Google Assistant is perhaps the most powerful tool in Android, and the rise of smart speakers has only accelerated things. For those of you looking to get more out of Google Assistant, the car offers an abundance of opportunities to do so. An Android smartphone alone is enough to use Google Assistant in the car, but a few accessories can really ramp up the experience.
From a simple smartphone mount to a full replacement for the head unit, these accessories will supercharge your Google Assistant car experience.
One of the most basic things you can do to up your Google Assistant game in the car is adding a smartphone mount. Given that one of our primary goals is to keep your eyes on the road, getting your smartphone in a glanceable spot is key. Not to mention putting the microphone in better range to hear your Google Assistant commands.
This Scosche MagicMount attaches to your dashboard using an automotive grade adhesive. The included magnetic plate then allows your phone to stick to it. I’ve used a similar vent mounted Scosche MagicMount personally for years and love it. Best of all these can typically be had for around $13.
Kenu Airbase Wireless
It’s not a cheap option at around $60, but if you want Qi charging within your car mount this is one of the best. It allows up to 10w wireless charging for phones that support it (sorry fellow Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL owners, slow charging only for us). There’s also a vent mounted option for those that prefer to keep things off the dashboard.
Google Assistant Devices
Right now, this is pretty much a single device market, but expect to see more in the future. It’s basically a Google Home Mini for your car, which offloads some of the Google Assistant work from your phone. Until every car supports Android Auto, expect to find these kinds of accessories to enhance Google Assistant in your car.
Anker Roav Bolt
For those without Android Auto in their car, this is a great partial solution for around $50. The Anker Roav Bolt plugs into your 12v outlet and offers two USB-A ports to power your devices. It has two microphones to pick up your voice and a single button to mute or activate Google Assistant. Once you have paired it with your phone the first time, it will automatically connect in the future. For a full rundown, Ben just recently reviewed the Anker Roav Bolt and came away impressed.
Android Auto Head Units
If you aren’t close to buying a new car with Android Auto support, for quite a bit less you can upgrade your head unit. To be clear Android Auto goes beyond simply Google Assistant, but it’s a key component of Android Auto. Originally there were extremely limited and expensive options, but now there’s a reasonable spectrum depending on your budget. Do take into account that installation for any of these head units will run you approximately an extra $100-$160.
Typically found for about $400 on Amazon, this is about the cheapest Android Auto head unit that I would recommend. It offers navigation, a 7-inch touchscreen, backup camera support, and a nearly bezel-less design. The big downside to this unit as compared to the next two is it lacks wireless Android Auto support. I’m personally pushing for as cord-free an existence as possible with my phone, but it’s up to you if that’s worth an extra $100.
In the grand tradition of head units, the name is terrible, but the product itself is fantastic. Coming in right around $500, you get just about everything you could want at a reasonable price. It has a 7-inch multitouch screen with support for wireless Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay). Support for backup cameras, FLAC audio playback, and Bluetooth support are all here. The one piece missing is navigation, but that savings can get you a nice smartphone mount and let you stick to your phone for navigation.
Kenwood eXcelon DNX995S
Moving up to around $700, this unit from Kenwood ups the ante a bit from our previous pick. The screen size is similar at just shy of 7-inches, but the resolution is 1280×720. Most head units, including our previous pick, top out at 800×480 and feature a resistive screen as opposed to the capacitive screen found here. It also offers wireless Android Auto and CarPlay support, but notably, connects to two devices simultaneously. This Kenwood delivers the navigation features that the Pioneer lacks. Finally, there is support for both front and rear-facing cameras.