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Ask Arthur: Why won’t Android see my auto?

A reader buys a car with Android Auto on board, but it won’t connect to his phone. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK has some answers.

Q: I got a car with Android Auto, but it refuses to recognise my phone. Is my phone faulty? 

A: There’s probably nothing wrong with your phone. But there’s plenty wrong with Android Auto. Google has treated it like a poor relation of the Android family, and we’ve seen few advances in the past 5 years. The problem is doubled by car manufacturers treating it almost like an afterthought and not collaborating with or pushing Google to enhance its capabilities.  Volvo is one of the few exceptions.

The result is that most car manufacturers do not enable wireless connectivity for Android Auto, even though iPhones can connect wirelessly to most cars with Apple CarPlay. 

And that’s where the problem comes in. Most of us use standard USB charging cables. They seem compatible with most cars with USB charging ports. The phones charge fine when they are plugged in. Why wouldn’t they connect to a car’s infotainment system?

The reason is usually stupidly simple, but very few car makers know enough to realise this: the infotainment system needs a data cable and not merely a charging cable.  The latter only transmits charge, the former transmits data as well.

If your cable doesn’t do the trick, you need to buy a new one that is specifically designed for data, and is labelled as such. The higher the data capacity of the cable, the less likely you will find issues with infotainment systems. The Troo data cables recently reviewed here are a good example. 

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