After a long delay, Google’s big update to Android Auto is finally here. This new version of Android Auto puts a lot of emphasis on a new split-screen interface that’s more flexible than the old, rigid Android Auto display. This update was shown for the first time At Google I/O and was promised for summer 2022, but for some reason it was pushed back to CES 2023. Because there are many security rules for applications to pass.
Android Auto is an app that lives on your phone and sends a custom interface (wireless or wired) to the dashboard of a compatible car. Unlike regular Android, which can scale to any size or shape display, Android Auto was originally designed strictly around a horizontal 16:9 display. It has been updated over the years a little more flexible, but always wanted to live in this horizontal, widescreen configuration. However, not all car screens are widescreen, and for cars like the Volvo XC90, which has a large 4:3 iPad-style screen on the center console, Android Auto was in a small window in the middle of the screen. Some manufacturers gave it a letter or pillar box. Apple’s CarPlay received a similar flexibility update In iOS 13.
Unlike the old version, the split-screen interface should be able to fit any rectangular screen. There are three components: a navigation bar, the main app interface, and a smaller sidebar section that can display one or two additional widgets. All of these can be configured in a way that makes sense for the shape of the screen. The navigation bar can be on the right side or at the bottom. The main software interface can be stacked next to or above the sidebar section. The sidebar can be a tall vertical stripe or a skinny horizontal stripe. Some configuration will work!
Sidebar is the most exciting new addition to Android Auto. It works like Android’s notification bar, but super-sized for cars. It can display controls for currently playing media or media suggestions. It can be turned into a split-screen mode, where the top item will show the latest notification, be it an incoming text message, an option to share your arrival time, or the weather.
Some of these options include “missed call reminders, quick arrival time sharing, and instant access to music or podcasts.” On-screen shortcuts are among the new Google Assistant smart suggestions that speed up replying to messages and calling your favorite contacts.
Google is also adding a searchable process bar for Android Auto music and podcast apps, which will automatically apply to every Android Auto media app. Android Auto’s car safety rules mean that app developers can’t do things like user interface design—Google has a pre-built media interface that Spotify, YouTube Music, and other media apps must use—developers can only use media streaming, branding colors, and select one of several button options. This preset interface is updated, so every app will get it automatically.
While the app update is now rolling out, it’s unclear if existing cars with larger screens will need to be updated to support this new car configuration.
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