With the debut of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, infotainment systems in vehicles have been revolutionized. Recently, for the first time in its history, Google presented a full redesign for Android Auto, and over the previous few days I’ve been able to check it out in my own car. I believe the fresh design of Google has some great benefits so far, but I believe it takes a few steps away from the original. This is why.
Android Auto Navigation has been significantly improved
The greatest beneficial shift in my experience with the new Android Auto was the new navigation system. Google has opted for just three static buttons instead of the applications switch row. On the far left side of the screen there is a home button, with notification buttons on the correct side and Google Assistant. As it’s nearer to the driver, having the home button off to the right makes it a little easier to use.
What really changes the game here, though, is how the Android Auto navigation bar adapts to what you’re doing. If you’ve got music playing but you’re in something like Google Maps, the navigation bar indicates the music playing app and on-screen controls for your songs. The same goes for vice versa. If you are in a music app, on the navigation bar, your navigation instructions proceed.
This operates very well and saves you a lot of time while riding. Without a fast shortcut to the app you need to get back to, you’re never left, and the data you need is always on the screen. The only thing I wish this feature did differently is to have the choice in this bottom bar to continually display music data instead of just controls.
Auto-launch is highly convenient for a busy lifestyle
The new Android Auto will be a significant improvement for you for just one reason if you get in the vehicle and need to go fairly much immediately. Auto-launch is a large fresh component of this update, and it saves you time every time you plug in your phone by switching on your music instantly and putting you in your favorite navigation app.
As quickly as your phone gets plugged in and Android Auto starts, music keeps playing on the speakers of your vehicle from wherever you left off on your smartphone, but it’s intelligent enough to understand what you want in your vehicle. For instance, if you used Spotify the last time you were in the vehicle but switched to a podcast on Google Podcasts while wandering around the city, when you get back in the vehicle, Android Auto will resume Spotify.
The new Android Auto will also remember where you left off to navigate. If you’re typically using Google Maps, when you plug in, that’s what will open. Alternatively, if this is your preference, it will open Waze. I can see that this is particularly useful once more navigation applications are opened up by the platform.
The fresh Android Auto is not as smart as the original
In my view, the greatest issue with the new Android Auto is the new home screen. With this update, Google is focusing on applications, and to that end, the home screen now displays all of your Android Auto compatible applications instead of placing them in the navigation bar. The home screen is not bad in itself, but it dissects much of the comfort the platform had before.
The home screen would display any continuing navigation and your presently playing music in the “initial” Android Auto, but it would also display notifications and more. Notifications can still be accessed via the “bell” icon on the left side of the screen in the fresh Android Auto. However, there are no more calendar-based navigation reminders and Google Maps predictive destinations. Also, there is no longer a devoted weather card.
Technically, Google Maps still contains the “latest” destinations, but it’s not as intelligent as it was before.
That’s a shame, as Android Auto’s whole point and systems like that are about making life easier. I often went on journeys with Android Auto showing me a reminder based on a calendar case that saved me from seeing my phone’s email. Android Auto feels a little less helpful and convenient than it was before with that feature gone.
Personally, I would like this fresh home screen to be the best of both worlds, with an app drawer under one or two smart cards. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got here.
Google Assistant ‘apps’ are more helpful than voice instructions
The inclusion of Google Assistant “applications” on the home screen is another major change that Google has made to the new Android Auto. You will see the likes of Weather, News, and more by filling out the app drawer on the fresh home screen. These are not adequate apps, but rather buttons that can be pushed to trigger what otherwise would be voice commands.
Instead of pressing an Assistant button or using the start command “Hey Google,” ask, “What is the weather?”You can do that with the fresh” app “icon. Just click the icon, and the required data will be spit out instantly by Google Assistant. I’ve discovered that this makes me use these Assistant characteristics more frequently while I’m in the vehicle.
- The all-black look of Android Auto is great, but for me it’s a double-edged sword. During the bright daylight, I prefer a white interface as it is less influenced by glare. I would like the scheme to switch back and forth again. Also, the fresh matching black wallpaper makes me wish more than ever that you can customize the background wallpaper for Android Auto.
- The redesigned music app interface is positively beautiful. Showing album art in your own box as well as being used as a blurred background is an enormous improvement from what was previously accessible, and the whole interface here looks much less cluttered.
Final thoughts — is it a better change?
The whole time I’ve been using the fresh Android Auto, the issue I’ve been asking myself is whether or not this is a change for the better. I believe the fresh design of Google is a major improvement in terms of usability. Navigation alone modifications are a significant enhancement for the platform as a whole that really respects its mission to maintain your eyes on the highway. It all takes a little less effort, and that’s a enormous beneficial thing.
This change, however, feels much like Google Now’s evolution to Google Discover. There are changes for the better, of course, but there are a lot of brains left behind from what was previously available and the convenience that came with that. We get better navigation with the latest Android Auto, a fresh, contemporary design, and much better functionality of the app. We lose smart cards on the home screen, though. Personally, with this fresh design, I’m going to miss those, but overall, it’s likely a change that most consumers will enjoy.