Android Auto was launched over two years ago in an attempt to bring a driving-friendly user interface to the console displays in cars. Much like Apple’s CarPlay, it requires an Android phone to be connected to a compatible infotainment system. Until now, Google partnered with over 50 car-related brands to bring this interface to users, either via a built-in system or an aftermarket solution. But this meant people would only get access to this interface when they upgrade their cars or swap out their stereo sets for ones that are Android Auto compatible. So early this year at the Google I/O, the company demoed version 2.0 of the Android Auto app, that brought the same interface to any smartphone with Android 5.0 and above. Google finally released this version to the public on Monday.
The Android Auto 2.0 app features large, easy-to-read fonts as the phone is meant to be mounted to the windscreen. A card-based interface shows contextually-relevant information and only allows relevant services that are required while driving (like Maps, Music and Communication). The app can automatically launch after pairing with a Bluetooth-enabled car stereo. The display by default is set to an always-on mode, so needless to say that it’ll be a good idea to keep the phone plugged to a car charger. The primary interaction is expectedly via voice by tapping the mic button and saying the command (say, “Navigate to Bandra Kurla Complex”). It can also read out incoming communication like text messages and even WhatsApp messages that you receive.
Google’s blog post on the matter suggests that the popular “Ok Google” phrase to use voice commands hands-free will be added in a few weeks. You can use all the voice commands you typically would in the Google app (like “How’s the weather” or “How many bits in one byte?”), but it resorts to an audio-only response, so that the driver’s eyes aren’t distracted from the road. With respect to music, currently it only supports playback of songs that are stored on your phone or bought via Google Play Music. Streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify are supported, but unfortunately neither of them are officially available in India yet. Using India-centric services like Saavn, Gaana etc via Android Auto isn’t possible today.
A phased rollout of the v2.0 app is commencing currently in the 30 countries where Android Auto has been available (India included). You can go to the Google Play Store and see if the new version is made available to you, or if you are impatient to try it out, you can sideload the APK file (ARM64, ARM, x86).