Tech

Android Auto vs Alexa Auto Mode: What’s the Difference?

Google and Amazon want to be in your car. Which one deserves a ride?

Android Auto is the car-friendly mode built into newer Android phones and available via an app on older ones, and Alexa Auto Mode is a car-friendly version of the Alexa phone app that’s highly integrated with Echo Auto. Both interfaces give you in-car interfaces while driving and allow you to interact with your phone through voice commands, but there are a lot of very important differences.

General conclusions

Android-Auto

  • Requires Android 5.0 or later.

  • Integrated with Android 10+ (no app needed).

  • You don’t need peripherals.

  • Integrates directly with many OE and aftermarket car stereos.

  • It can be used alone without integrating a main unit.

Alexa auto mode

  • Requires Android 6.0 or later, or iOS 11.0 or later.

  • Use the Alexa app.

  • Requires Echo Auto device to function.

  • Echo Auto connects to your car via Bluetooth or aux.

  • There is no way to use Alexa Auto mode without Echo Auto.

Android Auto and Alexa Auto Mode perform the same function and have a lot in common, but they target slightly different audiences. Android Auto only works for Android phone users, while Alexa Auto mode works on both Android and iPhone. Android Auto is also the best option for drivers whose car stereos have Android Auto built in, while Alexa Auto mode can work in virtually any vehicle, as long as you buy an Echo Auto.

Specifications: Alexa works on Android and iPhone

Android-Auto

  • Android phone running Android 5.0 or later.

  • Requires Android Auto app (Android 9.0 and earlier)

  • Integrated with Android 10.0 and later.

  • Requires compatible car stereo for full functionality.

  • Able to work on your phone without full car integration.

Alexa auto mode

  • Android phone running Android 6.0 or higher.

  • iPhone with iOS 11.0 or later.

  • Requires the Alexa app.

  • Requires an Echo Auto device.

  • The car stereo must have Bluetooth connectivity or an auxiliary input.

The biggest difference between Android Auto and Alexa Auto mode is that you can only run Android Auto on Android phones, while Alexa Auto mode is available for Android and iPhone. However, Android Auto works on some older Android phones as it supports Android 5.0 and above, while Alexa Auto mode requires Android 6.0 and above.

Android Auto is also a bit more convenient for owners of newer Android phones, as it’s built into Android 10.0 and up. Android phone owners who are unable to install Android 10.0 should download the Android Auto app.

The other big difference is that Android Auto doesn’t require any additional hardware or devices to use, while Alexa Auto mode doesn’t work without the Echo Auto device. If you don’t have an Echo Auto device, you simply can’t use Alexa Auto mode and must use Android Auto if you have an Android or CarPlay if you have an iPhone.

Interface: large and easy to see

Android-Auto

  • Open the interface by launching the Android Auto app or asking Google Assistant to launch Android Auto mode.

  • Your phone will also switch automatically if it’s connected to an Android Auto compatible car stereo.

  • Home screen with large text and buttons.

  • Individual screens for navigation, communication and music.

Alexa auto mode

  • Open the interface by connecting an Echo Auto and starting your car.

  • Cannot open the interface without connecting to Echo Auto.

  • Home screen with big buttons and text.

  • Individual screens for navigation, communication and music.

Both Android Auto and Alexa Auto Mode are based on car-friendly interfaces, with much larger text and buttons than a phone would normally display.

When you launch Android Auto on your phone, you’re greeted by navigation buttons at the bottom, a clock in the middle, and the menu and microphone buttons at the top. This home screen can also display other useful information, such as a mini-player for your music, weather information, and your current driving directions. The main buttons at the bottom open the navigation app, phone dialer, and music.

When your phone connects to an Amazon Echo Auto and you start your car, the phone displays a message that you can tap to launch Echo Auto mode. The home screen here provides large buttons that you can press for music, navigation, and calls.

Both systems are also set to work with voice commands only. You can use Android Auto with the OK Google wake word and activate Alexa Auto mode through your Echo Auto using the wake word you set for it.

Navigation: a little more integrated with Android Auto

Android-Auto

  • Ability to use different navigation apps, including Google Maps and Waze, from Android auto.

  • Use voice commands to find points of interest and set routes.

  • Navigation is done in the Android Auto app.

Alexa auto mode

  • Option to set default navigation app in Alexa app settings.

  • Use voice commands to find points of interest and set destinations.

  • Navigation is done in the navigation application you have chosen.

Android Auto and Alexa Auto Mode are functionally very similar when it comes to navigation. With Android Auto, you can choose your navigation app, like Google Maps or Waze, from Android Auto. You can also choose which navigation app to use with Alexa Auto mode, but you must do so from the Alexa app settings.

Both services allow you to locate points of interest, set destinations and start navigation using voice commands. Google Assistant handles it for Android Auto, while Alexa listens for Alexa Auto mode.

The biggest difference is that Android Auto is a bit more integrated with your navigation. When you start a route, navigation takes place within the Android Auto app, with familiar car-friendly buttons and the ability to easily access the Android Auto home screen, communication screen or music screen.

With Alexa auto mode, the navigation request launches the app you selected and provides navigation assistance from that app. With Echo Auto, you can continue to control your phone with voice commands, so you can say “Alexa, return to the Alexa app” if you want to return to the Alexa Auto mode home screen while navigating. The functionality is there, just a little less integrated.

Communication: Alexa auto mode allows direct access

Android-Auto

  • Dedicated communication screen.

  • Simple options for recent numbers, favorites, contacts, dialer, and voicemail.

  • Send and read text messages with voice commands.

Alexa auto mode

  • Dedicated communication screen.

  • Dedicated buttons for calling, connecting to other Alexa devices, and sending announcements.

  • Use voice commands to send and read SMS.

For the most part, the communication options provided by these services are balanced. Android Auto gives you easy access to recent calls, favorite numbers, contacts, dialer, and your voicemail. Alexa’s auto mode is a bit more lame, with only the ability to access your dialer in terms of actual phone calls.

The difference here is that the Alexa auto mode communication screen also offers easy access to swipe or make an announcement. The release button allows you to connect to any Alexa device you own or have permission to connect to, while the announce button allows you to send an announcement to your other Alexa devices.

While the basic calling options are a bit more robust in Android Auto, the reduced functionality is a good idea for households that use a lot of Alexa devices and make heavy use of push-to.

Both services support voice-activated calling, text message dictation, and the ability for Google Assistant or Alexa to read incoming text messages so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

Smart Home integration and beyond: Google Home vs. Alexa

Android-Auto

  • Use the Google Assistant to control Google Home devices.

  • Google may provide payment options for things like gas through the Google Assistant in the future.

Alexa auto mode

  • Use Alexa to control your smart home devices from your car.

  • Order and pay for Starbucks.

  • Pay for gas and turn on the pumps at participating Exxon and Mobil stations.

Android Auto doesn’t have smart home integration per se, but it does use the Google Assistant. So when you use Android Auto to navigate and make calls, you can easily request to turn on, turn on, or turn off all the smart devices you’d normally control with the Google Assistant or a Nest smart speaker.

Alexa Auto mode relies on an Echo Auto to work, so it provides full Echo functionality by default. This means you can interact with your smart home devices through Alexa auto mode in exactly the same way as talking to an Echo or Echo Dot smart speaker.

Alexa Auto mode offers expanded functionality, allowing you to interact with services beyond your own smart home devices. For example, you can order and pay for Starbucks through Alexa’s auto mode, then pick it up while driving. You can also pay for gas and activate the pump at participating Exxon and Mobil stations using Alexa Auto mode.

Final verdict: More people will get better results with Android Auto

Android Auto is the go-to in-vehicle phone interface for Android users. It allows you to use it only if your vehicle doesn’t have any kind of smartphone integration, and also seamlessly integrates with OE (Original Equipment) and aftermarket car stereos that have Android Auto built-in. This makes Android Auto the superior option. if you have a car stereo with Android Auto, or if your car stereo doesn’t have integration and you don’t want to buy additional devices.

Alexa Auto mode is a bit of a harder sell, as it only works if you buy an Echo Auto. It works on both Android and iPhone, and Echo Auto works with both Bluetooth and auxiliary inputs. This means Alexa Auto mode is a great option no matter what kind of phone you’re using, if your vehicle has Bluetooth connectivity or an auxiliary input, but doesn’t support Android Auto built-in. or Apple CarPlay.

Ultimately, Android Auto is the more comprehensive of the two options, and more people will get better results because it works with both Android Auto car stereos and on its own, without any additional devices.

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