Five years following Android Auto launched, Google announced the platform’s first important refresh at Google I/O This year. That refresh — that brings an updated layout, app launcher, a notification tab, new typeface, and dark mode by default — is starting to arrive on Android mobiles across the world this week. By and large, Android Vehicle feels and looks a lot more like your own Android cellphone now, with big, colorful icons that better highlight all the things you can do rather than have you go searching for apps under various tabs.
In the older version of Android Automobile , There were small icons along the bottom navigation bar that split everything into groups: navigation, calls, house display, audio, and exit. Now, everything is condensed into the app-launcher button on the left, a telling bell on the right, and a Google Assistant shortcut. It’s a more intuitive way to use Android Auto, given all your compatible programs are laid out upfront on the app launcher.
But not every one of the icons work how you think they would. Even though the icons for third party programs like Spotify and Audible launch their individual apps, hitting Google News doesn’t bring up your news immediately, per se. Instead, Google apps like Calendar and Podcasts simply bring up Google Assistant, which just ends up asking you to complete the job by voice.
This technically makes sense, given Android Auto Is intended to make you physically touch the screen as little as you can. But in practice, this felt super redundant. It was annoying to find that although the icons for all of your Google programs were there, most simply routed you back to the Google Assistant. This overkill is indicated by the permanent Google Assistant button at the ideal side of the base navigation bar as you might always have triggered it by voice or via your steering wheel’s voice control button.
One of other UI changes, almost everything is larger now But for the time, which is now hidden away in the upper left corner. I despise this placement. In my 2018 Ford Escape, the recessed screen means a lot of this left side of this screen is typically blocked from the driver’s seat perspective. At the very minimum, I need to be able to tell what time it is while I’m driving! And although the new left-aligned app launcher is designed to make it easier to reach, it’s really more difficult for automobiles which use this kind of display configuration. From where I’m sitting, I can’t even really see where I’m reaching, and straining to find that button once I must really be driving is certainly not the intended use behavior.
While this new design means that information can Sometimes display , thankfully incoming calls, text messages, and playing bars have been emphasized much more clearly against the dark background. You’re able to view a summary of your notifications by tapping on the bell icon — a huge improvement over the old home screen that listed way too many things in different information blocks. This section makes it easy for you to peek at a text when you’re stopped at a red light to see any messages you may have missed. Additionally, it just makes a lot more sense; formerly this was mixed in around the home screen with the weather report and now playing, making it hard to glance at who had been attempting to get in contact with you personally and when.
Over on the main Google Maps perspective, everything looks largely the same. Plugging on your phone now brings up your Maps app first, together with favorited addresses comprised up front alongside live commute times. You can still decide to use other navigation apps, for example Waze. If a supported media program has been used, while it’s YouTube Music or Plex, the icon will appear along the bottom for one to pause, rewind, or jump. The opposite is also true if you’re in the full-screen variant of a music program; if you start a program while you’re navigating somewhere on Google Maps, the instructions now stay at the base of the screen so that you can see the album art or track progress for whatever you are listening to without losing sight of what functions are coming up . That now-playing display is also a little more info-dense than before, as you can see exactly how long a track was playing and how much is left, which can be good when listening to a podcast or audiobook.
Although these Additional controls are useful, I wish you Can conceal the main navigation bar when it’s not to be able to see the map. Typically, I control music with all the buttons on my steering wheel, while having the controls up front was helpful, I didn’t always want it on the monitor.
You need to note, incidentally, that none of these UI changes will soon be coming to the mobile version of Android Auto. Instead, Google says it will release another update through the Google Assistant program that’s called Driving Mode. While the newest Android Auto appears and feels refreshing, I didn’t find the redesign to be much more useful than the previous iteration. Maybe I had already gotten so used to relying on Android Vehicle through speaking and listening that I barely ever tapped on the screen to find anything that I needed anyhow. Making the platform work like a phone is helpful for those that may have never used something like it before, but you’re likely to want to largely use it primarily with voice so that you can focus on the road.
What I wish Android Automobile improved upon has been its actual functionality. It takes about five back-and-forths using Google Assistant to send a text message, and you still can not opt for a default media player in the app, even though you are able to select a default navigation app. (You have to experience the main Google Assistant configurations instead. Thanks, Michael Beganny!) Shortening the number of taps to get someplace on Android Auto is nice, but shortening the amount of voice prompts before an action is completed would be much more useful.
As more car manufacturers embrace Android Auto Compatibility, I am hoping that Google will begin upgrading the stage On a more frequent cadence. The brand new Android Auto is Beginning to feel Like a more fluid transition when you leap from your telephone to your vehicle. But please do not make us wait for another five years to the Upcoming important Update.