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Tech tips

Android Auto: 4 of our favorite new tricks

Google and Apple are famously in a perpetual struggle to make the best products and services the quickest. To compete with Apple’s CarPlay, Google rolled out its own version with Android Auto. Tap or click here for 5 Apple CarPlay smart tips and tricks you should try.

Like CarPlay, Android Auto is the application you use to connect your Android phone to your car. The technology used by car manufacturers to make that happen is called Android Automotive.

To use Android Auto on your car’s dashboard display, you will first need to make sure that you have a compatible vehicle. And if you have an Android phone, download the Android Auto app from the Google Play Store. Now let’s look at some Android Auto features that just rolled out.

1. Get notifications and reminders

Android Auto can show you all kinds of information and notifications. By simply asking Google, you can get hands-free assistance with the weather, navigation or your favorite music. You can also set and retrieve any reminders that you have.

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Google Maps and Waze works great on the screen, and it’s easy to get directions to where you are going. Again, all you must do is ask. If you are low on gas on the way home, you can also ask Google to show you where the nearest gas stations on your route would be.

The new Google Calendar integration allows you to see what is coming up in the day, and by tapping on an event, Google can give you directions to where it is happening. Running a bit late? You can also make a call through the Calendar app now too.

The calendar was removed in a 2019 update where it only read out your appointments, but through some user pushback, the company decided to reintroduce it.

To get Google Assistants’ attention, you can say the traditional “Hey Google” or tap the steering wheel button or mic icon. For safety, always remember to keep your eyes on the road.

2. Control your house from your car

If you have one of the latest Samsung smartphones, you can control your SmartThings devices from your car. During the reveal of the Galaxy S21, Samsung also said that SmartThings would be coming to Android Auto, and it has.

Late last month, the company updated SmartThings to support Android Auto, so you will now be able to control your porch light or thermostat from your car. You can set up a series of automation events like “Coming Home,” where it will turn on lights and set your home temperature.

Leaving your house works in the same way. With a simple tap of a button on Android Auto, it will switch off lights or lock your doors. The same update in January also added support for Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag.

3. Best apps for Android Auto

There is a wealth of apps that work with Android Auto, making the driving experience much more enjoyable. There are compatible apps that cover almost every aspect of what you might need on a road trip, like navigation, chats, music or news. Here are some of the best apps to add to Android Auto:

  • Waze

One of the most-used navigation apps worldwide, Android Auto integrates with Waze to give you accurate turn-by-turn directions. It functions the same way it would on your mobile device, but it is much easier to see where you are going with the bigger screen.

  • Audible

Listening to your favorite podcast is a breeze with Android Auto. As with other apps, the bigger screen makes it easy to find what you are looking for. And with voice integration, you can ask Google to play an audiobook without you having to fiddle with the buttons.

  • Stitcher

The podcast app Stitcher is a great way to hear the content you’re interested in. You can listen to Kim Komando’s podcast, and you can get the latest episodes from NPR, Wondery, WNYC, the New York Times and many more.

4. Use a new wallpaper

Google has previously hinted that it might soon support custom wallpapers for Android Auto. But that hasn’t happened yet. In the latest version 6.0 update for Android Auto, Google removed some of the previous random images and replaced them with a collection of new graphics.

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Unsurprisingly, all the new imageries feature vehicles in some form. Enthusiasts are speculating that Google might be getting ready to officially launch custom wallpaper support — if the latest update is anything to go by. Once Google approves support, you can customize it to your heart’s content.

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