The best phone to use with Android Auto

A lot of phones cross my path every month. OK, often every week. Occasionally more than one a day. And that means they also at some point end up in my car. And in my car I have a head unit that supports Android Auto, which undeniably has made me a safer driver. (And Android Auto has the added bonus of having a much better user interface than the dumpster fire that came with my deck.)

But here's the thing: If there's a weak link for Android Auto, it comes when you actually plug the phone in. Because the various Android manufacturers do all sorts of nonsense to their phones, including what happens when you plug one in. And on occasion, Android Auto might not work at all. So let's chat about that. These are the phones I absolutely recommend with Android Auto.

Any recent Nexus phone

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This should come as no surprise, but Google's phones work best with Google's automotive initiative. I have never had an issue with the Nexus 6P. Or the Nexus 5X. Or the Nexus 6, back when I used it. (I can't remember if I tried the original Nexus 5.) If I had to recommend just one phone to use with Android Auto, it'd be one of those.

The problem comes when a manufacturer does pretty much anything that interferes with the connection process. Some phones (and these are a blessed few) turn into app installers once you plug in. Others just do something ... different ... and Android Auto isn't smart enough to compensate. (We'd argue that it shouldn't have to, but that's another thing for another day.

So if you want a phone that absolutely will work with Android Auto, get a Nexus. (Double points if you get a gold Nexus.

If not Nexus, look for something 'stock-ish'

This one's sort of a crapshoot. But we've generally found that phones that keep things as close to "stock" as possible do pretty well. That's usually meant Motorola's phones. (There have been exceptions though.) HTC has done pretty well, too. Beyond that it's been a little hit and miss.

And just because something looks "stock" doesn't mean there won't be some wonkiness going on under the hood. But at the same time, we've had phones like the Huawei P9 — something you can't even buy in the United States — work great. Go figure.

If you're just dying to know whether a phone works with Android Auto, you should check out our AA forums. I post every phone I test in there, and if I haven't tried it there's a chance someone else has.

What about Samsung's Galaxy phones?

Samsung sells more Android phones than anyone. They're also more customized than just about anything out there. There's good and bad news here. Take the Galaxy S7, for example. There are folks who have used it without issue. And then there are those of us who have never gotten the GS7 to work. Maybe it's a software issue. Maybe there's something inherent about the GS7 that doesn't like the cable I'm using. I don't know.

But I do know that there are 31 separate versions of the Galaxy S7 (worldwide). Some work. And some don't. Again, I'll point you to the forums.

We'll update this post if and when something new and exciting comes our way. Stay tuned!

  • Never have had a problem with Moto phones. Galaxy 7 worked fine too. 2016 Honda Civic. Not sure why people are having problems with them. EDIT: Just waiting on updates though. Really want to try WAZE with it.
  • I'm considering the 2016 Civic as well. Great to know that the Galaxy S7 works well with AA on the Civic's head unit. BTW, what variant did you get? I'm considering the EX-T with the 1.5L turbocharged engine.
  • Exactly the model I have, EX-T. Great car. Thought about leather, but didn't have one in stock. A little turbo lag, but otherwise pretty quick.
  • Sweet. I saw one in person and sat in one. Loved it.
  • Si is coming soon. I'd hold out if you're into the sporty stuff. And can drive a stick Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't think Honda is planning an Si for the US for model year 2016.
  • Galaxy S7 edge on ATT in a VW Golf Sportwagen checking in, not one issue connecting, my wife's S5 works flawlessly as well. Galaxy s7 edge
  • How do you like your GSW? I love mine, got a 5 speed wish they made a 6 for the U.S. but couldn't beat the price... Using AA with my Nexus 6 rooted running Chroma mod with zero issues BTW. Patiently waiting for Waze support!
  • Wow, guess I didn't read up enough. I didn't realize this is even an issue. I assumed Android Auto worked with all phones without trouble. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Likewise. And just like that we're back at the word "fragmentation". I don't like it, but going by this article it fits, and needs fixing. Otherwise what's the point of android auto? Posted via the Android Central App
  • driving a 2016 Hyundai Sonata, Limited, and using a Moto X Pure. Phone is rooted and running Bliss rom. First used phone on car before rooting and everything worked great. After rooting and moving to Bliss rom I only had to re-pair the bluetooth because it was seen as a different phone and then everything worked smooth. I have gotten one update from Hyundai which install without a problem. I just wish it was easier to get to some things like coffee reward cards when going through the drive-thru but otherwise pretty good.
  • I have the 2016 Honda Civic Touring Sedan. I initially had problems with the infotainment screen with Android Auto. Honda replaced it, and now my T Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 5 connects flawlessly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Xiaomi Mi5 works well with Volkswagen Golf. But not with the included cable.
  • Phil, I think I asked this in another story comment, but have you noticed a difference in audio quality between different phones playing Google Music through Android Auto? For example, is the HTC 10 better than the Nexus 6P, or is the DAC from the head unit being used, making the phone irrelevant? FWIW, I've had no problems with a US S7 Edge, and an international S6 with Android Auto once I turned Car Mode off (disabled it using Package Disabler Pro for Samsung). Posted via the Android Central App
  • Dont know why anyone that wants an android phone goes with htc or samsung and then complain about updates to. If u want android get a nexus period. I got the s7 to give sammy another there ads. But touchwiz is still garbage went back to nexus 6 waiting on the next google phone Posted via the Android Central App
  • Samsung has gotten far better at pushing out security updates this year, particularly for their flagships. So if you get a new phone every year anyway, the security updates are barely an issue any more. I also disagree with you on TW, although that's obviously very subjective. I loved the Nexus 6P, but I prefer my S7 Edge because of the camera, Samsung Pay, and the microSD card. TW really doesn't bother me any more with Nova Launcher, and I don't have much noticeable lag (in other words, despite the fact that lag drives me crazy, and previous Samsung phones like the Note 4 and S6 have eventually driven me to distraction because of it, the S7 Edge does not have this problem to a noticeable extent). Anyway, no question the Nexus phones are also great. I just have camera as my #1 priority, and Nexus still lags far behind when it comes to quickly taking high quality shots, and particularly Video in the case of the 6P because of lack of OIS. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I feel u. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Had problems with the Note 5 but then I ended up getting a Nexus 6P and haven't had any problems since. Nexus 6P
    Chevy Spark - Android Auto
  • Just upgraded from N5 to OnePlus 3 and was kind of dreading the thought of Android Auto maybe not working. No problem so far it seems to work better than ever. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good to hear! I'm still on OPO w. CM13, and it works fine with AA. Considering buying OP3, but I wanted to be sure that it works with AA. Which ROM are you using? I really don't like OOS so I'm probably going to flash CM13 - but I don't know how OP3 w. CM13 works with AA.
  • So wait! A cable is required for this thing to work??? I thought it would be all Wireless/bluetooth. Plugging and unplugging a phone everytime I get in and out of my car is a pain in the rear. Am I missing something? Posted via the Android Central App
  • It is a pain, but it's worth it. The phone uses the car's navigation antenna if it has one, and the radio's DAC etc as far as I know. So you get far higher quality connections than you can for now wirelessly until Bluetooth 5.0 comes out. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wow I was thinking about upgrading my $120 unit that automatically turns my music and handles my calls and phone book with no stinky cables on the way via Bluetooth flawlessly. Music is what I really care on my sound system to do and going with AA using a cable is just going back in time in my book. BTW I own a Nexus 6p and I don't care/expect my sound system to handle my messaging since still distracting no matter how fancy you put it. When AA supports full wireless connectivity then I'll consider it for now no thanks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Please confirm what I said first. It is my understanding, but I'm not certain myself. I asked a question of Phil above if he noticed a major difference in audio quality between the S7 and HTC 10 when connected to the AA. If not, that would imply AA and the head unit are controlling the audio. If yes, then they're not, and using regular Bluetooth would have just as much impact. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have the Galaxy S6 and a 2016 VW Golf R. I notice a big difference between BT audio and Android Auto audio. It's a big enough difference that I don't like listening to BT audio any longer. My car plainly states that Bluetooth will no longer be accessible when I plug in the phone.
  • flugelboy - you lucky *******! :-). I have a 2016 GTI PP with the same Fender audio system, but not the same 0-60 or all wheel drive ;-). I also notice a huge difference between the two, and I think this answers my question and the reason for my asking the question. In essence, I'm getting very good sound when using my S7 Edge with Android Auto, and changing to a phone like the HTC 10 is not likely to make a difference in the car because it's the Fender's system that is being used. You're also spot on about the Bluetooth being disconnected for media - it's only used for phone calls once you use Android Auto, and AA is used for music. There has to be a reason, and this must be it - you get better quality with a wired connection, and the DAC from the car is used. Thanks!
  • Wireless AA was announced at Google's latest I/O so it's likely happening fairly soon.
  • My OnePlus One worked fine and I've just bought an S7 Edge, luckily the Samsung rep was in the store when I bought mine and he assured me it works with AA Posted via the Android Central App
  • No problem with my Galaxy S5 on either Lollipop or Marshmallow, although Marshmallow does prompt me to confirm I really want to make an MTP connection after connecting. I think it's probably a safety feature, as I've seen stories about people setting up public chargers that actually take data off your phone, this would be a warning to make sure you knew it wasn't just a charger.
  • I have never had an issue with my T-Mobile Galaxy S7 Edge. Also of course works with my Nexus 6P too. Seems like every time I have heard of a phone not working with Android Auto it is an AT&T phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I too have a TMO S7 Edge, yet mine only works for a few minutes before disconnecting from AA in my 2017 KiA Shortage SX. I have zero issues using my Nexus 6P as expected, so it might be a AA firmware issue since with persisted via 2 different TMO S7 Edges, and a handful of micro USB cables.
  • Interesting... that leads to believe it's something with the software. I think most likely the Kia software than Android Auto. What version Android Auto do you have on the car? If you say then I can check if mine matches. If it matches then that means only thing different is the Kia software versus my Volkswagen software. Posted via the Android Central App
  • i cannot get android auto in my 2017 Audi A4 to recognize my Moto Turbo. Oddly, my mom plugged hers in and it found it immediately (also, my husband's note4). i even tried a factory reset to no avail.
  • 2016 VW Jetta S w/Tech and a TMo Note5 checking in. AA works 95% of the time and the other 5% is when I have to "allow" it or I need to replug my Note5. I am really waiting on Waze to come into the AA world.
  • S6 had some issues with screen going black, g3 kept dropping gps during route, g4 super laggy and map would stop updating during route. Nexus 6p has been flawless. {Nexus 6P}
  • I've used a G2 (horrible), Moto X (okay), Nexus 5 (better), and Nexus 5x (better still). Multiple cars. Not perfect at all, but getting better. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I own a 2017 KIA Shortage SX, and while my S7 Edge (T-Mobile) may work for up to 15 minutes, it constantly disconnects and stops working until you unplug/replug it; this cycle repeats indefinitely for me. Now, I've used my Nexus 6P without any issues, even on a custom ROM (Chroma). The issue is certainly my S7 Edge variant, or a combination of that and the AA firmware running in my car. Since it is brand new, and up to date I'm going to lay the blame on my S7 Edge. I've tried 2 different ones without any luck, yet both mine and my wife's Nexus's work fine.
  • S7 edge is working fine on my 2016 kia optima. Occasionally it fails to connect to android auto & I have to unplug & plug in again for it to connect, but that only happens like once a week or so.
  • I tried out Android Auto on a rental car. It was great except one thing. While using navigation I noticed that it couldn't keep my phone charged. It would slowly lose battery (really slowly). But shouldn't it be able to maintain charge? Posted via the Android Central App
  • GPS usually uses a lot of power. That doesn't surprise me at all. My understanding that AA does not use the phones antenna though. The car is supposed to have its own antenna to use GPS. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a 2016 VW Golf R and a Galaxy S6 Edge. I love android auto for the maps (the VW Nav isn't great IMO) and the audio quality over USB is better than bluetooth (not as much data compression). As far as connecting it to the car, I find that it almost never connects as "Android Auto" unless I launch the android auto app on my phone before plugging it in. Without opening the app, it just connects as a random phone and doesn't do much. When I launch the app first, it correctly recognizes it probably 9/10 times.
  • I have a moto x 2nd Gen (2014) not rooted amd I am running running the "latest" version of Android (ver. U5.1). My daily driver (2016VW Jetta Sport) has Android auto on it and I absolutely love it ! It has made me a safer driver g-the same