Android Auto: Why Your Phone Must be Plugged In

Hyunda Sonata Review AH 29

So, we’ve done a ton of content on Android Auto over the last few months, since the first Pioneer head units started shipping. One of the comments I see very often on our posts, is asking why the phone needs to be plugged in when using Android Auto, even though it needs to connect to Bluetooth. So I thought that this week we’d take some time and explain exactly why we need the device to be plugged in. It’s also noteworthy that Apple announced wireless connectivity for CarPlay at WWDC earlier this summer.

When you get into your car with Android Auto, there are two things you need to do, plug it in and have it connected to Bluetooth. It should connect to Bluetooth automatically, however. Now, if it connects via Bluetooth, why do we need it plugged in? The biggest reason is battery life. When you’re using Android Auto, you are using your phone, but on a larger display. So if you are streaming music and using maps, like I often do, that is going to eat up a lot of battery. Heck, just streaming audio over 4G LTE is going to eat up a lot of battery. Never-mind maps and navigation. This allows your phone to have a very stable connection with the car, as well as charging your battery. Or at least keeping it at the same level as when you started driving.

Now the amount of battery that Android Auto uses from your phone will vary. While I was using the 2015 Hyundai Sonata, I noticed it used a whole lot less battery than my own car with Pioneer’s AVH-4100NEX head unit. There’s also a simple reason for that. The Hyundai Sonata has GPS built in, while my 2009 Chevy Aveo does not. It’s relying on my phone’s GPS. Therefore using more battery and also making the phone a bit warmer, unfortunately.

While I agree that it would be nicer to have wireless connectivity for Android Auto, I honestly don’t mind plugging in my phone every time I jump in the car. And this is coming from someone who has an Xperia Z3, and must open that flap every time to plug it in. Google will likely bring wireless connectivity in the future, but for now we must remember that Android Auto is still very, very beta. And there will be plenty of changes coming.