Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
The smartphone is the first screen most people will turn to—even while driving. Making that a simpler, safer proposition is big business. It’s why Apple created CarPlay and Google made Android Auto. Each offers a way to connect your phone to your in-car entertainment system for easy, hands-free access to calls, messages, and a slew of apps like GPS, music, and podcasts.
Lots of new cars support Android Auto and CarPlay from the get-go, but older vehicles are not entirely out of luck. Many aftermarket systems support them, with prices ranging from expensive to even more expensive. The brains of such systems are the box in the dash that we used to just call “the radio” or maybe “the stereo,” but is now called the stereo head unit. It’s what you access to play music and a whole lot more—phone and text communication, GPS, you name it.
What you need to look for, typically, are double-DIN head units. A double-DIN unit goes in a 7-by-4-inch slot in the dash, which is relatively standard now. It can get pricey, as pro installation is recommended, and can cost from $200 to $600 for parts and labor on top of the head unit.
Keep in mind Android Auto doesn’t require a head unit. Simply mount your phone or tablet on the dash, and you can skip the fancy hardware and just use the Android Auto app.