According to several frustrated posters on Google's product forums, the hands-free reply function built into Android Auto is broken. The feature enables users of various different messaging apps to reply to incoming messages while keeping their hands on the wheel. There is a bizarre workaround, though — make sure you have Hangouts enabled and up-to-date.
The original poster writes specifically about not being able to reply to WhatsApp and Telegram messages on his Google Pixel using the voice commands. He's using Android Auto with a head unit, and while he has no problem playing the message content out loud, it's when he tries to reply that it ceases to function properly. The error message being reported is "this chat app is neither installed or needs to be updated [sic]." For some reason, sending a message in the normal way works fine, it's only replying that provokes the issue.
Other users have since added Facebook Messenger, Textra, and Allo to the list of apps encountering the problem. Furthermore, the bug is not limited to Pixel phones, with various Nexus and Samsung Galaxy devices (running assorted versions of Android) also experiencing difficulties. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern for Google to look at with this, and sure enough, a representative confirmed in the thread that he's unable to replicate the error. He and other Googlers on the forum reassured customers that they were looking into the issue, so it's a matter of watching this space for now.
In the meantime, there is a strange workaround put forward by one poster. For those who had previously disabled Hangouts, it appears that re-enabling and updating it caused the problems with the others apps to disappear. Go figure! Google has even recommended this fix while they work on a permanent solution. Aside from that, one user also claimed that a factory reset resolved things for him. Good to know, but hopefully not everyone is required to take a course of action so drastic.
We'll keep an eye on this one and let you know more when we do.
- Android Auto User Community