Android Auto has been making the headlines a lot lately, or at least, certainly much more often than it did in the last couple of years when Google showed nearly zero commitment to this project.
But it might be this increased commitment to getting Android Auto right the one that’s making everything so confusing not only for users, but also for Google itself.
Let’s take everything one at a time to see what’s going on with Android Auto.
First and foremost, Google rolled out the much-anticipated Android Auto overhaul earlier this summer, and as I said on several occasions, this update is absolutely fabulous. Everything is working correctly, the UI looks great, and the experience overall has been refined substantially from a usability perspective.
Then, the Android Auto project was supposed to be revamped again by getting its own driving mode in Google Assistant. This was a plan that Google announced earlier this year and which included, among others, the removal of the Android Auto phone app. This meant Android Auto would be left without a phone UI, but still working just like before on car head units thanks to the built-in Google Assistant driving mode.
Things got crazy in Android 10, which started rolling out earlier this month. The Android Auto disappeared all of a sudden from phones being updated to the new Android version, and this made many believe that Google was actually starting replacing the phone UI with the Assistant driving mode.
Only that the driving mode in Google Assistant is nowhere to be seen, so all these users are stuck without a driving app on their devices updated to Android 10.
The funny thing is that some devices being updated from Android 9 to Android 10 still have the Android Auto app installed and ready to use.
So what’s going on here?
The Verge writes that all this mess is more or less related to the development of the driving mode in Google Assistant. Because this feature isn’t ready just yet, the phone UI isn’t ready to go.
While removing the phone app and implementing the driving mode at OS level would have made things simpler for everyone, including here Google, users, and car dealers because no app would have to be installed, the replacement isn’t ready right now. And no release date seem to exist.
Which gets us to the next part you didn’t see coming. Because the Android Auto phone app has gone missing, Google is now working on a new Android Auto app that would be published shortly in the Google Play Store. Its purpose would only be to provide everyone with a phone UI and thus get a driving mode regardless of the Android version they are running on their devices.
Is this weird enough? It surely is. But that’s not all.
What Google apparently wants to do is actually to kill this app as well when the Assistant driving mode is ready. Which nobody knows when could happen, as Google doesn’t yet have an ETA, and information on the actual progress on the project isn’t available.
Once this feature is finalized, Google wants to kill off both the old Android Auto app and the new one, leaving users with no phone UI, but with a more straightforward in-car experience at OS level.
So while the long-term plan is to remove the phone UI, the short-term plan is to have two apps powering this phone UI.
If it doesn’t make any sense for you, that’s no problem, because it probably doesn’t make any sense for Google either.
At first glance, it all seems to be a blunder caused by Google’s struggle to make Android Auto more like Apple’s CarPlay and offer everything at OS level. It remains to be seen how everything will end up working, but for now, it’s as confusing as it is amusing.