Android Auto vs. Android Automotive: what’s the difference?

Back then, the best you could get from an infotainment system was a cassette player, radio, CD player or MP3 player and, if you were lucky, GPS navigation.

Now technology has advanced and you can use Android Auto or Android Automotive to receive hands-free phone calls, text messages, weather updates, traffic updates and GPS directions with voice guidance through your system. car infotainment. Even better, you can watch YouTube videos, stream music or even Netflix in your car. But the question is, should you choose Android Auto or Android Automotive?

What is Android Auto?

Android Auto is an app from Google that mirrors your Android smartphone to your car’s infotainment system. If Android Auto is installed on your smartphone, you can connect it to your vehicle’s screen using a USB cable.

However, your vehicle and stereo must be compatible with Android Auto for this to work. If you want to confirm, Android has an updated list cars and stereos compatible with Android Auto.

What about smartphone compatibility? According Google Support, any smartphone or tablet with Android 6 or later can run the latest version of Android Auto, but you need a data plan. Also, starting with Android 12, Google is replacing Android Auto with Google Assistant driving mode.

Alternatively, you can pair Android Auto to your vehicle’s infotainment system wirelessly via Bluetooth and 5GHz Wi-Fi. Unlike the USB connection, you need a smartphone with Android 11 or higher to connect Android Auto wirelessly. The only exception is if you have:

  • A Samsung or Google smartphone with Android 10.
  • Any Samsung Galaxy Note 8, S8 or S8+ running Android 9.

Of course, your vehicle must also be compatible with Android Auto Wireless. The wireless option is only available for 2020 car models and beyond, but if you drive a BMW, it’s available in 2019 models. If you’re unfamiliar, we’ve shown you how to use it. Android Auto Wireless.

What is Android Auto?

Android Automotive is pre-installed on your vehicle’s central unit. It works independently on your vehicle and you don’t need an Android smartphone to operate it. But Android Automotive is based on the same open-source operating system you can find on any Android device.

According to Google, Android Automotive is integrated into the car by car manufacturers. So you can’t just buy an Android tablet, put it on your car’s dashboard and call it “Android Automotive”. Since its announcement by Google in 2017, most cars with an integrated Android Automotive interface are 2021 models and beyond. Some notable automakers that sell their vehicles with Android Automotive include Ford, GM, Volvo, Renault, Rivian, and Lucid Motors.

Automakers supporting Android Automotive can choose to customize it with GAS (Google Automotive Services) or without. If an Android Automotive infotainment system has integrated GAS, you can install third-party apps available from Google Play Store.

On the other hand, if your Android Automotive infotainment system is not GAS-based, you can only install third-party apps that have been preloaded or approved by the car manufacturer. A good example is Stellantis’ infotainment system, which is built on Android Automotive OS but doesn’t integrate with Google Maps or Google Assistant. Instead, it uses TomTom and Alexa navigation.

Android Auto vs. Android Automotive: Which is better?

Android Auto and Android Automotive are premium infotainment options that make driving easier. However, Android Automotive is designed to control your vehicle’s settings, such as the climate control system, audio features, and door locks. You can easily talk to your Android Automotive interface and say “Hey, I’m freezing”, and it will control the air conditioning settings to make it warm.

But Android Auto is limited to basic functions that are not built into the car’s system, such as hands-free calling, weather updates, music playback or navigation. Similarly, Android Automotive includes the same features but with better precision. For example, if you drive an electric vehicle, Android Automotive will provide GPS directions and accurately calculate how long until your battery charge is depleted.

Also, you can avoid draining your smartphone battery if you are using Android Automotive. Not to mention that most infotainment systems that use Android Automotive OS can support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Here is a guide if you want to know more about Apple CarPlay.

On the other hand, very few car models are currently sold with an Android Automotive infotainment system. We can’t say the same about Android Auto as more than 500 car models can now support Android Auto. Even if your car’s head unit is not compatible with Android Auto, you can replace it with an aftermarket stereo that supports it.

According car parts, it should cost you between $200 and $600 to integrate Android Auto into your car if it is not compatible. Still, you should make sure that the Android Auto-compatible aftermarket stereo can fit in your car’s dashboard before you buy it. Even though incompatible, there are plenty of other ways to connect your Android phone to your car stereo.

What is the future of Android Auto and Android Automotive?

The world’s largest automakers have joined the Open Automotive Alliance and pledged to integrate the Android platform into their vehicles. That means Android Auto and Android Automotive aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

However, Android Automotive is less popular than Android Auto despite its advantages. We think that’s about to change as more cars will be sold with Android Automotive head units in the coming years. It also gives automakers an edge since they can customize the interface without relying on Google apps, which could be a good thing for privacy.

Again, the Android Auto and Google Assistant driving modes are cheaper and easily accessible since most people have an Android smartphone.

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