Android Auto overrides your car’s native infotainment system with a familiar, smartphone-like interface. It’s easy to set up and straightforward to use, but you’ll want to add third-party Android Auto-compatible apps to get the best experience.
Android Auto is a controller for your Android phone that makes it easier and safer to use while you’re driving. Android Auto apps are available for devices running Android 6 through Android 11. Beginning with Android 12, Google no longer supports the Android Auto app. People with Android 12 or later should use Google Assistant Driving Mode where the familiar “Hey Google” can get you started finding routes, playing songs, or checking the weather.
Here are the best Android Auto apps.
When it comes to musical quality, Tidal isn’t fooling around. The Android version of Tidal, the artist-owned music subscription app, works on hundreds of cars that support Android Auto, as well as third-party head units and Auto’s own phone interface. The Tidal global music and video streaming platform seeks to bring artists and fans together via exclusive artistic content. With Tidal, you can stream songs, discover new music, and download tracks and music videos to listen to or watch offline. Create your own playlist or use one of Tidal’s, curated by music editors and artists. Use the app to listen to whatever hi-fi album, playlist, or radio station you have on repeat and stream music with no interruptions. New rules for the Play Store prohibit signing up for paid plans in the app. Visit tidal.com to start a free trial and view the various paid plan options — then return to the app to start listening.
There’s a reason why radio is so strongly associated with driving, and that’s because you can’t spend time picking your next tune. Pandora is perhaps the top music streaming service for personalized music radio that learns as you listen, continually serving up better recommendations as you listen more. Unlike traditional radio, you can skip songs you’re not interested in — though the number of skips available is limited on free accounts. You can remove limitations on skips and replays, as well as ads, for just $5 a month, and you can also turn Pandora into a Spotify-style on-demand streaming service for $10 a month. The app also features podcasts, where you can discover your favorite podcast or get personalized recommendations based on your listening habits.
If you’re the type to keep your ear to the ground while on the road, Scanner Radio is happy to oblige, offering up live audio from over 7,000 fire and police scanners, weather radios, radio repeaters, air traffic, and marine radios all over the planet. You can turn on notifications for alerts any time a scanner hits more than 2,000 listeners, ensuring you’re in on the latest major events. Also, you can check in with the scanners nearest to your location, view the top 50, and browse the directory by information genre. You’re always up to the minute and in the know with Scanner Radio. A paid version for $3 removes the ads. The newest version has been updated for Android 10.
Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean you’ve left the world behind — it’s usually quite the opposite. If you can’t abide miles of commercials, jingles, product hawking, and mindless chatter, you can stay connected to what matters with NPR One. You get the latest local, regional, national, and international news in a cohesive, curated narrative flow. With NPR One, it’s not a one-way street: You can skip stories you’re not interested in, and the app knows not to present that genre to you again. Likewise, a light tap on the light bulb tells the app to give you more of that kind of story. While on the go, you can skip, pause, and search without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
This popular messaging app gives drivers a hands-free way of receiving and sending messages. When used in conjunction with Android Auto, you can tap on the message as it appears on your car’s display, then use your voice to draft and send replies. If you’re using GPS or another app at the time, messages will appear in the top third of your display, so you can craft your response without switching app screens and potentially missing your turn. The app supports call waiting, so you can choose to accept an incoming call while you’re on another call. Group voice calls now support up to 32 participants, and include an updated interface. Privacy settings let you control who can add you to groups.
Any music associated with your Amazon account — be it in the cloud, music you’ve uploaded to the service, or songs on your phone — will all be available when you decide to use Amazon Music with Android Auto, alongside features like Prime Stations. Voice commands are also available for hands-free use, meaning you can say “OK, Google” followed by a phrase like “Play Call Me Maybe on Amazon Music.” It supports free streaming music, so you can listen to top playlists and thousands of radio stations for free. All Amazon purchases are stored for free in the Amazon cloud.
Your local library — not to mention some 40,000 libraries worldwide — is always at your fingertips with OverDrive, and you can read as many books as you want for free. While you can borrow e-books, audiobooks, and streaming video from your library using OverDrive on your Android device, the audiobook functionality comes in especially handy while you’re driving. With OverDrive, you’re never too late to check out a book, place a hold, or worry about getting the books back on time. The app takes care of that. All you need is a valid account with a participating library, school, or other institution. Each library builds its own title collection. Contact them to let them know that you’re using OverDrive and to share any suggestions for new books you would like.
Spotify is the largest music streaming service in the world, and with its connection to Android Auto, you have access to Spotify’s massive database of available songs, albums, and artists. If you’re not subscribed, you can still access music streaming for free with ads. If you want to download your songs for use in places without mobile data, or if you’re on a limited data package, then you’ll need a Spotify Premium subscription for $10 a month. Our guide helps you get a discount. Getting set up with Android Auto is easy — just plug your phone in and you’re good to go. Spotify is constantly updating the app for smooth functionality.
There are many other messaging options, but if you’re already using Meta (formerly Facebook) Messenger to keep in touch with friends and family, then you don’t want to change just because you’ve gotten into your car. If you have Messenger on your phone, then any incoming messages you receive will be sent to your Android Auto (if active), so you can keep up with everything. You can also have Android Auto read your messages out loud, and you can tap a large button to send a pre-typed “I’m driving right now” message in reply to any of your messages. It’s simple integration, but it’s certainly welcome for driving when you want as few distractions as possible.
You can get all sorts of useful real-time information about the road ahead from the active community on Waze. The app offers turn-by-turn directions, reroutes you based on traffic, and alerts you about accidents, hazards, and police locations. You can also use it to share your ETA and progress with friends and family, which is ideal when you’re meeting up somewhere. Throw in info on points of interest, the best gas prices nearby, and Facebook integration, and you have one of the best navigation apps around.
YouTube Music is the successor to Google Play Music, a service Google shut down in 2020. YouTube Music’s integration with Android Audio lets you listen to and control your music while driving. You can use the same familiar voice commands you use on your Android phone for a truly hands-free experience. If you want to hear a particular song, artist, or genre, all you need to do is ask. By using your car’s display to navigate the app, you’ll be able to see music recommendations, recent plays, and mixes based on artists and songs you’ve listened to previously. The service carries more than 70 million official songs, including live performances, covers, remixes, and music content you can’t find elsewhere. It’s compatible with Google Maps, Waze, Google Assistant, and more.
Your daily commute can be a great time to catch up on all your favorite podcasts. Pocket Casts, which is fully compatible with Android Auto, is one of the best podcast apps available to Android users. When paired with the Android Auto UI, you’ll have access to play/pause and back/forward controls. You can also browse for new podcasts, set filters, and take advantage of previously-made Up Next queues. You’ll have to prepare these playlists before you launch Android Auto, however, so you may still need to fiddle with your phone before hitting the road.
Instead of relying on satellite radio or Spotify playlists, listening to an audiobook can make you feel productive when you’re on a long road trip. Amazon’s Audible has thousands of audiobooks to choose from, ranging from bestsellers to nonfiction to books the whole family will enjoy. When using the Audible app, you can change the narrator’s reading speed, skip ahead or back by entire chapters, and briefly replay the last few lines of text that were read so you can be sure you didn’t miss anything important. Another benefit of the Android Auto app is that you can directly access the Audible store from your car’s dashboard, so you don’t have to stop and fumble for a device to get your next book. You can review your wishlist, check on the latest bestsellers, and browse genre-specific categories, all without having to use your phone.
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