It’s no secret cars need upgrades and maintenance to keep running year after year. While some of those are absolutely necessary (think oil filters and windshield wipers), other upgrades are meant to make your driving experience more enjoyable. Getting an Android Auto head unit is precisely that: you can live without one, but it sure makes driving long distances and in the day-to-day better.
Newer car and truck models come with a built-in Android head unit. They usually only have a satellite radio, a CD player, and an analog clock. But who wouldn’t love having a GPS navigation system, the ability to play music straight from their phone, and be able to take hands-free calls?
Luckily, you don’t need to run out and buy a new vehicle. Android Auto head units can be installed even in older models. It will feel like having a brand new car or truck without having to shell out the big bucks.
In this article, we’ll walk you through all you need to know about this car add-on. We have compiled a list of the top nine best Android Auto head units and reviewed them. Then, we have written a full buyer’s guide and answered the most asked questions about the product. This is all you need to upgrade your car’s head unit.
The design of this Pioneer Android unit is somewhat unique. It folds out and lets you play any CD you have laying around your car or truck.
This product has two main components. The first is the 7-inch touchscreen that folds out and displays all the features and functionalities of the unit. The second is a CD-slot-like control panel with physical buttons for you to adjust any settings.
Another great thing about this product is the fact that you can customize the interface of the unit. This way, you can choose what apps and shortcuts to have at hand depending on your needs.
It must be said that this device has a reputation of working perfectly with Apple’s CarPlay and Android phones as well.
You can connect your device to the head unit through Bluetooth. This means you don’t need any hanging cables to access your phone’s functionalities. For example, you can play music from your phone’s media library or take calls hands-free.
Compatible with Android and Apple devices
Connects with devices wirelessly through Bluetooth
Sony is a reputable electronics brand and this head unit is proof of their good work. It can be installed in most cars and has a simple yet functional design.
The 7-inch touchscreen offers an ample view of all the functionalities of the Android unit. It is also much more responsive than previous models.
When it comes to ease of use, it’s hard to beat this item. Once installed, you will have convenient instant access to the most used controls of your car’s entertainment system. Volume, voice control, and sound settings are just some of the parameters you’ll be able to change quickly.
The two USB ports allow you to hook up your phone or other devices to the car’s head unit. This way, you can access your personal music library and play it from your car’s speakers.
If you have a rear camera installed, you’ll be able to access it through the head unit. Moreover, you can have access to a GPS navigation system through your phone.
Additionally, it is compatible with ApplePlay, which lets you take calls hands-free. If you have an Android device, you’ll be able to access applications from the head unit.
Wide double-din screen that can be fully customized
Compatible with Apple and Android phones
Has two added USB ports to connect to devices
Will not work with Bluetooth or Wireless connections
Some people are scared by the steep price of the Kenwood Excelon unit. However, if you have the ability to spend a little more on a high-quality device, we highly recommend getting this one.
The 6.95-inch screen display isn’t like other screens. Rather, it is designed to have HD quality and vivid colors. The LED-backlit background makes it easy on the eyes while maintaining its display quality.
You can connect your mobile device to the unit through Bluetooth. This means you don’t need any cables getting tangled up to enjoy all the unit’s functionalities.
There is also built-in WiFi for extra convenience. Thus, you can download and access useful apps, such as Spotify, Waze, Google Maps, and many more.
We couldn’t glance over the amazing audio settings that come with this unit. Many users have pointed out that the audio quality in their car has drastically improved since they’ve installed this device. What’s best is you can customize pretty much anything you can think of related to audio!
This product is a brilliant mix of durability, sleek design, and easy-to-use interface. If you’re just looking for a straightforward device that has a minimalistic approach, this one is for you.
The Boss Audio unit is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Thus, no matter if you have an iOS or Android device, you’ll be able to use this product to the fullest.
It comes equipped with Bluetooth for wireless device connection. Simply pair your phone to the head unit and you’re good to go. This way, you can take calls and play your phone’s music library hands-free and cable-free.
Alternatively, you can use an aux cord to connect your device to the car’s entertainment system. Everything can also be accessed and controlled using the steering wheel buttons.
Another cool feature is the rear camera screen display. Once you shift into reverse, the rear camera is activated and you can see what’s happening on the rear of the car easily and conveniently.
Seamlessly compatible with Apple and Android devices
If you’re looking for an auto head unit compatible with both Android Auto and CarPlay, you’ve found it. This product is a bestseller and much-loved by those who use it.
The 6.4-inch touch screen makes it even easier to access all the auto head unit’s features. It is responsive and displays colors vividly.
The rotary dial is a perfect alternative to touching the screen. You can keep your eyes on the road while you rotate the dial to change the volume, radio station, and much more.
An impressive feature this auto head unit comes with is voice control. You can activate it by holding down the rotary dial. Not only is it a handy trait, it also makes driving safer.
If you have an installed rear-view camera, you can use it to help you park. You’ll see the image displayed on the screen, making even parallel parking much more accessible.
Lastly, the Sony head unit comes with a built-in graphic equalizer. This way, you can listen to your favorite songs how you want it. With the ability to cut or boost ten different frequencies, it’s safe to say this is a more sophisticated way of listening to music.
Sleek and sophisticated look that can be customized
Allows for steering-wheel control of the media kit
Single-din design easily fits most cars
Phone must be plugged in with a USB cord to use Android Auto or CarPlay
Alpine makes high-end auto media products and is known for doing it well. So it’s no surprise this product is highly rated, even if it has a steeper price tag.
You can’t get a screen much bigger (or better) than this one. Its 7-inch display makes accessing the car’s entertaining functions much easier. Besides, navigating using a GPS system is super handy with this screen.
While there isn’t a CD slot with this auto head unit, you get both FM and AM car stereo tuners. On top of that, when you connect your Apple or Android phone to the media system, you’ll have access to your entire music gallery.
Luckily, your phone doesn’t need to be plugged into the head unit to sync up. Using the Bluetooth function is easy and it frees you from having to use a cord all the time.
Apple users love this product for good reason. Alpine has integrated many of the iOS features in their system. When your phone is connected to the unit, you can use voice control to talk to Siri. This allows you to keep your eyes and focus on the road while still controlling your car’s entertainment system.
Plenty of additional features available for Apple users
High-quality AM and FM reception with HD radio tuners
Android users, this product is for you. Pumpkin created an Android Auto-focused product. Meaning, it is fully ready to offer the best user experience to Android phone users.
Some people struggle with how slow their auto head units are. You won’t hear this complaint from people who have Pumpkin units. This product takes only a second to boot—an impressive record when you consider than many of the leading products take upwards of three seconds to turn on.
The radio runs on high-quality radio integrated circuit. This makes the entire experience around listening to music in the car much more enjoyable.
The same can be said for the music library playing abilities. Once your phone is paired up with the head unit, you can easily access your entertainment collection.
Pumpkin’s screen is also hyped up by customers. It supports 4K video format and has a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels.
Lastly, making calls is a breeze with this device. You can accept or decline calls by touching the screen. Plus, since there’s a built-in microphone, the voice quality is amazing.
Built-in microphone for quick and easy hands-free calls
Faster booting up speed than all other units on the market
Available for an accessible price with an 18-month warranty
Customer support can be spotty and hard to talk to
The ATOTO unit is perfect for all kinds of budgets. Depending on which model you pick, the prices range from $170 to $315. Not matter which one you pick, you know you’re getting a good deal.
Perhaps the feature that stands out the most is practical it is. The interface is intuitive, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to use this product. Especially if you’re already familiar with how your Android phone it works, the ATOTO is a breeze to navigate.
You can still use steering wheel controls if your car has that feature. There’s a cord you plug into your vehicle during installation that enables the wheel buttons. It’s a great way to change up what you’re listening to while having your eyes on the road.
Furthermore, there’s built-in WiFi in this product. Thus, you can be connected to the internet to make the most of this product. For instance, you can get real-time weather updates and online GPS maps.
There are add-ons available if you’re interested in upgrading your auto unit even further. A rear-view camera, for example, is a great investment, as it makes parking easier—even in tight spots.
Lastly, you can keep your device updated to the latest Android version. This is great, as it allows for fewer bugs and makes the system run smoother.
Interface system is easy to interact with even for non-techies
Can be controlled using steering wheel buttons
Firmware is constantly updated every time there’s a new release
Some customers complain about the quality of the WiFi
The last item on our list has a funny and lesser-known name—but it’s worth considering it!
The internal storage is unbelievable on this one. It offers 64GB of storage, more than many other products on the market do. Thus, users report that this is a fast device that doesn’t run into many internal glitching problems.
Its design is also something to point out. Android’s original user interface design inspired it, meaning you get a sleek look on the screen. It mostly sticks to the infamous darker colors Android is well known for. We’re certain it looks great in most vehicles.
There is also a built-in WiFi card that allows you to surf the web using this unit. YouTube and Google Maps are two popular apps visited by Joying users. It’s handy and even a good way to entertain the little ones on longer rides.
Connecting your Android device is also a breeze. You can use an aux cord or pair it via Bluetooth. This way, you can take calls easily and stream music hassle-free.
Sturdy hardware that runs smoothly even after updates
Reasonably priced for the features you get
Ability to use the internet while driving
There is no Apple CarPlay connectivity, only Android Auto
Android Head Unit Must-Know Guide
Now that you’ve seen our favorite android auto head units, it’s time to understand the system better. When it comes to how it works, how to install it, and what the benefits are to using it, we’ve got you covered.
What Is an Android Auto Head Unit?
Every vehicle comes with a car stereo system. This is usually a very simple and straightforward entertainment center. However, you can upgrade it, which is where an Android Auto head unit comes in.
This device fits into your car’s head unit system, where the stereo used to be. Basically, it does everything a car stereo does, and then some. You can use it to take calls, navigate the road using a GPS system, and even watch YouTube videos.
In a nutshell, it is a continuation of your Android phone. It can do pretty much anything a cell can, except it is attached to the car.
The “Android Auto” in the name refers to the operating system. Android developed an app to sync their phones to cars, just like Apple did with their CarPlay. However, most Android Auto units still work perfectly well with iOS devices.
Who Is It For?
Android units are obviously not a necessity. Rather, they’re a great way of upgrading an older car to make it feel brand new. We recommend getting this product if you:
Enjoy listening to music in the car
Need help navigating different roads from a GPS
Drive long distances and want to fight boredom
Need to take calls while driving
Want to spice up your driving experience
Advantages of Getting an Android Auto Head Unit
There’s a ton of advantages to getting an Android head unit. Let’s list them all.
For starters, they have a large screen display that makes reading stuff on a map easier. When you’re driving, it’s essential to keep your eyes and attention on the road. Well, reading things off a screen isn’t practical—or safe.
Then, they allow you to take calls on the road safely. We all know how dangerous it is to be focused on a conversation while driving, but the temptation to take a call isn’t going anywhere. With a head unit, you can answer calls hands-free. Some will even say it is like using a car phone mount, only better.
Of course, no one can deny how handy having a GPS system at hand is. Being able to say goodbye to fold-out maps and less-than-helpful copilots is always a plus.
Moreover, you’ll have a wealth of entertainment at your fingertips. Using an aux cord or pairing your phone through Bluetooth means more freedom to listen to whatever you want. And with apps such as Spotify and Apple Music, you can pretty much listen to all songs ever made—without having to deal with boring radio ads.
How to Install an Android Auto Head Unit?
As you can probably imagine, installing an auto head unit isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to take your car to a mechanic. Fortunately, there’s plenty of do-it-yourself guides on how to install this kind of device.
In most cases, the auto head unit you bought will come with specific instructions. You’ll likely need a few extra tools to hook up all the wires and fix the unit in place. Be careful when removing or adding any parts to your car. Accidentally cutting some wires could be a very expensive mistake.
Types of Android Head Units
There’s more than one kind of head unit. Luckily, they are divided into two major categories: single DIN and double DIN. They each refer to your car’s stereo measurements.
Most vehicles will either have a single DIN or a double DIN stereo. Once you know what kind of stereo your car has, you’ll be able to replace it with one of the products we’ve highlighted. It’s the beauty of standardized car parts!
Single DIN Head Units
A single DIN head unit measures around two inches in height. Keep in mind that this measurement is taken from the place where the radio is installed. The CD slots don’t count toward it.
Double DIN Head Units
Double DIN heads are four inches tall. Because they have more internal space, they probably have built-in amplifiers and other add-ons.
Android Auto Head Unit Buying Guide
Now that you’ve seen the best auto head units of 2020 and have learned a bit more about these devices, it’s time to make a purchase.
Because there are so many available products out there, it can be hard to settle on one. That’s why we have brought you this buying guide.
Each of these headings highlights something important you should be looking for in a head unit. Remember them so your search for your next car accessory is easier.
There are two kinds of compatibilities to be looking out for.
The first is car compatibility. Make sure the head unit you’re getting will fit in your car. If your car stereo is single DIN, you need a single DIN head unit. If it’s double DIN, you’ll need a double DIN unit. Simple, right?
Secondly, you’ll want to think about phone compatibility. All the items on our list are compatible with Android phones, as long as you have a working version of the Android Auto app. Yet, not all of these units will sync with iOS devices. If you’re an iPhone user, look for a unit that enables CarPlay. They’re not hard to find.
That said, you still want a screen that is big enough for you to see things clearly. This will make keeping your eyes on the road easier, as you’ll only need to glance at the screen to know what route to take or what buttons to press to change music tracks.
Of course, you want a device that is useful and easy to use. Who wants to have a clunky device they hate using?
Choose a head unit with a user-friendly interface. If it lets you customize it to fit your needs, all the better. Ideally, you want a unit so handy you’ll barely need to touch it in order for it to do what you want. Just a few taps at the screen should get you to your most-used apps.
Ask yourself what you would like to do with your new head unit. Are you wanting the GPS functionalities out of it? Or will you use it mostly to listen to your phone’s music library? If the former, we recommend getting a unit that has a larger screen and high-quality display. If the latter, then a device with customizable audio settings will probably be best.
Let your intentions guide you when choosing a product. Sure, some units will offer 1,001 features for a high price, but do you need them all? Make sure to stick to what you know you’ll use and invest in a good piece of equipment for that purpose.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, getting a unit that supports addons may be a good idea. Some can connect with a rear-view camera to help you park. Others will make it easier for you to use the navigation system. Depending on what you want the unit to do for you, they may be worth it.
None of this invalidates the fact that budgets are important. As with most things in life, sticking to your budget is the wise decision. You’ll see all kinds of units, some costing up to $700.
However, you don’t need to get in the hole just to buy a good head unit. There are some great budget-friendly picks that get the job done.
Lastly, keep an eye out for what products have warranties. If you’re skeptical about spending money on a head unit, knowing you can get your money back is a plus. Some products have an 18-month money-back guarantee if you end up not getting along with the unit. It’s handy and will make you feel more secure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Apple’s CarPlay work with Android units?
Don’t be fooled by the name. Although most head units have “Android” somewhere in their name, most support CarPlay. Look into the product’s specs and see if it is compatible with iOS devices.
What devices work with Android Auto units?
As long as your device is running on Android 5.0 Lollipop or above, it will be supported by the auto unit. Simply install the Android Auto app and follow all the instructions to get it paired up with your car.
As far as iPhones and iPods go, you’ll have to check with the manufacturer. Oftentimes you’ll see this information on the box of the product.
How do I pair my device with the Android unit?
First, you will need the Android Auto app installed on your phone. Give the app permission to access your contacts, music library, and whatever else it asks you. Then, hook your phone to the head unit with a USB cable. The app will ask you permission to do a bunch of other things, so keep pressing “accept” until it’s all ready to go. Once that’s done, make sure your phone’s Bluetooth is connected and that you have paired it with your car. If the head unit you bought doesn’t enable Bluetooth, you’re all set to go, just make sure to keep your phone connected with an aux cord. If it does and your phone has recognized the unit, everything is set!
Can I replace my old head unit with an Android one?
If you’re wondering how to upgrade your Android head unit, the answer is yes. You can place a new head unit in the place where your car stereo was. As long as the dimensions match up and you have all the right tools, you can even do it yourself.