Android Auto is about to stop working on older smartphones

Google’s car infotainment system now requires Android 8.0 or later

Android Auto
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

For anyone still using an older Android smartphone, Google is in the process of making a major change to how its Android Auto can infotainment system works.

Until now, Android Auto worked over a wired USB connection with phones still running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which arrived all the way back in 2015. But now, the company is in the process of telling anyone still using these phones that their time with Android Auto is almost up.

A support document for Android Auto has been updated to state the system will now only work over USB with smartphones running Android 8.0 Oreo or later. This operating system began rolling out in 2017, so it’s still likely that the vast majority of Android users will still have a compatible phone in their pockets.

But, if your handset is four or five years old, your time with Android Auto is about to run out. To keep the infotainment system working, you’ll need to update to a newer version of Android. And if your handset doesn't support anything beyond 8.0 Oreo, then it’s time for a new phone altogether.

According to some users on Reddit, anyone running Android Auto on an older handset has started receiving a message stating: “Phone system is too old. App needs Android upgrade soon”.

This at least means Google is giving these customers a bit of time before shutting them out of Android Auto entirely – a kind gesture, given its departure will prevent Google Maps and a whole host of other apps from being accessible through their car’s dashboard display. It isn’t clear what will happen to third-party car head units running Android 7.0 or older, but we suspect these will also need a software update, or entirely replacing, soon.

For those who use wireless Android Auto, Google’s requirements remain the same as before. This means any phone running Android 11.0 or later, or a Google Pixel or Samsung handset with Android 10.0 or later, or a Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note 8 with Android 9.0

Looking ahead to what’s next for Android Auto, a major upgrade codenamed Coolwalk, announced by Google earlier in the year, is due out before the end of the summer. This will introduce a new multi-window user interface to Android Auto, where several apps can be viewed and accessed at once, and the layout and size of these app windows adjusts based on the size and shape of the vehicle’s dashboard display.

Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.