Replacing the stock car stereo with an Android Auto head unit takes you a notch ahead of the other drivers. Thanks to the Android Auto compatibility, a number of additional utilities and apps can be used with these head units. But not everyone is an Android user! There is a large number of iPhone users who would prefer an Apple Car Play supported head unit, preferably a Double DIN radio model.
In order to make life easier for both Android as well as iOS users, we have compiled a list of some head units. While shortlisting the models, we have tried to pick up those that are compatible with Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto both. In our quest, we tested market famous products like the Sony XAV-AX100 and Alpine ILX-107, but also models like the Kenwood Excelon and a few JVC car stereo picks.
Finding The Latest and Greatest Apple Car Play and Android Auto Head Units
The idea here is to get you the most bang for your bucks. But for that, the choice between iOS and Android is just the starting point. In our tests, we have considered a lot more. For instance, connectivity solutions really impact how to use Android Auto or CarPlay. A wireless connection is much more “on-the-go” as compared to a wired connection. Although it is true that most of the car stereo solutions nowadays come with wireless connectivity.
Moreover, the display size and quality are equally important. It will never stop being an issue if the there is a capacitive touchscreen but it is not responsive. Similarly, you might not like the size of the screen (or the resolution for that matter). Support for native controls on the vehicle is also a crucial element that most of the auto head models still fail at. But it is, nonetheless, a very handy feature if you can control your music through dedicated buttons on the steering wheel itself. Yet, this will only be more relevant when those steering wheel controls become commonplace.
Last but not the least, expect to find a number of double DIN radio models in our list because that is the standard in most cases these days. But even if it is a single DIN Android Auto Head Unit, the size of the screen remains the same. As a result, this might not be as important a question as compatibility across the board is.
Best Double DIN
Great Overall Quality!
Even with a screen size that is half an inch smaller than many, the Sony XAV-AX100 managed to beat the competition. Not only does it have a good quality of audio thanks, to the in-built amplifier, it’s also one of the more reliable performers. The controls are great and the price point isn’t too demanding as well.
Best Single DIN
Turns Your Old Cars Into Smart Ones
If you are still driving one of the older models that didn’t have bigger spaces for the stereo head unit, you might need a single DIN model. Among those, we didn’t find anything better than this Pioneer head unit. Not only does it have the largest screen size, but it is also packed with satellite video, DVD playback, as well as the greatest physical controls.
It is true that the Google Maps and Apple Maps are good enough for navigation. But not everyone is going to rely on the Google Maps car navigation. The Kenwood Excelon DNX694S will not disagree with you. There’s a state of the art Garmin satellite navigation system installed within the head unit. And that is not even the best part. Since it is a satellite-based system, you do not need an internet connection in order to use it!
Just like the Sony XAV-AX100, this one was also a multi-platform model compatible with Android as well as iOS. And the two areas that the Sony unit missed out on were HD Radio as well as a dedicated CD player. The latest Kenwood Excelon model has both. Also, the screen size of the Sony XAV-AX100 was 6.4 inches which is 0.4 inches smaller than the Kenwood Excelon, at 6.8 inches.
Thanks to the larger screen size, it allows you to use two apps at once by displaying both together. And in case one screen isn’t enough, you will be able to expand it with more screens as well as other utilities like a rear camera etc.
That’s enough positives, let’s move on to why you might not buy the Kenwood Excelon DNX694S head unit: price. The Sony car stereo head unit costs half as much as the Excelon, and the AX-100 isn’t even the cheapest. If price is not an issue, the only other consideration to make is whether you are content with the UI of the head unit. In comparison to models with similar price, there were rare performance issues due to an old-fashioned UI.
- Android Auto and Apple Car Play Support
- Bigger Screen Size
- HD Radio, DVD Player
- Garmin Sat-Nav Software
- Expensive Product
- UI Needs Some Improvement
Sony stereo solutions are examples to reckon with. For starters, the AX100 gets rid of the OS compatibility debate thanks to Android as well as iOS support. Moreover, it covers all the important functionality areas. The sound quality is among the more clear and powerful ones, and the screen responsiveness works like a charm.
Talking of, the Bluetooth enabled Sony receiver comes with a 6.4 inch double DIN radio display. Although the 6.4″ LCD is smaller than its new counterpart, the Sony XAV-AX5000, it isn’t too small itself. You will not be able to use the screen with an in-built navigator though since it doesn’t come with one. But the mobile “Maps” apps are better anyway.
While it also has an in-built amplifier, it will not be relevant in most cases. This is because the Sony XAV-AX100 auto head isn’t a budget stereo head. And buying this means you will probably already have a much better standalone amplifier or your car sound system. No matter how good it gets, a built-in auto head amplifier isn’t going to be as strong as a dedicated one.
In our tests, its touchscreen was one of the more responsive ones. Not only is the Android Auto head unit fast enough, but the software is also quite easy to navigate. Since we are talking about easier navigation and controls, let’s talk about the singular volume knob on the left. Every driver has found the capacitive volume controls hard to use. With a knob, you can control the playback without getting distracted away from the road.
- Supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play Both
- Convenient Controls
- Credible Performance
- Most Well Rounded Feature Set
- No DVD Player
- No Satellite Radio
While both the Sony XAV-AX100 and the Kenwood Excelon models had audio as well as video playback, the JVC car stereo only has audio. This might be a deal breaker for many of you. But believe us when we say it that the JVC KW-M730BT is among the best in audio-only stereos.
It is true that the repute of JVC among some other products is not the best. But the company has been in the business of making audio solutions for automobiles since a while now. Despite not focusing on the high-end, a number of JVC car stereo products are there among the best Android Auto head unit models. The reason? Overall value.
The JVC car stereo is a double DIN radio receiver that comes with the SiriusXM satellite radio. So when you are out in areas of weaker cellular reception, the radio will still keep you company. These are things that even the Sony XAV-AX100 didn’t have, but does this make it better than the Sony head unit? Possibly Not. When you are using the JVC KW-M730BT, there is a high probability you will not like the extra small volume controls which are nothing like the easy to grab knob of Sony’s.
To make up for that, you get a 6.8″ screen which is identical to the Kenwood Excelon model above. And also a complete support for Android Auto as well as Apple Car Play. With which you can expect an audio quality that is better than CD. That is if you are making use of its HD audio support.
- Supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Both
- HD Audio and HD Radio
- Multiple Smartphones
- Best Audio
- No DVD Player No Video Playback/compare_box_row]
These days most of the cars come with a double DIN space for the touchscreen radio head units. Therefore, we tested only a few single DIN heads. Nonetheless, there are people like me driving older cars that have lesser space for the head unit. So, in case you also have the single DIN, 8 x 2 inch, space, go no further than this Pioneer head unit.
It is the first flip out model that we have included in the list and also the only one. As it is the successor of the best that there was i.e. Pioneer AVH-2300NEX, it will also be the only one. Now we are not saying that single DIN units look as cool as the double DIN ones, but we at least get the same quality of product and feature set!
But if you still want something to boast against the looks of a double DIN unit, you can always say that yours is a full 7″ display. That is bigger than the Kenwood Excelon as well as the Sony XAV-AX100. It even equals the Sony head unit with a large volume knob, satellite radio as well as a DVD player.
Not only that, the Pioneer head unit makes use of the space in front very well. It has more physical controls that all of the previous models that we tested. For a device that is to be used while driving, physical controls make things much easier than having to use the capacitive touch buttons.
- Supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play Both
- Satellite Radio and DVD Slot
- Large Display for a Single DIN Unit
- Better Buttons Hence Control
- Pop Up Screen Can Block Car Dashboard
- More Mechanical Build
No wires, no tangles! That is the anthem of the day ever since Apple has launched wireless connectivity between the CarPlay functionality and your iPhone. The first product to officially incorporate wireless connectivity within itself is here. Take a look at the Alpine ILX-107!
Indeed the Alpine ILX-207 is also a considerable option, and it cost less. It is already an expensive product, but it does cost $100 less for the wired version. If you compare the two, you’ll see that the wired Alpine head unit doesn’t miss out on too. But if it is the wireless CarPlay connectivity that you want, the link is in the name of the product above.
All this was super cool until we were unable to connect the unit with Android. It is an Apple exclusive stereo head unit and no matter how much you love its aesthetics you will need to shit to iPhone before you can use the Alpine ILX-107 in your ride. Moreover, the manufacturers have also included a dedicated button for Siri, the first in all products on our list.
Even the audio quality and overall performance was great. The screen is responsive and the process is fast. But there are no physical buttons for volume adjustment. As a result, you have to use the touchscreen to change volumes, and that is a distraction while driving. But don’t worry, if your steering wheel has built-n multimedia buttons you can use them to control the unit in a better way.
Not sold yet? Alpine ILX-107 has the biggest screen in our list at 7″ and has rear camera input slots too!
- Supports Wireless Apple Car Play
- Large Screen Size
- Siri Focused
- Great Sound Quality
- No Android Auto Support
- Expensive for a Platform Exclusive
- Double DIN: 8″ x 4″
- Single DIN: 8″ x 2″
Furthermore is the display resolution. We are talking about anything that is equal to, or higher than 480 pixels. Do keep in mind that for video playback on a device like this, anything close to 480 is fine. Let’s not compare the quality with high-end LEDs or monitor displays.
Greater connectivity in terms of Android Auto head units or CarPlay units means wired connections through USB or wireless ones that use Bluetooth or otherwise. However, high spending Apple users can go and buy the first wireless head unit for Apple Car Play, the Alpine ILX-107.
There are close to 40 countries where the Android Auto and CarPlay services have been launched by Google and Apple. For the Android Auto, currently you can use them in these countries:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
The list of countries for Apple Car Play is quite similar with one or two changes. You can find it here.
What is Android Auto and Apple Car Play?
The Android Auto is an Android car stereo solution by Google. It allows you to control and manage the car’s multimedia as well as navigation through the head unit display as well as through the smartphone. You can download the app and connect it with the Android Auto head unit you bought for greater convenience.
The Apple CarPlay is an identical (as much as that word can be used for iOS and Android-based software) service to the Android Auto. The only difference is that the Apple Car Play is made for iPhone specifically. There are some head unit models out there that are exclusive to one of these platforms. But many would be supported by Android Auto as well as CarPlay.