After Kia, Hyundai, Chevrolet and other backers, the Android Auto VW partnership means a new beginning for the “connected-car” future. Find more about Android Auto, how to get it right now and the best Android car stereo with this guide.

We’ve come a long way from the good old cassette stereo in the car that is riddled with confusing controls. In a world where all your music is controlled by Spotify and Play Music, car manufacturers are finally stepping up. Most modern auto brands now feature display infotainment units with some degree of smart connectivity. However, there’s simply no better way to enjoy a connected-car environment than with Android Auto.

Navigating through the clunky car stereo display and fumbling to pick up a phone call while driving can be annoying. More than just a nuisance, a distractive interface adds to road traffic accidents, which is why Google has stepped in. Released all the way back in 2014, Android Auto did not find wide-spread acceptance as car manufacturers weren’t too keen on adding third-party software to their cars.

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However, as new emerging partnerships of Android Auto VW, Chevrolet, Kia and many others emerge, Android car stereo is a reality you cannot deny anymore.

What can Android Auto do?

The proprietary hardware and software that car manufacturers build for the infotainment system are never uniform. In lieu of limiting the distracting aspects of a display screen on your dashboard, the features are strictly reduced. It doesn’t help when you’re trying to juggle between your smartphone to check for messages and phone calls when driving.

This is the very reason Android Auto has been developed, bringing you the best of Android without the distracting elements. From offering the best in on-road navigation to giving you access to the best audio entertainment apps, Android Auto can do it all.

Navigation via Google Maps

First and foremost, Android Auto comes with Google Maps integration, which is miles ahead of most navigation software for cars. Offering you a user-interface that is built for your car’s dashboard, Google Maps offers step-by-step directions with voice support.

You’ll never have to type in the destination address for your home, workplace, or even places that you regularly visit. From automatically detecting low-traffic routes to giving you seamless connectivity with the Google Maps on your Android device, Android Auto brings you the best navigation software in the business.

Communication is safer and easier

Since Android Auto is essentially a souped-up version of your mobile OS, you get all the communication features with it. As soon as you receive a text message on your phone, you can read it on your dashboard display, or even have it read out loud to you.

Making and receiving calls is made easier, where you can simply place a call by saying “OK Google, call Amanda”. Apart from being intuitive, these features are designed to make the driving experience a lot less distracting.

Apps for entertainment

Millions of apps are what make Android OS enjoyable, and Google has brought the same idea to its connected-car platform. While your Android Auto VW car won’t be the center for YouTube entertainment, Google has approved a set of apps that make for an entertaining and safe driving experience.

There are over 50 different apps available for the Android Auto platform right now, and the number keeps growing. Google has a strict policy for the apps you can use with your Android car stereo, with road-safety in mind. However, you still get a ton of entertaining apps like Spotify and Audible, along with smart navigation apps like Waze.

Why Android car stereo is the future

While the Android Auto VW partnership and many other car manufacturers that have joined the band is a big deal, it’s not the only fish in the sea. Apple released its CarPlay platform almost at the same time as Android Auto, and many car manufacturers have joined them. But what makes Android Auto the future of car stereo systems is Google Assistant.

We reported at every step of CES 2018 how Google is waging war with other smart assistants like Amazon Alexa. Google used the event to highlight the future of Android Auto, by revealing two major inclusions to the connected-car platform.

Android Auto goes wireless

The concept of how Android Auto works is quite similar to Google Chromecast since you need a supported Android device. Google has made sure that every device running Android 5.0 Lollipop comes with built-in Android Auto support. However, you still need to wire your smartphone to the Android car stereo for Android Auto to work.

Android car stereo systems revealed at CES 2018 by Sony, Pioneer and JVC demonstrate how standalone Android Auto would work. The Android car stereo would have its own Wi-Fi network that you’d use to connect your Android device too. Once you launch Android Auto on your phone, the stereo would automatically launch and use your mobile network seamlessly.

Google Assistant + Android Auto = Awesome

If having a voice-activated assistant makes sense on your speaker, then why wouldn’t it in your car to stay hands-free? The company plans to deploy Google Assistant on multiple platforms, but one game-changing area could be Android car stereo systems. While you already have a bunch of voice commands available on Android Auto, Google Assistant is a whole lot smarter.

Apart from simply making phone calls and responding to messages, Google Assistant on Android Auto opens up a new dimension. A simple “Hey Google” lets you find places to eat at, listen to reminders, listen to news and weather updates. For the IoT aficionados, the implantation of Google Assistant with your Android car stereo also opens up the window of possibility for smart home controls. This means you could be controlling the thermostats and switching off lights right from your Android Auto-enabled car soon.

What cars support Android Auto?

Since car manufacturers were rushing to push their proprietary car stereo software ahead, Android Auto did not find widespread acceptance. Three years after its initial release, Android Auto VW partnership is now followed by several big names in the industry. As of today, Android Auto is supported by more than 60 car manufacturers and hundreds of models.

If you’re in the market for a new car and wondering if you’ll get Android Auto support with it, there’s a way to find out. Head over to the official Android Auto website, where an updated list of all supported brands and models is listed. The list not only includes newly launched automobiles but a ton of older models which have been updated by the manufacturers to support Android Auto.

However, the only major car manufacturer that continues to shoot down the idea of Android Auto is Toyota. The Japanese car brand insists on pushing out its own proprietary software in lieu of privacy and security. So if you own a Toyota or any older car that is incompatible with Android Auto, an aftermarket Android car stereo is your only hope.

Best Android car stereo for your daily driver

Android Auto is the future of car infotainment and there’s no denying it. But just because your GMC Sierra from 2006 doesn’t come with Android Auto support, should you give it up? Fortunately, the inherently flexible nature of Android OS allows you to bring its connected-car platform to any vehicle.

To support the idea of bringing present-day infotainment to older vehicles, a number of big names in the tech industry are backing Android car stereo systems. We’ve cherry-picked the best of the best Android Auto powered in-dash car stereo receivers out there, so you can get the futuristic connected-car tech on your old and faithful ride.

1. Sony XAV-AX100   

Touting a beautiful 6.4” display screen with multi-touch controls, Sony has built the XAV-AX100 Bluetooth stereo media receiver with perfection. Built with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well, a simple connection to your phone via USB cable turns your vehicle into the smart car with entertainment tech that is built for safety.

With best-in-class hardware for voice recognition and powerful 4 x 55 W amplification combines to give you a unique experience. Doing what Sony is known for, the 10-band equalizer helps you fine-tune the sound settings to your liking. With additional features like rear camera support and ergonomic controls, this Android car stereo makes up for a distraction-free driving.

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2. Pioneer AVH-2300NEX

A part of its NEX (networked entertainment experience) series, Pioneer AVH-2300NEX comes with a cutting-edge interface and some stunning features. Packed with a massive 7” WVGA display screen, the system comes with built-in Bluetooth support and native compatibility for additional hardware such as SiriusXM and AppRadio for some added entertainment on the go.

However, what puts this Android car stereo over the fence is its phenomenal audio quality for hands-free navigation and communication. While the display might not be a Full-HD panel, features like auto-dimming and responsive touch make up for it. Users suggested that non-technical users might need some help to set up the Pioneer AVH-2300NEX, so make sure you get a professional to look it up.

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3. JVC KW-V830BT

Another big player in the car audio industry, JVC brings the power of Android Auto to your older car with the JVC KW-V830BT in-dash unit. Packed with a lavish 6.8” LCD display panel and minimal physical buttons, the stereo system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay natively.

Apart from playing videos and audio files in multiple formats by default, you can also plug in external music players directly into the KW-V830BT. With a powerful 50W peak power and 4x channel support, the extended support for services like SiriusXM Satellite Radio makes this Android car stereo from JVC worth every penny.

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4. Pumpkin Android car stereo

It might not be the most recognizable brand in car audio accessories, but this Android car stereo is surely one-of-a-kind. The Pumpkin Android car stereo, unlike its competitors, does not harness the power of Android Auto from your smartphone. Instead, the entire Android 7.1.1 Nougat OS is built right into the media car stereo, so it acts as a standalone accessory.

The 7” display comes with a decent 1024×600 resolution which is capable of running the entire Android OS. You can simply connect Pumpkin Android car stereo to your phone via Wi-Fi and install the Android Auto app on the car stereo itself. Unlike other Android Auto powered car stereo systems on the list, you’re not limited to just a few dozen apps, as you have the entire Google Play Store at your disposal.

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Do you already own an Android Auto-enabled vehicle or upgrading the stereo for a connected-car experience? In your opinion, what more features could Google bring to its Android car stereo platform to improve it even further? Make your voice heard in the comments section down below, or start an entirely new conversation on the Updato Forum.

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