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Hyundai today became the first of many automakers - and eventually, every automaker to link directly to a smartphone for services such as navigation. Hyundai's announcement is for Android Auto on the Hyundai Sonata. The driver controls the smartphone using voice input plus the center stack and steering wheel knobs, buttons, and touchscreen. Navigation via Google Maps is the headliner app. Users also benefit from tight integration with other apps such as Google Now to show upcoming appointments on the center stack display.
Cars with Apple CarPlay will follow, and most or all automakers will offer both. Offering one and not the other would be a quick way to lose sales. Both let you run selected apps, but far from all of them. Apps that arent selected for Android Auto or CarPlay integration are locked out as long as the phone is plugged in via the USB jack. In other words, theyre acting as benevolent censors.
How Hyundai implements Android Auto
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is the first model in the Hyundai line to get Android Auto and compatibility covers the 50,000 or so Sonatas already built. Don't assume this to be the case for other cars built before the manufacturers announcement date. Other Hyundai models will follow, perhaps starting with the Hyundai Tucson model changeover this summer.
According to Hyundai, owners will need to be running the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS (or later) and the Android Auto companion app on their phone. The phone must be connected via USB. On the Sonata, Android Auto works with cars with the 8-inch touchscreen display, the one that comes with Hyundai navigation. Expect automakers to start offering big screens, sans navi, and maybe save buyers $500-$1,000.
If your car was purchased before the Android Auto announcement, you can download the car app to a USB key and install it yourself. Or you can take it to the dealer. Cars already at the dealership should be upgraded before delivery.
What apps work now
Android Auto in the 2015 Hyundai SonataCompatible native apps are Google Maps, Google Now, messaging, phone calling, and Google Play Music. Supported third-party apps include iHeartRadio, Spotify, TuneIn, NPR, Stitcher, Skype, TextMe, and, Hyundai says, "many more." As apps are added, they'll be posted at Googles Android Auto page, which also shows compatible phones.
For many apps, especially Google Maps, you may find the phone experience superior. It will also use the car's embedded GPS receiver to fine-tune your location. Hop in the car and once your phone is connected, Google Now shows any upcoming appointments. Google will provide a conversational search tool far simpler than issuing a structured command to the cars voice input system, or playing with the touchscreen speller. If you want to find sushi or a shoe repair shop, Android Auto should be the way to go.
When texts come in, you get a chime or beep, the sender name appears onscreen, and you get the choice to have the message read aloud, but not displayed on-screen. (A handful of cars that now receive texts let users see the text messages on-screen as well as the header.) Expect some criticism from others who think nobody should get any texts in the car, even spoken. More users may have concerns about being unable to disable the routine, often meaningless, notifications from apps (not texting apps) that pop up and, at least initially, cant be disabled.
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