To access Google’s Android-in-the-car experience, you’ll need a Pioneer dashboard unit.
If you’re an Android fan who has been waiting for the day that you’d be able to have a similar experience in your car that all your Apple-loving friends can get via the company’s CarPlay platform, your long wait is over. Google announced this that Android Auto has debuted on both smartphones and a few aftermarket dashboard units.
“Starting today, you can get #AndroidAuto in your car with your #Android 5.0+ phone and compatible Pioneer head units. … Stay tuned for more partners coming soon,” Google said in an Android Google+ post.
Android Auto is now available in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. You can check to see if you’re able to install it in your car at Pioneer’s Android Auto page.
To get Android Auto up and running, you’ll need two things. First, you’ll want to grab the official Android Auto companion application for your phone, which is a completely free download for Android users. It’s a completely worthless app unless you have something to pair it to, however; that’s where Pioneer comes into play. Right now, the manufacturer of aftermarket units for your car is the only Google partner who has released Android Auto-friendly devices, and there are three available for purchase today: The Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX, AVIC-7100NEX, and AVH4100NEX.
These units are pricey. The AVH-4100NEX is $700, the AVIC-7100NEX costs $1,200, and the AVIC-8100NEX will set you back $1,400.
The lowest-end version does away with any kind of Pioneer navigation system or GPS for driving around, which should be totally fine, given that you’re likely to just use Google Maps via your paired Android Auto-friendly smartphone instead. The AVIC-7100NEX, Pioneer’s mid-range unit, has a resistive touchscreen (as in, no multi-touch), whereas the AVH-4100NEX bumps that up to a capacitive touchscreen. The latter two devices have the full suite of nav features.
Android Auto, like Apple’s CarPlay, is designed to keep you from having to tap your tiny smartphone screen so much while you’re driving. Instead, a number of your phone’s feature are dumped on a more easy-to-access touchscreen unit within your car’s dashboard—navigation, music, and voice calls, as well as support for popular third-party apps like Spotify, NPR, and MLB.com, to name a few.
Android Auto also supports Google Now, which can give you predictive information like traffic on your commute route, estimated driving times, weather, upcoming appointments you might have, and more.
Unfortunately, those in the market for a brand-new car right now will find that there’s nothing out there that natively supports Android Auto just yet. Hyundai and Honda have both indicated that they’ll be offering Android Auto in various vehicles starting in 2015. And it’s reasonable to assume that other members of the Open Automotive Alliance will invariably follow suit at some point.