Android Auto has received its first major update since it was launched years ago. The Android Auto update brings a new layout and app launcher, dark mode, a new notification hub, and much more. Some users have already received it, although others are still waiting. It should roll out to all users in the coming days and weeks.
The Android Auto update is such a big change that it makes sense that Google removed the app in Android Q Beta 5. The purpose was believed to be related to increased Assistant integration, and Google management confirmed that it is indeed in the works.
Thurrott explained all the new features in a post this week. The Android Auto update brings an entirely design with a new navigation bar to make accessing apps easier and faster. It will also be easier to see which apps offer support for Google Assistant because they will carry a small badge on their icons. Tapping the icons with the Assistant badge will enable you to hear the information they offer. For example, tapping the Google Calendar app will read your schedule to you.
The update also brings a new notifications hub so it will be easier to see missed calls and unread messages and alerts. Long-pressing the microphone button or saying, “Hey, Google,” will enable you to make calls or send messages using your voice. Assistant will also read your notifications to you.
Android Police highlighted five big changes the Android Auto update brings. The most obvious change is the darker user interface. It appears Google finally understands that the interior of most vehicles is dark, so the interface is now darker, making it appear to fit in well with darker vehicle interiors. The interface does still have bright accents, and the fonts are easier to read at a glance.
The new notification hub is also complementary to the notifications on your smartphone. The update brings a much-needed change to the way notifications are handled because it becomes easier to manage when you have more than one notification. All notifications are brought together in one tab.
It also brings a full list of apps to make it easier for you to access third-party apps. The four most recently used apps are at the top, and the rest are in a list underneath. Google also included certain Assistant features as apps in the list, like News, Weather and Calendar. These apps have Assistant badges on their icons to alert the user that they are voice-only apps.
The Android Auto update also adds a new navigation bar so that background tasks can be managed more easily. The navigation bar makes it easier to control music or navigation playing in the background even while doing something else. The music controls follow the user through the interface, while the navigation bar shows the next turn in your list of directions.
The Verge also had a chance to review the Android Auto update recently. The tech blog describes the changes as “a much more intuitive way to use Android Auto” because all the compatible apps are listed on the app launcher in front. However, The Verge also noted that not all of the icons work the way they would be expected to work.
The tech blog explained that the Assistant apps like Calendar and Podcasts merely bring up Assistant, which then asks the user to use their voice to complete the task. The tech blog found it a bit annoying that all the Google apps route the user back to Google Assistant, calling it “overkill.” In general, The Verge fund the Android Auto update to be less useful than other reviewers, although the changes do make it seem more like logical transition from smartphone to car.