What is an Android Headunit?

We often discuss ‘what is an Android head unit,’ with customers and know the subject causes so much confusion.

A quick search for ‘what is an Android head unit’ gives misleading or conflicting information.

A good start for us is to say what the Android headunits are not. This may seem a bit negative, but it can eliminate many preconceptions that come with the phrase ‘Android head unit.’

What is an Android headunit is not?

  • An Android headunit is not a Japanese-made car stereo.
  • You will not find big brand Japanese names like Kenwood, Sony, Pioneer, or Alpine being linked to Android headunits.
  • The Android headunits are not made using high-quality audio components, as you will find in the top branded audio equipment.
  • An Android headunit is not a factory-installed option in your ride.
  • If the ad mentions Android and one of the big names in car audio, you will be looking at an Android Auto Headunit, not an Android headunit.
  • If the Ad mentions only ‘Android’ and is very cheap, with no big audio car brand name, then it is a rubbish MP5 Player and not an Android headunit.

The flip side

Now we have explained what an Android headunit is not. It would also be helpful to know the pros and cons—the Android head units. The Android Auto head unit would help explain the difference between the two.

Which is better, the Android auto or the Android head unit?

Which has better sound quality?

What is an Android headunit?

This post answers the question ‘What is an Android headunit?’.

An Android headunit is a car head unit that runs the Android operating system. These are manufactured from Chinese components in giant factories based in the Guangdong Province of China.

The Android Headunit is similar to an Android tablet, with so much more. The apps are installed from the Play Store right onto the Android headunit. You can store music, files, photos, and apps in the Android headunit, and it can play music through your car speakers from the Android headunit’s built-in audio amplifier.


The Android headunit can run apps, and it doesn’t need a phone for the apps to work. There is no need to mirror the phone screen; you don’t need to bring your phone. (things are better when you share your phone data with the Android headunit). It is unnecessary to have your phone with you to work the Android Headunits because it is a self-contained Android System of its own.

Android tablet ++

Android headunits are like phones or tablets with more. The more is partly due to the internal power amplifier and connection to your car speakers. But more is also a reversing camera screen, more is a CAN BUS connection to the car computers and more its OBD connectivity. More is DAB radio by connecting a USB adaptor to the DAB antenna and many USB devices can expand the connectivity of the Ahdroid Headunits.

Standard phone features like Google Maps, GPS, FM Radio, and apps are standard in an Android headunit.

Android Headunit vs Android Auto Headunit

Android Auto

Suppose you want the very best quality sounds. Sound that far exceeds the factory headunit, the sound that you would expect from an expensive head unit. Then you want an Android Auto headunit from a top Android Auto manufacturer. This won’t give you a platform for natively running Android apps. You will need to mirror your phone, but the sound quality can be top floor with all the right equipment installed.

Android Headunit

Suppose you want your headunit to run Android apps with no need to use the phone to mirror its screen. If you are looking for a reversing camera feature but maybe not the most awesome-sounding tunes, you need an Android headunit. While reversing the camera can be achieved in several ways, only the Android headunit will run its apps in Android. All with GPS SAT NAV built-in and options for DAB digital radio, OBD2 connections, Bluetooth, and wifi, to name a few.

Apps or Sounds

Upgrading your car sounds may require more than just a head unit upgrade. The speakers play a big part in the sounds; an amplifier can make a huge difference. Some Android headunit manufacturers include digital audio output for connection to an amplifier. This, along with a good amp and the new speakers, could be enough to improve the sound of an Android headunit to a satisfactory level.

If amazing audio is expected, you need to bypass the Android Headunits and upgrade to an Android Auto headunit and forgo the apps. Just use your phone to mirror, but you will miss out on all that Android fun.

I am an android-headunits.com staff blogger. I have been using Android on my devices for many years and have learned a lot about the features and best hardware to keep up with the latest Android versions. I also make the coffee ☕

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ask Questions in the new Android Headunit Forum

Before you comment, consider joining our new Android Headunit Discussion Forum. You can find a place for your question that will be more easily seen and get answers to your questions. We are also looking for posts from experienced uses to share their knowledge and expertise. A simple registration process will open the site to you.

Join the forum - handshake

Top Headunit Articles

If you have a question, try our new Android Headunit Forum for answers. A simple registration and introduction will allow you to post your questions in the forum.