You Can Now Get Wireless Android Auto, but Only With Certain Phones
The feature only works with Pixel and Nexus phones.
Apple CarPlay went wireless last year, but its Android Auto counterpart is just cutting the cord now. Google rolled out wireless Android Auto late last week, allowing users to connect their phones to their cars with Wi-Fi. But that announcement comes with a few asterisks.
Wireless Android Auto is only available on Pixel or Nexus phones running Android 8.0 (Oreo). Vehicles have to be capable of running Android Auto v3.1 and need a head unit set up to work with wireless Android Auto. JVC and Kenwood unveiled aftermarket units earlier this year at CES 2018, but some factory systems may support the feature as well. In addition, a USB cable is still required for initial setup.
Assuming you have the right hardware, there are still other points to consider. Wireless Android Auto uses Wi-Fi, so you'll need a car with an onboard hotspot and a paid-up data plan in order to use it. Unless the car also has a wireless charging pad (which comes with its own compatibility issues), going wireless also eliminates the ability to charge your phone while using Android Auto.
Wireless versions of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay may seem like the next logical step in convenience, but they won't make too much of a difference in the real world. The point of both systems is to allow drivers to access smartphone features and content without actually picking up their phones, so what difference does it make if the phone you're not holding is plugged in?
Regardless, the ability to instantly sync a phone to a car without having to plug it in is something many drivers will probably find appealing. Expect Google to expand availability for wireless Android Auto to other phones in the future to meet that demand.