We're seeing more and more automakers incorporating Android Auto-compatible displays into their vehicles, but you don't need to buy a brand new car to take advantage of Android's car-optimized way of interacting with Google Assistant, maps and music apps. The Android Auto app can give you the same experience right on your phone, with a Bluetooth FM Transmitter and your choice of car mount completing a seamless setup. If you're not currently using Android Auto in your car, we've got the perfect guide that should work with any phone and any make and model of car.
Important note: Google has incorporated Android Auto as a core service in the latest version of Android 10, which removes the ability to launch Android Auto as a phone app. A standalone version of Android Auto for smartphones is expected to roll out eventually.
Products used in this guide
- Bluetooth for your car: Anker Roav Bluetooth FM Transmitter ($17 at Amazon)
- The best car mount: iOttie Easy One Touch 4 Car Mount (From $20 at Amazon)
- Trusty cable: Ventev Chargesync Alloy Cable (USB Type A-C) ($22 at Amazon)
- Budget mount: Spigen Style Ring ($13 at Amazon)
- Your driving assistant: Android Auto (Free at Google Play)
How to set up Android Auto to auto-launch on your phone when you get in your car
- Download and install the Android Auto app on your phone.
- Plug your Bluetooth FM Transmitter in your car and pair with your phone.
Launch Android Auto. If it's your first time, you'll want to accept all the permissions that Google asks for and then tap the Menu icon in the top-left corner.
- Tap Settings.
- Swipe up to scroll down.
Tap Use Bluetooth to ensure Bluetooth is always running when you launch Android Auto.
- Tap Autolaunch.
- Tap the switch next to Autolaunch to turn it on.
Scroll down and find your FM Transmitter and turn it on.
With everything all set up, your phone will now automatically launch Android Auto whenever your phone connects to the Bluetooth FM Transmitter in your car, and your phone will automatically turn on Bluetooth whenever you launch the Android Auto app. Android Auto on your phone lets you ask for directions, take phone calls, receive and respond to text messages using text-to-speech technology, and control music or podcasts with Google Assistant, and offers a streamlined interface that delivers the information you need at that moment without any outside distractions from app notifications.
I can't find the Android Auto app on my phone running Android 10
Google has gone ahead and incorporated Android Auto as a core service in the latest version of Android 10, which is great because it allows the service to better integrate with Android Auto-compatible car displays.
The downside is that because it's a service and not an app, there's currently no way to launch the legacy phone version of Android Auto on a phone updated to Android 10 — that is, until Google rolls out "Android Auto for Phone Screens" as a standalone app.
There are ways to keep the app on your phone if you plan to upgrade to Android 10. Just make sure that you've got Android Auto installed on your device running Android 9 and the app should remain on your homescreen when you update to 10. Alternatively, you can use Google Backup to restore the app that was installed on a different device.
Our top equipment picks
At the base level, you need two things to create your own Android Auto experience: a way of mounting your phone to your car's dashboard, and a connection between your phone and your car stereo. Here's what I use.
Wireless music for less
A reliable FM Transmitter and car phone charger all in one
Anker makes some great phone accessories, and this Bluetooth FM transmitter is a great choice for a couple of reasons. To start, it's compact with a simple LCD display for tuning to an open FM frequency. It also features dual rapid charging USB ports that make use of Anker's charging accessory chops and is a great pick — unless you drive one of the incompatible cars listed on its Amazon description.
The FM Transmitter you get is going to depend on the placement of the 12V outlet in your car. Some car makers don't leave a lot of room around there so you may need to shop around for a style that best fits your vehicle. It's also a good idea to unplug the transmitter every time you leave your car so that it doesn't get stolen or slowly drain your car battery.
Best universal dash mount
Fully-adjustable and easy to use
It's hard to recommend one car mount that will work with practically any car and phone combination, but the iOttie Easy Touch 4 is about as good as it gets. It's available with an air vent or CD slot mount to add your phone right to your existing dashboard console, or you can get the suction cup mount that can be installed on a dashboard or windshield (be sure to check what's legal in your local area).
iOttie also offers a similar style mount with wireless charging capabilities but it takes up the 12V port we use for the Bluetooth FM transmitter in this guide. If your phone happens to support wireless charging, still has a headphone jack and your car stereo has an AUX-in port, the wireless iOttie mount might actually be your best bet. If you need other recommendations, I've got one listed in our additional equipment section below or check out our rundown of the Best Universal Car Mounts.
You're basically set with the car mount and the FM transmitter, but these optional accessories might be worth your consideration, too.
Ventev Chargesync Alloy Cable (USB Type A-C) ($22 at Amazon)
Not all charging cables are strong enough to hold up to brutally cold winter weather. This alloy cable from Ventev features a braided wrap that won't break or fray and a velcro strap for managing any excess cable.
Spigen Style Ring ($12 at Amazon)
The Spigen Style Ring dash mount is always there for me for times when I'm using a case with a Style Ring on it. It's a minimalist car mount solution that's barely noticeable when not in use and does a better job of mimicking a built-in dash display.
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