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Android Auto now runs directly on your phone, marking biggest expansion yet

Android Auto in a car mount
Android Auto in a car mount

Android Auto, like other advanced phone-connected in-car experiences, hasn't gotten off to too hot of a start. Car companies are notoriously slow to integrate new infotainment systems into their new models, and people don't just go out and buy new cars every year. At the same time, the offerings of third-party infotainment systems with Android Auto have been expensive and not too well received.

That's why the announcement back at Google I/O in May that Android Auto would be coming natively to Android on phones was so exciting. And now after a few extra months of development, it's finally out for everyone to use. Now by simply installing the Android Auto app, your phone can be used more safely in the car without any additional hardware in the car itself — just clip the phone into an inexpensive mount for your dashboard or windshield, and you're up and running.

Here's a quick look at the new standalone Android Auto experience.

Bringing Android Auto to your phone

The new standalone Android Auto interface is a simple restructuring of what you've seen on dashboard screens since it was introduced. It's expectedly simple, and designed for big touch targets and minimal interaction.

Android Auto feels right at home on a dashboard-mounted phone.

The main Android Auto screen gets right to the basics, showing your current media playback, the weather and options to one-tap navigate to upcoming appointments or recent Google Maps searches. A static bar on the bottom lets you quickly jump between navigation, the phone dialer and media — you can also return to your phone's home screen with a tap of the enlarged circular home button and a secondary confirmation tap.

Whether you have the map pulled up just viewing live traffic or are actually navigating, you get an enlarged version of the Google Maps navigation interface you already know. Importantly, if you're viewing the home screen or media controls you get half-screen popover notifications for upcoming turns while navigating. Incoming SMS and Hangouts messages have a similar popover, with the option to auto-reply with a message or read the incoming message aloud. It's pretty bare bones stuff, but that's by design.

With my 5.5-inch Pixel XL mounted on the dashboard, everything is visible at a glance and manageable without much issue. Unfortunately this first release of the standalone interface doesn't actually include fully hands-free "OK Google" detection, though Google says that it will be available in the coming weeks. The interface works in both portrait and landscape orientation, but the former offers much better information density with less scrolling.

It is, as expected, a big battery drainer.

If you have a newer car that has Bluetooth connectivity the new Android Auto app will feel like a relatively integrated piece of your infotainment system. You can set the app to auto-launch when it detects your car's Bluetooth, and you can of course get both media and voice audio routed from the phone to your car's speakers. This isn't a requirement, though — Android Auto will work just fine with the phone's speaker.

The big thing to consider here is how much battery Android Auto drains: not only does it keep your phone's screen and GPS on, it uses mobile data to pull down live traffic information and potentially stream music as well. If you're going to be using Android Auto for more than 20 minutes or so for a drive, you'll probably want to consider a car charger — but that shouldn't be an issue if you're used to navigating with Google Maps already or regularly keep your phone in a dashboard mount.

Now Android Auto is accessible

Android Auto's simple interface is dramatically safer to use than poking around on your phone while it's mounted on your dash (or in your hand — don't do that), and its limitations aim to help you spend more time with your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. In most aspects running Android Auto on your phone is identical to that of a dedicated head unit, though you'll of course have to deal with a slightly smaller screen and a couple missing car integrations.

Now we just need more apps to add Android Auto compatibility.

The only real downside right now is the small list of apps that have really thought-out Android Auto interfaces. With so few Android Auto users up to this point there hasn't been much incentive for developers to make their apps Android Auto compatible, but this new flood of potential users using Auto on their phone should prompt a change to that thinking. Google's done its part, now developers can carry the torch and make the experience great for all the new users.

If you're using your phone to navigate already, there's no reason not to shift your use to Android Auto. It retains the same great Google Maps traffic and navigation, while also offering easy-to-use calls and message replies and access to a handful of popular media apps.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

136 Comments
  • Nice!
  • Nice. What do we see the update?
  • Standard Google rollout. Gonna take a couple days to hit everyone around the world.
  • And for once it's not US only. I'll be happy once I get over the initial shock. Really though, looks really good and have been looking forward to the release for a good while. I drive for my job most days so it'll be great to have.
  • *trollout
  • Will this let me use Android Auto through my car's touch screen via Bluetooth instead of USB? I want to charge my phone rapidly (6P) while I use Android Auto through my car (2017 Hyundai Sonata)
  • If you want to charge, but not have your car assume you want data on the USB, you could get a "charge only" cable. I made mine, but I see them for sale.
    Plugging an Android into my Cad USB with a normal cable does unwanted things to my car audio and to the phone.
  • You don't understand. If you have a car with and Android Auto head unit, you have to connect your phone to the car's traditional USB port to use Android Auto. I have a 6P so that will not rapid charge (only a USB C car charger will). Android Auto eats battery so my phone uses up energy faster than it charges over regular USB. Connecting to head units over Bluetooth or WiFi Direct will let you use Android Auto (via car system) WHOLE being able to fast charge).
  • STILL not seeing the update. I've been holding out for this for so long. iBolt has been the only one that has been close in terms of functionality. I tried Automate, which is supposed to be Android Auto, but it has bee lack luster in terms of lag and customization without hitting the paywall.
  • It's available on Google play store for me, but it looks like this is the version that hooks up to your car
  • This is awesome and was wondering just this morning when it was coming as i scrolled past the icon in my app drawer.
  • You made it happen!
  • Wonder if this will fix the problems ive been having that SMS texts are not longer spoken to me, cool feature that hasnt worked for months
  • Have you tried clearing data on the Android Auto app, or disabling and reenabling the SMS permission?
  • Not compatible with my Huawei P9 :(
  • www.xda-developers.com/google-confirms-fix-for-huawei-phone-android-auto...
  • How do you enable Auto to only work on a phone? It's asking me to connect to a car.
  • The update hasn't rolled out to everyone. That's still the old version.
  • You might need the app update
  • http://www.apkmirror.com/apk/google-inc/android-auto/android-auto-2-0-64...
  • Please tell me this works with Waze (considering Google owns it).
  • That was announced at I/O as well, so it should work soon.
  • [thumbs up] then the circle will be complete (said in my best Darth Vader voice).
  • The circle will be complete for me when they add Here Maps to Android Auto, or full offline capability to Google Maps.
  • Can offline maps still warn of cops and accidents and stuff?
  • The map files themselves can be stored offline, but your phone would still be able to download those traffic alerts and warnings. You would just be using less data since the maps themselves are already downloaded.
  • Ah, well I just tried Android Auto over lunch. "Ok Google" does not work or at least it did not for me. And the read back of text messages didn't really allow me to respond. Right now I'd rather do split screen between Waze and GPM with "Ok Google" active.
  • A couple of apps I have been using while driving are... eCID
    Ultimate Car Dock
    Hands Free Answer Pro I use whichever is appropriate at the time.... Driving in a car, pickup or on a motorcycle.... Google is simply not up to their / these applications capabilities just yet...
  • I may give AA (hee hee) one more try. Android Auto, not Alcoholics Anonymous. I like the big dumb buttons approach a lot. I just don't love the way the screen RE is shared. The two most important things for me in the car are Waze and GPM. Oh and I'm not sure the auto response to incoming texts were working in AA. Like I said, I'll give it another try tonight.
  • Hopefully Waze isn't far away now
  • I hadn't been paying close attention to Android Auto but will now! This is a great direction. Any idea how much mobile data it uses typically? If you don't have maps pulled up, is still pulling traffic info?
  • Haven't done any tests on data usage ... shouldn't be that much tbh. It also shouldn't be pulling traffic data unless you have the Maps interface up.
  • If it works like the in-dash version does, it will always be pulling traffic data in order to update your estimated travel time.
  • Yes, it is always pulling traffic info to update your estimated travel time. However, that doesn't use too much data. What's your data cap?
  • Wow, this is great news. Now, is there a way to use a Nexus 7 tablet which in turn connects to both my phone and my car audio system? If I can stream my phone's screen to the Nexus 7, this would be so much win...
  • This is exactly what I want. Let me know if you figure out an easy way!
  • There is a link at the bottom of the article to Apps that work with Android Auto. The article has some text, says it was last updated a year ago, and lists NO APPS. This would be a great time to update that.
  • +1
  • So if you have this installed an use Ok Google to begin navigating somewhere will it default to Android auto?
  • OK Google commands to navigate still launches Google Maps, because it doesn't know if you want to use Android Auto. I think Auto is meant to be something you explicitly launch when you're in the car.
  • They need to tweak landscape mode, I vastly prefer landscape when looking at the map but the UI wastes too much space when doing anything else... Am I alone in preferring landscape in Maps? I mean dedicated GPS and head units are oriented that way for a reason...
  • Why do you prefer landscape mode? I always wondered why dedicated GPS used portrait mode. It gives a you a wide view to the side and a short view forward. Just the opposite of what I want. The only reason I can think of is for the lower profile If I mounted on your windshield.
  • I prefer landscape mode as well for GPS.
  • Really wish they would get rid of the damn lockout screen when in use connected in a vehicle. I regularly need to use the PHONE ITSELF as a passenger with wife driving or need my wife as passenger to do things on it or, while if by myself at a stop light etc and need the map on the screen in the car to remain. Used to be able to get out of it on MM, but that's been removed in nougat. Now can only exit which exits the cars screen too and takes forever to COMPLETE the exit and then a long time to get back in again when done. PITA and requires SIGNIFICANTLY MORE TIME WITH PHONE IN HAND than just a quick jump to what you need to do with a quick jump back without effecting the cars screen....more dangerous Google, not less. Apple doesn't do that crap with car play, and it makes it MORE DANGEROUS Google, not less. I now have to fight with the damn phone to do what I need to get done, hence, MORE DANGEROUS Google. Stop trying to be our damn Nannies! Apple doesn't do it, why do you? While I fully understand that Google is trying to discourage picking up the phone at all in the car many, myself included, will still want/need to get around it and will continue to do so making it again, MORE DANGEROUS AS THE VERY PEOPLE YOU ARE TRYING TO DISCOURAGE FROM PICKING UP THEIR PHONE IN THE CAR NOW HAVE TO HAVE IT IN HAND FOR A SIGNIFICANTLY LONGER PERIOD OF TIME DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DISCOURAGE THEM FROM DOING. AGAIN GOOGLE, MORE DANGEROUS, NOT LESS. You're making things WORSE, not better with that lockout screen.
  • Chill out, why even use the Android Auto app if you find it dangerous? Just use something else, there's a ton of different apps with large touch UI overlays out there... Or just use the phone like normal and don't bother at all, if you're not really touching it except for a quick something at a stop light you don't need this.
  • Just as you can express your opinion on things SO CAN I. YOU chill out.
  • There's no need to YELL (caps) to express your opinion tho, and you seem to be exasperated without realizing ask your options. Uniformed opinions and whining can be quite toxic, cheers.
  • Stop using your phone while you're driving. Problem solved.
  • Aw, apparently you can't read or have problems with reading comprehension, got it!
  • Seems like you don't need to be using AA. Just connect to Bluetooth for your music or navigation, I suppose, and retain full unfettered access to the phone.
  • Nope, it's official I'm tired of Google trying to be my nanny I am getting an iPhone and I'm done with Android (i would have previously considered that statement to be an oxymoron since Apple tries to control everything but it seems as of late Apple has "it just works" down, where as Google seems to be getting farther away from that). I'm also sick and damn tired of Google Apps and functions working incredibly better on iPhones than on their own platform. I'm done.
  • You must have installed something. Google doesn't lock you out of the phone. My phone is used all time while my wife is driving and I don't have to do anything special. it works just like normal.
  • No, on MM it was fairly easy to bail on the lock screen while AA on your dash remained running by just hitting multitask, selecting something like settings, then hitting back which dumps you on the home screen. On Nougat, google ditched the multi task button, so you CAN'T hit it (it's not there) while in android auto and hitting back/home does absolutely nothing. Only way out then is to STOP AA from being displayed at all on the dash by exiting driving mode. Now, if you have capacitive buttons (I don't know of a phone that does running nougat right now), maybe you can still use that trick, but not if you have onscreen buttons.
  • Oh! Interesting! Time to give it a try then!
  • APKmirror to the rescue.
  • Won't install on my Nexus 5x with 7.1.1 beta :( Oops...rebooted phone and it did install.
  • APK from APK mirror fails on my OPO. &:^(
  • Are you trying to install the x86 version or the ARM version?
  • What is the new version number ?? I have 1.6.281030, nothing yet.
  • Version 2.0.X
  • This is awesome news. I look forward to trying this out when my Pixel XL arrives :)
  • Android Auto is basically a really dumbed down interface with large buttons/icons/font to make your phone easier to operate while driving where your focus is diverted. Soooo... wouldn't it make any phone a good phone for non-tech-savvy seniors? Just leave it on the whole time and they should have no problems using a complicated smartphone!
  • Your first sentence is spot on to me as I've never had a problem using my Note 4 in a dash mount connected to my car's Bluetooth. Its screen size lends itself well to launching/using any app on it. No need to enlarge anything or restrict functionality to make things safer (I can manage that on my own thank you very much!). However I can see where it may be useful for smaller screen devices.
  • Good deal, glad to see this, finally.
  • It's usefulness is limited for me. I played with it at lunch in my car (Dodge Dart with 8.4 Uconnect) Everything has to be run through bluetooth with the exception of Maps. You can change a setting for Maps to work over phone speaker but nothing else. In other words, if I am listening to the cars radio I cannot hear texts. I can only hear them if I am using the phones bluetooth for everything.
  • Honestly, you have the best infotainment system in the business. I've heard nothing but good things about UConnect, shame the reliability of their cars isn't as good.
  • Won't work with my S7E-states it can't be connected through USB-I got updates to my Dart's 8.4 Uconnect earlier this year. :(
  • Buy a good tab. Install. This and you have a great car media.
  • I'm assuming you'd have to get a tablet with LTE? Also, something that big might cause visibility issues.
  • I use Sygic for maps. no 4G needed . only GPS on
  • Is this an alternative to consider to Car Home Ultra? I've been using it for now than two years and it is a charm. I only just recently had the issue that 'OK google' won't work with it - I sure hope the fix will address this too.
  • I tried the new version and honestly, I find Automate to be much more useful. The ability to choose music players and the swipe gestures while playing music (up/down for volume, left/right for forward or back) make it far superior to the real Android Auto.
    But that's just my opinion.
  • I have been using Car Home Ultra for over 3 years. Is fantastic and use it as launcher outside of car also
  • I love Car Home Ultra. You can set one of the buttons to activate voice search, which is basically the same thing as "Ok Google" without saying it.
    The other great thing about CHU is the ability to use Waze instead of Google Maps.
  • Thanks! I will try that!
  • Just wish Lyft and Uber would make their apps work with AA ecosystem. Would make my life as a driver a lot easier..
  • My at&t note4 is still on kit kat and was not compatible with android auto. Anybody else with a similar phone have luck installing it?
  • Im on kit kat with an LgG2, AA works great. I have a 2016 Silverado
  • If you get a text message, will it offer to read it to you without pressing anything?
  • I have that standard on my LG G5. It's under the Settings > Sound > More > Message/call voice notification. You can have caller info, message sender info and read messages out loud enabled. Works great when I'm on the road.
  • Can't wait... This is pretty big
  • Sill waiting on Mazda to update the UI to include Android Auto, navigating with the rotary knob and buttons will always be safer than trying to touch and focus on a touch-screen interface. I also don't want another long wire running up to my windshield (already have a camera mounted).
  • Is this in the works for Mazda, or just a wish? I'd love to see it happen.
  • Cool. Now just gotta look for a good Dashboard mount with wireless charging.
  • Not available for my device? S7 in the Netherlands? Doesn't seem so exotic to me?
  • They should make similar apps like this for people who are technologically challenged and just need very simple phone functions.
  • I wish car companies would stop trying to re-invent the wheel by making their own onboard systems. Give me a slot with a connector to hold a phone or tablet and let the Android/Apple/Windows, etc. community build apps like Android Auto and others to run on the tablet or phone. I don't want the junky Ford Sync or whatever, plus they have the gall to actually charge us for their crummy hardware/software?
  • Just FYI: I downloaded the APK to a carrier-free Nexus 5X in Romania from apkmirror.com, and was able to run it just fine, contrary to what many sites claim - that you can download the APK but will only be able to use it if you're in one of the 30 conutries where it's officially released.
  • The biggest thing now is that AA 2.0 will be rolling out over several days, so you're going to want to check your phone every day/hour/5 minutes to see if you've gotten the update:-) Or you can side load it from apkmirror.com.
  • The only issue is that with Spotify, it doesn't allow you to select songs from your song list. You can only choose playlists, artists, albums, etc.. kinda a bummer
  • I don't get what use is this app? I can already navigate to anywhere without touching my phone docked on my car (unlocked). I just use Ok google voice detection, google maps come on and I'm off. If I set Ok google detection on all screens, I can easily make phone calls, play music (spotify), check my calendar, meeting schedule etc. I've been using this on my old Note 4 Edge, S7 Edge, Note 7 (RIP) and now back to Note 5 without issues.
  • I've been using AutoMate for a long time. Any real reason to switch at this point?
  • I've been using that too but only for a few months. It's been buggy since the last update though so I might switch back to the previous version. I still it better this this latest version of Android Auto though. The font is way too big and wasted space on this app makes it very difficult to use over Automate. This app doesn't let you customize as much as Automate. I just wish Automate would use the Google Driving mode instead of their own so that you could see the street names better. Plus you can't swipe to change songs like how you could in Automate. This Android Auto app needs a lot of work for me to use it over Automate at this time.
  • Automate is still much better than AA. To solve your maps problem, just add Google Maps to the apps section that lets you toss in extra apps and ignore Automate's built in navigation section.
  • I like the iOttie phone holder in your picture.
    I have one with wireless charging for my Samsung.
    I don't interact with my phone while driving.
    I launch a Slacker Radio station or Google Maps before I leave, and stop if I need to.
    I have steering wheel controls for the phone, but a really awful dialer interface.
  • Sounds good. I have a wireless charging pad permanently mounted on centre console of my car and I just put the phone on that with Bluetooth on and away I go... The tech just gets better and better...
  • My question is Still::: (sorry for the cap's)
    Why so bright white, Google?
    During the day, yes; for better visibility. But do the UI elements darken at nite? [See: Google Play Music as an example of blinding ui while trying to drive safely with my phone holstered on my dash at nite]
    Google maps dims/switches to dark mode while driving through known tunnels and after 'dusk'.
    Can the rest of Google's ui please do the same?
    Please?
    {I miss CyanogenMod}
    {Or are least xposed framework}
    > Root kills Samm'y tap-n-pay.
    No more rooting for me
  • Good!!, Only this App dont work with android 7.0 :(, 7.1.1
  • If you are using Google Music while driving then you should press Home to go back to your home screen. Both UIs are useless since you can't choose the song you want. Waiting Android Auto to be hacked.
  • What about if you like Waze for navigation?
  • How to use the Spotify app inside this Android Auto app? Only Google Play Music is available.
  • Not compatible with my LG V10
  • Hmm, is this limit to certain countries? Can't install on my Xpera Z3 running Android 6.0.1? Sweden is my country of choice, often forgotten by Google....
  • Hmmmmm, very good step indeed. but this UI is more suited for left lane drivers ( Driver in the right side of the car ), for right lane drivers ( Driver in the left side ) the main nav. touch button needs to move to the left section ( closer to the driver )
  • If you use it centered in your dash/windshield, having the primary navigation buttons on the right is preferred. If you move them to the left, your hand/wrist partially blocks the screen while navigating the screen and menus. Having them on the right, while using my right hand, in my right lane driving car, is the most ergonomic and functional position.
  • Just move your mount?
  • The beginning of the article says "just clip the phone into an inexpensive mount for your dashboard or windshield, and you're up and running." Does that mean there is a mount that auto-launches Android Auto? If so, link?
  • The email I got from Google (I subscribed to the blog) indicated there was a Logitech SmartCar mount coming soon to the Google Store. I don't yet see it. It appears it has some kind of bluetooth connection that can be used to trigger the AA app.
  • You're right. Your car's Bluetooth automatically starts Auto.
  • So Android Auto blocks all text messages. The one thing I miss from Windows Phone is getting my text messages and being able to reply with touching my phone. At least I am getting good at texting and driving.
  • Because that's safe.
  • I was kidding, my point is that not giving people safer options leads people to text. I rarely text at all. I just don't like the attitude that it is all or nothing. I just do not understand how people ignore all other distraction in a car, but somehow texting with one's voice is the worst thing in the world. Give people safer options and don't just try to ban it all together. That is not the way the world works.
  • Me, too. I really miss Windows Phone taking over and allowing me to reply via voice to a text. I also miss being able to use the phone to call Cortana (hands free) and ask her to play a playlist or music. Finally, I miss not having to say Okay Google and thinking how dumb I sound saying it. If only there were apps for WP. Or a WP on Verizon. Or new hardware.
  • Is there a list of what cars can be bought with Android auto? I've been car shopping and it's not showing up very much.
  • www.android.com/auto has the list of auto manufacturers partnered to include AA. The list also has indications if models are already available or just in the planning stages.
  • Tried it today. Very impressed. Goes into Auto mode as soon as the Bluetooth connects to my car. Much safer using Auto than having your phone hands free on 'normal' mode.
  • I don't get it, I don't have a fancy new car so I've tried plugging in the aux audio cable and then bluetooth via an adapter and the app just says connect to the car...isn't it supposed to work for all cars now?
  • You need to update the app. There's a link to the APK further up the thread.
  • Just saw that thanks. I had only installed the app yesterday so I thought it was the latest version!
  • The update is already in www.apkmirror.com, for those who doesn't have it coming up can grab it there and sideload it.
  • Gonna download it and wait for the update. Hopefully it comes sooner than later.
  • Just got the update this morning
  • Apk won't install on the Pixel XL :(
  • It will...
  • I don't know why I assumed Waze already had Android Auto support.
  • All I'm getting is the prompt to connect to a car.
  • You need to download the newer version. 2.0.
  • is it a staged roll out? I have what the play store says is the latest version on my Pixel XL
    Updated on May 4 2016
  • Hmm, similar functionality to CAR from HTC, which AT&T disables in an effort to get you to pay for the AT&T Drive app, lol.
    I get the concept: Simplify things by providing the core functions associated with driving. Generally, this does make things safer, and if you still need to read that spreadsheet your boss sent you, then please get off the road! I used to use CAR by having an NFC tag that toggled it (bypassing AT&T's removal from the app drawer), but it was no longer necessary after a head unit upgrade. Everyone has their own preferences, but mine is to have the phone link to the head unit where you can use the phone's calling and music functions though the stereo (including Ok Google), yet a passenger can still use the phone for other purposes. I'll use my iPhone on long trips because it's not my primary phone, but I'll switch to my Android at times because the iPhone is slower to respond when the route is complicated. I've missed exits several times as the iPhone says to "Take exit 44" as I'm passing it, lol. PS: I like portrait mode for Maps, but am ok with landscape mode on bigger phones.
  • Got the update, but the shortcut disappeared.
  • Nevermind...still trying to figure Android out. Found it in the App Drawer. :O
  • Got the update today, my fav new app!
  • This app is kinda useless for me, since I can play music on my phone through Bluetooth without it, and I can't stream navigation voice over my speakers. Hopefully I'll be able to download it directly into my cars' system in the near future.
  • If your car has basic Bluetooth connectivity you are correct up to point. The current version can display 'icons' & info on your phone & still use Bluetooth to Bluetooth car audio, or connect to the supported vehicle's. Either way - it's meant to be a simple/safe interface to use whilst driving too. I don't think it's useless, but it makes simple functions safer to access, compared to other ways.
  • I just got the Moto Droid Z Play. I upgraded from my Moto Droid Mini which came with Moto Assist. I loved Moto Assist because it would detect when I was driving. Motorola did away with Moto Assist because it was now part of Android. Android Auto does auto answer my text mesages or detect when I am driving. Not liking a half-a$$ed attempt at a hands free driving app. I wish I could install Moto Assist but now it is not compatible with my device.
  • Im just downloaded it on http://www.apktag.com/ Android Auto is basically a really dumbed down interface with large buttons/icons/font to make your phone easier to operate while driving where your focus is diverted. Soooo... wouldn't it make any phone a good phone for non-tech-savvy seniors? Just leave it on the whole time and they should have no problems using a complicated smartphone!