Android Auto transformation focuses on the split-screen experience

Android Auto transformation focuses on the split-screen experience

Android Auto picture in the car

The new Android Auto on the BMW display.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The new look of Android Auto is rolling out to testers today, although it’s not ready for initial time yet. The change that was rolled out earlier in the year is still only a beta release. It won’t be fully available until 2023.

I was able to check out the new Android Auto on Google’s test fleet at its headquarters. It’s definitely more accurate than what I use now in my Subaru, and I’m eager to get the demo for myself and see how it translates behind the wheel. The design has a renewed focus on the split-screen interface, so you can manage up to three tasks simultaneously without removing focus from the main reason you have a screen in your car: the map. And like Google announced in mayoThe interface is designed to fit different car screens, from large to small.

Split screen for each screen

Display of the Android Auto card interface

The new Android Auto card interface is also a saving grace.
picture: The Google

As promised by Google, the new split screen mode is coming to all car screens, and it makes better use of the available screen size. Instead of requiring you to tap multiple times to switch playlists or make a phone call, the new interface breaks down based on the speed of action available. For example, if you’re looking for an album on Spotify, the screen will enlarge the “card” meant for media playback while the rest of the screen remains for Google Maps so you don’t lose your place.

In some cases, a third card will appear on the screen. For example, if a message appears, you can select the notification to expand it to a corner of the interface. It’s less annoying than the current way Android Auto handles notifications, which restarts the message with a permanent popup, thus obscuring part of the map. If you don’t interact much with that third card, it will simply show the weather.

It’s easy to look at the split screen card interface while driving and it stays consistent. You can always expect your navigation app to be on the left, and closest to the driver’s side – it’s on the right for cars in countries where the driver mode is toggled. One or two cards on the other side display either playing music or contextual information.

Photo from the dock on Android Auto

The Android Auto dock displays only the shortcuts for the three basic functions: navigation, music, and connectivity.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The pier area has also been standardized. Now, only the three most important Android Auto features are available as shortcuts. One icon always indicates the last navigation app used, the second will start media playback, and the third icon gives access to the different communication apps installed on your phone – whichever Android Auto the user sees the most.

It’s like Android in the car

Android Auto picture in the car

Android Auto has more stuff you like this time around.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The new Android Auto feels more Android-y than the current version, with more stuff to refresh you all the time. In particular, the media playback card looks like it was taken directly from the notification center on Android 13, providing a more fluid experience between Android on the smartphone and the screen in the car. However, I’m not sure I would feel the same if I was using a third party Android device. Android Auto Feel Like Google, while Samsung and OnePlus devices don’t, because they run their own versions of the operating system.

Still not ready for prime time

Android Auto image on a rectangular screen

A look at the new Android Auto on a long screen.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The latest version of Android Auto will look like these images, except for a few minor additional features. For example, the much needed ability to cycle through a song by dragging your finger across the timeline is not currently in beta, although it is planned for release.

I welcome these changes to Android Auto; Honestly, they can’t come soon enough. In its current implementation, Android Auto feels awkward, especially if the car you’re driving doesn’t fit in with third-party software. But I’m optimistic that these new changes will benefit even the most annoying dashboard setup. At the very least, it’s easy to look at the card’s reimagined interface and ensures that maps always take precedence over everything else – the way they should be with screens in the car.

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