Hyundai releases first Android Auto smartphone capability to U.S. market

Some 2016 Chevrolet models will also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Published: May 28, 2015 11:25 AM

The Hyundai Android Auto display

If you purchased a 2015 Hyundai Sonata with a factory-installed navigation system, and have a smartphone with the Android Lollipop 5.0 or higher operating system, you can integrate your car with the new Android Auto software.

Best of all, it’s free. Your local Hyundai dealer will provide a software update to your car’s existing system. It’s the first integration of a smartphone operating system—be it Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay system—in the U.S. market by a major manufacturer.

We borrowed a 2015 Hyundai Sonata with an early-release version of Android Auto software and a Google Nexus phone to test it out. Generally speaking, the Android Auto system works well, with excellent Google Now voice controls that use natural speech. It’s easy to make and receive calls using your voice, and to compose or listen to text messages. Entering an address is just as easy—Google navigation and traffic info are intuitive. Also, the on-screen buttons and menus are large, easy to read, and straightforward to use.    

One drawback is that Android Auto operates in its own little universe. If you want to switch from listening to music on Spotify over to FM or XM, for example, you have to exit Android Auto. And it takes several steps to back out of the Android environment.

Also, when an Android phone is tethered, Hyundai’s own voice control is deactivated. Hitting the steering wheel voice control button yields an annoying “Not Available while Using Android Auto,” message on screen, even if the screen is not in Android Auto mode. Google’s policy of “sandboxing” every app interface makes it a hassle to enjoy popular apps such as Spotify.

Keep safe on the road by using the information in our driving safety guide.

The main competition is Apple CarPlay, which had lots of buzz before Android Auto came up to speed. However, CarPlay has not been integrated into any major auto manufacturer’s in-dash infotainment system as of yet. You can use Apple CarPlay only by buying an aftermarket screen.

But it doesn’t make sense to pay extra money to get Hyundai’s navigation system to be able to use Android Auto. Why? Well, we also looked at the Hyundai Display Auto system back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Hyundai Display Auto is simply a screen with a USB connection. This system doesn’t have its own capability to process voice commands or navigation. But it works great with both Android Auto and CarPlay. If you are looking to purchase a new car, our advice is to wait until this head unit is available in order to get the most out of your smartphone’s operating system. Display Auto will be integrated into Hyundai’s most popular trim lines in the near future.

General Motors will add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Not to be left out of the discussion, General Motors announced that Chevrolet will begin offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality with many of its 2016 model-year vehicles.

CarPlay will launch first with the 2016 Chevy Cruze sedan, with availability expanding to Camaro, Colorado, Corvette, Impala, Malibu, Silverado, Spark, Suburban, Tahoe, and Volt. The Equinox and the Traverse will not offer the systems. Android Auto will follow by the end of the year.

The Chevrolet MyLink system is required for Apple CarPlay or Androild Auto, but navigation is not. This means that if you have a large enough data plan you can skip the expensive GM navigation system and rely on you smartphone's navigation along with Siri or Google voice-based assistance services.

—Seung Min ‘Mel’ Yu

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