­face. Fi­nally, don’t for­get to take your phone with you.

Mpow’s re­ceiver adds Blue­tooth to any car with aux­il­iary in­put

Mu­sic, di­rec­tions, and calls are just a “Hey Google” voice com­mand away

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