Android Auto app for phone screens is closing soon on all devices

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Google is telling users of the Android Auto app for phone screens that it will soon stop working via an in-app pop-up message (through 9to5Google). The app allows for a simplified in-car interface of Android which is safer to use when mounting the phone to a car dashboard, a great feature for those who don’t own newer cars with the version of Android Auto that works on the infotainment screen.

This is actually not Google’s first warning that it was putting Android Auto for phone screens into exile. It was already deprecated last year when the company disabled Android Auto for phone screens on newer Android 12 devices. People with older devices could still access the app, but Google didn’t give a timeline on how long it would last, saying it had “no further details to share at this time.” Google regurgitated a message similar to 9to5Google this week, again omitting a timeline on when the app will stop working.

This whole debacle is happening because of Google’s confusing plans for 2019; it wanted users to switch from a phone-based Android Auto experience to the upcoming Google Assistant driving mode. But the feature was delayed and wouldn’t see a release until 2020. During this delay, the Android Auto app for phone screens became the stopgap solution for using your Android while driving if you didn’t have newer supported car.

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The Android Auto app for phone screens is an accessible solution that anyone can use in any car and get all the benefits of Android Auto. Now users will either have to install an expensive new head unit that supports Android Auto or buy a newer car if they want the Android Auto experience.

The Google Assistant’s driving mode isn’t a one-on-one replacement either; it’s a linear solution with prompts that could get distracting compared to the Android Auto interface. It could also cause users to fumble with a cellphone while driving if Google Assistant gets the wrong voice prompt.

Google has ambitious plans for the auto industry, though, and Android Auto for phone screens likely waters it down. It has a full car operating system called Android Automotive which is in cars like the Polestar 2, and it’s also making its way into Ford vehicles. Google is also upgrading the connected Android Auto experience this year, emphasizing responsiveness and making better use of different car infotainment screen sizes.

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