How to choose an Android car stereo?

An Android car stereo is an infotainment system that runs on the Android operating system and is designed to be installed in automobiles. Unlike regular car stereos which focus primarily on entertainment functions like radio, CD players, and sometimes GPS navigation, an Android car stereo integrates the functionality of a smartphone into the vehicle’s dash.

The key benefits of an Android car stereo over a regular car stereo include:

  • Touchscreen interface – Android car stereos have an easier to use touchscreen similar to a smartphone or tablet, compared to the buttons and knobs on a regular car stereo.
  • Customizable apps – You can download different audio apps like Spotify or podcast players and other apps like navigation through Google Maps. This level of customization and expandability is not available on a normal car stereo.
  • Voice control – Android allows you to use Google Assistant for voice commands to play music, get directions, make calls etc. This hands-free experience is safer and more convenient while driving.
  • Smartphone integration – You can mirror your Android phone’s screen or connect it wirelessly to stream content. This connectivity and synchronization is seamless compared to regular Bluetooth connections on standard car stereos.

Overall, Android car stereos offer a much more versatile and technologically advanced infotainment experience for the connected, digital world we live in today.

Determine Your Needs

When choosing an Android car stereo, it’s important to determine your needs and which features are most important to you. Some key considerations include:

Touchscreen vs Buttons

Many Android car stereos now come with large, responsive touchscreens. Touchscreens allow for intuitive control and easy access to apps and menus. However, physical buttons may be preferred for commonly used functions like volume control or switching between apps. Consider if you prefer tactile buttons or want the sleek look of an all-touchscreen unit.

According to Worldwide Stereo, touchscreens have become very popular in car stereos.

Navigation and Maps

Many Android units come with pre-loaded navigation and mapping apps or are compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which provide phone-projected navigation. Determine if navigation is a priority and whether you want maps built into the stereo or prefer to project from your phone.

As noted in Old Cars Weekly, built-in navigation can be convenient but projected maps may offer more up-to-date information.

Hands-Free Calling

Bluetooth connectivity allows for hands-free calling and wireless music streaming from your phone. Make sure the stereo you choose has built-in Bluetooth if this feature is important to you.

Music Streaming

Most Android car stereos allow you to stream music apps like Spotify directly to your car speakers via Android Auto. Determine which music apps you use most to ensure compatibility.

Choose the Right Size

When shopping for an Android car stereo, it’s crucial to choose one that fits the dash opening of your vehicle. The two most common stereo sizes are single DIN and double DIN:

  • Single DIN stereos are the smaller standard size, typically measuring 2 inches high by 7 inches wide. These are designed to fit smaller dash openings and are a good choice if you have limited space.
  • Double DIN stereos are twice the height at 4 inches high but maintain the 7 inch width. Double DIN units allow for a larger display and more functionality. However, they require a larger dash opening.

Before purchasing, consult your owner’s manual or an online car stereo size database to determine whether you need a single DIN or double DIN unit. Measure the height and width of your current dash opening as well to ensure an accurate fit. Choosing the right size stereo for your vehicle’s dash from the start will ensure a seamless installation.

Operating System

The two main operating system options for Android car stereos are Android Auto and a stand-alone Android OS. Android Auto allows you to connect your phone to the car stereo and access apps and services through the car’s display. A stand-alone Android OS runs independently on the stereo itself without needing to connect a phone.

Android Auto gives you access to Google services like Maps, Assistant, and media apps. However, it relies on your phone and data connection. A stand-alone Android OS has built-in 4G LTE and WiFi connectivity and doesn’t need a phone. It offers embedded Google services and sometimes additional apps and customization. Android Automotive OS has over 35% market share compared to competitors like QNX.

Consider how much you want your stereo integrated with your phone versus operating independently. Also factor in the benefits of connected services like real-time traffic and mapping through Google. An Android OS with built-in data may provide more convenience and flexibility.

Processor and RAM

When choosing an Android car stereo, it’s important to consider the processor and RAM, as these will impact overall performance. A faster processor, like a quad-core or octa-core chip, is recommended for smooth navigation and streaming from apps like Google Maps or Spotify [1]. The processor needs to be powerful enough to quickly switch between multiple apps and operations without lagging.

You’ll also want at least 2GB of RAM in your Android head unit. RAM stores data temporarily for fast access and allows you to multitask without crashes or slowdowns. With only 1GB of RAM, the system may struggle with resource-intensive navigation and streaming [2]. Look for at least 2-4GB of RAM if you’ll frequently use navigation or stream high quality audio and video.


Connectivity is a key consideration when choosing an Android car stereo. Most models come with Bluetooth, allowing you to make hands-free calls and stream music wirelessly from your phone. Bluetooth versions 4.0 or higher provide a stable connection. Some stereos also have built-in WiFi for accessing apps and services without using your phone’s cellular data.

For wired connections, look for USB ports to plug into your phone or flash drive. USB 2.0 is standard, but USB 3.0 transfers data faster. The USB connection enables Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration on compatible stereos. An auxiliary input is good for hooking up older MP3 players. Some stereos also come with an HDMI input for video playback from phones or tablets.

Navigation and traffic alerts require built-in GPS on the stereo. Offline navigation utilizes preloaded maps, while connected navigation taps into online maps and real-time traffic data. Voice commands via Google Assistant allow hands-free navigation and music playback. Overall, choose a stereo with the connectivity options you’ll actually use.


Audio Quality

The audio quality of an Android car stereo depends largely on having the right balance between wattage and speaker quality. Most factory car stereos put out around 50 watts x 4 channels or 200 watts total ( This is often too little power to drive upgraded aftermarket speakers. Look for a stereo with at least 45-50 watts RMS power per channel to properly drive speakers and create clean, distortion-free sound.

Pay attention to sound tuning features like equalizers, crossovers, and time correction that allow customizing the sound. A parametric EQ gives more fine-tuned control over different frequency ranges. Look for options like digital signal processing, auto EQ setting, and multiple presets to optimize the sound for different genres. Features like high and low pass crossovers allow focusing each speaker on certain frequencies. Time correction compensates for speakers being different distances from the listener. The more tuning options the better for getting the ideal sound quality (

Display and Touch

Two important factors to consider for the display are screen brightness and touch responsiveness. You’ll want a screen that is bright enough to easily see during the day, but can also dim for night driving. Look for units that have adjustable brightness or auto dimming features. The Sony XAV-AX100 and Pioneer SPH-10BT have displays that reviewers praise for excellent visibility in various lighting conditions.

You’ll also want a responsive touchscreen that reacts quickly to your taps and swipes. Capacitive touchscreens tend to offer better responsiveness than resistive types. The Alpine iLX-F903 features advanced capacitive technology for fluid gesture control according to reviews. Look for descriptions of the touchscreen performance from reviews rather than just relying on specs.

Extra Features

When choosing an Android car stereo, some useful extra features to consider are a backup camera input and steering wheel control integration. Backup cameras have become very popular in recent years and allow you to easily see behind your vehicle when backing up, helping avoid accidents. Having an input to connect a backup camera on your new stereo can be extremely convenient. According to World Wide Stereo, a backup camera input is one of the top features to look for in a car stereo system.

Another useful extra is steering wheel control integration. This allows you to control basic functions of your stereo using the buttons already built into your steering wheel, like volume, track skipping, etc. This is much more convenient than having to reach over to the dashboard to change settings while driving. Lifewire mentions steering wheel control integration as an important feature to have in an Android car stereo for convenience and safety while driving.


When it comes to choosing an Android car stereo, there are options at every price point from budget to high-end. Here’s an overview of what to expect at different price ranges:

Entry-level: <$100 - Generic no-name brands dominate this price range. You'll get basic functions like Bluetooth, radio and playing media from USB, but limited features and lower build quality. Good option if you just want basic smartphone connectivity on a tight budget.

Mid-range: $100-$300 – Name brands like Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC enter the picture with better quality and more features like capacitive touchscreens, built-in navigation, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. This is the sweet spot for most consumers.

High-end: >$300 – Higher-resolution screens, more powerful processors, better amps and audio tuning. Top models from Pioneer, Kenwood, Sony, Alpine. Worth it for audio and tech enthusiasts who want the best quality and seamless experience.

Shop carefully and read reviews even within a price tier, as quality and features can vary. Balance your budget with your needs and which features are most important to you.

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