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Transforming Android tablet into Head Unit: detailed instructions

Author: Vladimir Brown

In many pre-2017 cars, there is no way to install Android Auto or Carplay. However, there are always workarounds, and one of them is to use a tablet to display the GPS navigation apps on the screen. That way, you get a handy device with a big screen that emulates the Head Unit of the car.

Such a solution would be an economical and smart choice for many car owners who need the GPS navigation and entertainment features of Android Auto.

Table of Contents

Is my tablet compatible with Android Auto?

  • Almost any modern tablet will work with Android Auto.
  • You will need the Headunit Reloaded Emulator HUR to make your tablet work as a head unit, also check the system requirements to install it (Android 4.1 and up)
  • Stable Wi-fi access to connect your tablet wirelessly to the internet
  • Mounting bracket to put your tablet in a comfortable place in the car
  • Android Auto app (most often already installed on your Android tablet)

What functions will be available through the tablet

  • Maps, navigation will be available on the screen,
  • You will be able to make and receive calls,
  • Entertainment system: music (Spotify), videos (Youtube, Netflix),
  • Other features available in Android OS.

Step 1: Installing the Headunit Reloaded App

So, you need to install the special Android app called Headunit Reloaded. You can download it through the Play Market.

It is updated not very often, but the reviews of this app are mostly positive, so there is no reason not to trust the developer.

Once you have downloaded Headunit Reloaded App, run it.

If you are not going to subscribe, we suggest you take advantage of the free trial mode that gives you access to all the features for a limited time.

The full version price is €4.99.

Step 2: Android Auto Settings

Although the Android Auto app is part of the mobile OS, it is not easy to find its icon. If you don't find this navigator through the app drawer, use the search.

In the search results will be available Android Auto settings (we will return to them later).

Step 3: Access Developer settings

The Headunit Reloaded app needs access to the developer settings.

This is a normal procedure and does not compromise the security of the operating system.

Getting access to developer settings on your tablet is very easy:

  1. Go to Android Settings (see above) - About phone - Software information.
  1. Tap the Build number info line several times.

  2. The corresponding message will appear.

  1. The developer settings are activated.

Step 4: Setting up the head unit server

Head unit server is a necessary function for emulating Android Auto on the tablet. You can activate it as follows:

  1. In AA settings, tap on the button with three dots on the right.
  2. In the menu, select the "Start head unit server" command. It is located next to the Connect the car button.

Step 5: Activating mobile hotspot

Setting up mobile hotspot is an important step in configuring the tablet for AA, because this way you can ensure that the data between the phone and the tablet is synchronized.

Almost all modern Android phones have this feature. Go to the settings (you can use search) and activate the mobile hotspot, so that the phone starts distributing the Internet.

  1. Go to Settings

  2. Tap Connections

  1. Tap Mobile Hotspot and Tethering
  1. Tap Mobile Hotspot
  1. Tap the switch to turn the hotspot on

  2. Edit the Network Name and Password if needed

  3. Tap Save

  1. Your Mobile Hotspot should now be activated.

Step 6. Connect your tablet to an access point

Once your phone starts streaming the internet, go to Android Auto tablet's settings and connect to the access point created in the previous step.

Step 7. Connecting Headunit Reloaded to WiFi

Go into the Headunit Reloaded app and tap on the appropriate icon to connect to the internet via your phone's hotspot.

You don't need internet access directly on the tablet, however the internet connection must be active on your phone, as the device is used as an access point for the tablet where Android Auto navigation works.

Step 8: Using Android Auto on your tablet

Once you complete the steps above, Android Auto navigation will be available on your tablet.

The tablet should be placed in a convenient place on your car dashboard. To do this, use any holder available for the tablet. You can find such accessories on Ebay.

In addition to the Wireless connection, you can try the usual wired connection via OTG USB cable (that is, the phone connects to the tablet via a USB port).

However, this option when running Android Auto on the tablet is not optimal, as you will not be able to charge both the phone and Android Auto tablet.

Other apps for tablet: Alternative to Android Auto

You will find many Android tablet car launchers on Play Store that are designed to replace the car's head unit in a software-based way. Despite the fact that it is only a partial replacement for the car computer.

We advise you to study such apps for Android. By the way, it is not necessary to install them on your tablet, you can limit yourself to a mobile phone app.

Best car launchers for Android

In addition to the Android tablet, there are budget Amazon Fire tablets available - they can be a good replacement for the head unit. The tablet can be used not only for navigation, but also for listening to music, watching Youtube videos. No need to unlock extra features or pay to use the tablet.

I'm Vladimir, your guide in the expansive world of technology journalism, with a special focus on GPS technologies and mapping. My journey in this field extends over twenty fruitful years, fueled by a profound passion for technology and an insatiable curiosity to explore its frontiers.