Google has finally pushed an official Android Auto app to the Play Store that will allow Lollipop phones to work with the first few head units and cars with support for the platform. It only works on phones running 5.0 or higher, and is pretty much useless without a compatible Android Auto system—you probably don't have one of those.
Android Auto is probably the Android platform of least general public concern, but it's an exciting one, if you ask me - who doesn't want Google Now in the car? Still, if you've not been paying close attention to Auto news in the past few months very closely, you might not have noticed that Android Auto is... not actually officially released.
Which is why you're seeing some articles today about Pioneer's aftermarket head units with Android Auto being on sale. You can buy one - like this one, for $1400. And since it says Android Auto on the box, it's got Android Auto, right?
Android Auto and the Open Automotive Alliance currently enjoy the support of the world's largest manufacturer of passenger vehicles (Volkswagen Group) and eight of the ten largest passenger vehicle manufacturers in the world. It may surprise you, then, that Toyota, the world's largest automaker (counting commercial vehicles and buses), is not one of those eight. And it is, according to the manager of Toyota's advanced technology communications division, going to stay that way for the foreseeable future, at least in the US (presumably, this guy works for Toyota USA).
Android Auto hasn't arrived in vehicles yet, but interested parties are already getting their ducks in a row. We've seen car manufacturers announce support and a handful of aftermarket radio makers show off their products (Parrot, Kenwood, Pioneer), all stuff to get excited about. But for any of this to be good, app developers have to get behind the platform as well. So it's good to see iHeartRadio add Android Auto support in the latest app update.
The screenshot added to the iHeartRadio app's Play Store page shows an interface that's just as stock-looking and Google-y as we would hope. It looks notably different from the existing iHeartRadio for Auto app that's made for vehicles but not related to Android Auto.
The ranks of Android Auto in-dash head units continue to grow at CES, but they aren't going to be cheap. While Parrot neglected to mention a price for its , Pioneer is coming right out with it. The new NEX series units will start at $700 with support for Android Auto and CarPlay.
Seeing which manufacturers will bake Android Auto into their latest models is cool and all, but I'm looking to see which third-party options start appearing on store shelves. After all, I bought my vehicle in 2013, and I'm not looking to replace it in the next couple of years. Fortunately Kenwood has come to CES with one that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the DDX9902S.
Out of the box, Kenwood's unit has a tacky interface that perhaps only a car enthusiast could love. But once you plug your Android device in, the interface switches over to the one we're actually interested in.
Certain 2015 Volkswagen cars with come equipped with Android Auto and CarPlay (Apple) support starting later this year. The option will be available in any models that come with MiB II, the second generation of the manufacturer's "modular infotainment platform," though the Golf is the only vehicle explicitly mentioned in the announcement. MirrorLink support will also come included.
Parrot usually arrives at CES with a swarm of consumer-oriented drone aircraft, but this year it's also showing off the RNB6. What is the RNB6? It's an in-dash head unit running its own version of Android 5.0, but it also has support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Last week, we saw Hyundai announce that it would be the first auto manufacturer to provide Android Wear support for its cars, in the form of remote actions that can be initiated on your smartwatch. Pretty cool stuff. But Android Auto is probably even cooler - navigation, music controls, voice dictation, and other functions will soon be made possible in vehicles by your smartphone, instead of some ancient infotainment system from hell.
Lots of manufacturers are on board with it (including Hyundai), including the massive VW Group, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Renault-Nissan, GM, and Honda. (Notice a lack of BMW and Mercedes? They're Apple CarPlay only for now, sadly).
It's here, or, well, it will be here shortly: the day you can start your car with only a watch and your voice. Hyundai is announcing that its official Blue Link app (which, to be fair, reviews pretty badly) will be gaining Android Wear support in "early 2015." The company will be demoing the new app at CES, though, along with its Android Auto-powered 2015 Sonata concept.
Hyundai has been a rapid adopter of 3rd-party smart tech in its vehicles, and will likely be among the very first automakers to sell an Android Auto-ready car (any Hyundai with Android Auto will also have Apple's Car Play).