Hands-on: This Android Auto unit works wirelessly and can be installed in seconds in any car

Android Auto has become an essential part of all-new cars, but it’s something that older cars lack. Adding it can be complicated and can cost hundreds of dollars. But, did you know that you can actually add an Android Auto unit to any car in seconds at an affordable cost? Here’s how.

Aftermarket head units have been available for decades at this point, and support for both Android Auto and CarPlay is a plus for any option you buy today. In general, these head units can be fairly affordable, but they can also be quite expensive, and if you do not have the experience, they can also enlist the help of expensive specialists for installation in some vehicles.

For a while, I wanted to add Android Auto to my wife’s car, as her Hyundai Elantra was from that awkward time where touchscreens and Android Auto weren’t particularly popular, but Bluetooth and AUX connections were standard. However, my last attempt to add an aftermarket head unit didn’t work well. When I spent some time with Spotify Car Thing earlier this year, I thought how great it would be to have a similar device, but run Android Auto.

As it turns out, such devices exist! It is actually easy to use.

For the past several months, my wife has been using an external 7-inch Android Auto unit in her car that mounts to the dashboard and supports the wireless variant of Android Auto. It plugs into an AUX connection to route audio through the vehicle, and draws power from a vehicle’s regular power outlet.

Installing this command literally took seconds as well. It turns out that the included windshield mount is perfect on my wife’s car, but you can also use this as a dash mount or get creative with some DIY placement and other mounting options. This is just a small Android Auto tablet.

Admittedly, this isn’t the best looking setup out there. The “IYING” device I picked for her was one of the only options available earlier this year, and it doesn’t exactly have the best design. It’s very simple, but it works. The two slightly droopy cables add to the not-so-great look, but they’re no worse than the charging cable you use to keep the smartphone on while Google Maps is running on the dashboard.

How it works? Impressively, in general.

The device turns on automatically when the car is started. The stock software isn’t exactly great. It feels very generic and forgettable, but it has some useful features. You can mirror your phone’s screen or use this device as a traditional Bluetooth head unit to add wireless audio support to a vehicle lacking the feature. The unit also supports adding a backup camera, but we didn’t choose to try that, as it obviously complicates the setup/installation process a bit.

The integrated 7-inch display is up to the challenge of being used in the car, too. I can’t describe it as super bright, but it’s bright enough to use on a sunny day without any trouble reading what’s on display. It’s just a 1024 x 600 panel, so it’s not particularly sharp by any means. The only thing I quickly noticed was that the top of the panel cuts off some parts of the UI, but that doesn’t get in the way of ease of use at all.

Meanwhile, Android Auto, when used wirelessly with the Pixel 5, appears to boot within 40-60 seconds of starting the car. This is a bit slower than what’s built into my Subaru Crosstrek paired with the Android Auto Wireless Adapter but not too shabby! The only catch is that you’ll need to manually press a button to get Android Auto to work on the screen, and this popup can sometimes time out.

Android Auto works without any noticeable lag, and on her daily commute to work, she tells me that it generally works very reliably.

The main sticking point with this device was making phone calls. It might just be her car in particular, but incoming phone calls seem to ignore the AUX connection and instead try to turn on Bluetooth instead. As a result, she cannot hear the call, and has to either switch the output to the handset or earpiece, or restart the call from her end. I haven’t been able to completely narrow down why this happens, but the reviews for this device seem to support that we’re not alone in this experience. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an acceptable solution to this. The only thing that has worked so far is the use of the built-in FM transmitter which results in significantly worse sound quality compared to AUX.

Is this a deal breaker? For its limited use, not really. But it may be yours.

But for the roughly $250 we spent on this machine, it was a worthwhile investment. She enjoys having maps in sight easily while not having to leave her phone in the heat the whole time she’s driving, and it was definitely easier to install than a permanent option.

In addition, after months of purchasing this device, more options appeared and prices dropped. The IYING device we purchased can now be purchased for just over $200.

We still have to try anything else, but there are quite a few that are now ready to buy on Amazon. 9to5Mac Enjoy a great experience with Intellidash Pro on the CarPlay side of things, and there’s also an Android Auto model. The Carpuride has a larger device that looks very sleek, and there are also options that cost around $100 or less. Personally, this is a factor that interests me – would you buy one?

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