A test drive with Android Auto, a simple solution to clunky car software
Google tackles car infotainment, but safety concerns limit third-party apps.
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Android Auto is the company's attempt to port its smartphone strategy over to the automotive space, and, just like Apple's CarPlay, applying some smartphone know-how to the car computer makes a night-and-day difference. The UI layout makes sense, animations and scrolling happen at 60 FPS, and it uses Google's new material design language.
Google's Car OS is made to be as simple as possible. It does maps, music, messaging, phone calls, voice search, and that's about it. A black bar at the bottom handles navigation and contains an app icon for each major action. Just like Car Play, the OS lives on your phone and is beamed from the phone to a dumb touchscreen in the car. The software only has to be updated on the phone, and when you get a new phone, your car computer gets faster. Infotainment systems can run their own software and switch over to Android Auto when a device is present.
I can understand the need to not be able to play Angry Birds while driving, but I would also like to use Waze and Gas Buddy while driving while listening to a streaming radio station.