5+ Essential Android Tips Every Driver Needs

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Your smartphone can leverage the power of Google to offer you hands-free navigation, traffic and weather updates, phone calls, music, and more. With so many features, knowing where to start can be challenging. Here are five tips to keep in mind to get the most from your Android device, whether you're a new user or a seasoned veteran.

1. Know what app you’re using

Recently, there’s been a fair bit of confusion by users on whether they are using Google Driving Mode or Android Auto. This confusion can make it hard to get support if needed, or even just keep your apps up to date.

Google has two driving assistant features, and the one you use depends on the version of Android that you’re running.

If you are running Android 6 through 11, you will likely use Android Auto. With this app, you connect your phone via USB or Bluetooth to your car and navigate from its built-in panel. Your phone screen will no longer work, when you're connected.

Beginning with Android 12, you will run the Driving Mode of Google Maps—which comes preloaded on Android devices.

If you want to verify your car’s compatibility with Android connection, you can use Google’s tool to check.

2. Configure your settings

When your phone is connected to your vehicle, you should see an app launcher that looks like four squares on your screen. Tap that icon, then tap the gear and car icon to access the Settings menu. This list is a mixture of options, like whether you accept calls or texts while driving or whether voice-activated commands should be enabled.

Pro tip: When Google releases an update of its driving apps, new settings are sometimes incorporated that might affect your existing settings. If you ever notice your navigation is not working consistently with how you set it up, a good first step is to double-check that these settings are still correct.

Some fun features that exist under your settings include:

Disable notifications while you drive: To help reduce distracted driving-which is a dangerous yet growing issue-you can completely turn off all notifications from popping up while you drive. Focus on the road; follow up when you get to your destination.

Show first line of messages: On the other hand, if you are awaiting important news, you may be less distracted if you could just see the first line of messages that are coming in while you drive. This is yet another feature you can adjust in your settings.

Day/Night mode: Select your default setting for navigation, whether you want the day (light) or night (dark) mode, or if you’d like to automatically switch depending on the time of day.

Weather: You can easily have weather show up on your home screen by switching this function on in your settings menu.

3. Use voice commands for a fully hands-free experience

Eliminate the temptation to touch your car's navigation panel by using voice commands. These features come as part of Drive Mode, a display adjustment that you can use to reduce distraction.

Just say, “Hey Google…” or tap the microphone on your screen and then speak, you can access voice commands.

4. Pick the most fuel-efficient route.

While Google Maps has typically shown the fastest route, now it automatically shows you the most fuel-efficient route. In your settings, you can also adjust what sort of fuel you use-gasoline, diesel, hybrid, or electric-since different cars are optimized for different driving conditions.

Got a need for speed above all else? You can opt out of the fuel-efficient setting within your settings.

5. Clean up your contacts.

Making sure your contacts are accurately named - with no duplicate contacts and with each contacts' multiple phone numbers stored under the same name - makes it easier to use voice commands while you drive. Otherwise, Google may get confused about which entry it needs to reach out to, and you can rapidly get lost trying to perform a simple task.

These are just some of the fun features that Android offers drivers, with new functionality constantly getting rolled out. Explore our Optimum's full list of available phones to find the one that fits your needs and preferences.

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