Android Auto goes wireless for Android 11 phones

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Android Auto is going wireless thanks to a new update.
Image: BMW

Android Auto is an extremely useful tool for drivers. It lets you plug in your phone and links to your car’s built-in touchscreen so you can easily control navigation apps, music streaming, and reminders. It appears that Google will soon be making it even more convenient for drivers to use Android Auto when they are on the go.

The service will now connect to vehicles wirelessly from any phone that operates on Android 11. Previously, wireless Android Auto capabilities were only available for Google and Samsung phones. With devices from manufacturers like LG, Motorola, and OnePlus set to receive Android 11 support later this year, a lot more drivers will be able to access Android Auto without a cable.

Cord Cutting

Given the fact that Android Auto’s wireless update is pretty significant, Google didn’t widely publicize it. Instead, it quietly updated an FAQ page for the service to read that “any smartphone with Android 11.0” can use Android Auto wirelessly.

That’s big news for consumers who own devices made by a company other than Samsung or Google. It is also noteworthy for the manufacturers of those devices. They will soon gain another eye-catching feature to add to their marketing efforts.

Still, many carmakers have been slow to add wireless support for Android Auto to their vehicles. That is a major roadblock (no pun intended) standing in the way of this new feature. If consumers don’t have a car that supports wireless connectivity, they won’t be able to use Android Auto without a cable—regardless of what version of Android they have.

Of course, for those who are able to take advantage of the new feature, it will be very convenient. It might still be wise to pick up a wireless charger or charging mat for the car, though. After all, your phone won’t otherwise charge while streaming Android Auto, an activity that can quickly drain its battery life.

Lots of Regulation

There are a few limitations to the new wireless upgrade that are worth noting. For one, consumers living in Japan and Russia won’t be able to utilize it. Google claims that those countries don’t support Android Auto’s wireless capabilities.

In the EU, Google says that Android phones must “comply with additional regulatory requirements” when operating on the 5GHz Wi-Fi band in the car. The wireless Android Auto connection relies on this bandwidth to operate. It isn’t clear what the EU’s requirements are or how they will impact the Android Auto user experience.

Meanwhile, drivers worldwide will need both a phone and an Android Auto head unit in their vehicle that supports 5GHz Wi-Fi. This isn’t a “new” feature. However, it is one that could be hard to find in some vehicles—especially those that are more than a few years old.

Ultimately, Google is preparing Android Auto for a wireless future. Even if users aren’t able to get the most out of the upgrade today, it will pay dividends a few years from now.

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