Android Auto's download count over on the Play Store is positively exploding. In a mere four months, the app has gone from 500 million installs to over a billion. Only six months before that, it was at 100 million. That's an incredible order of magnitude of growth in less than a year.
In case you live under a rock, Android Auto is Google's phone-powered infotainment system, working either with your car's built-in hardware or standalone on your phone itself to give you a big-screen interface for navigation, media, and hands-free voice commands. And in the last ten months alone, the base app has accrued 10x as many downloads as it has in its entire life since 2015.
We can't blame all that growth on Android Auto itself, though. While it would be nice to praise Google for the popularity of its infotainment system, the Android Auto app is now required to be pre-installed on all phones launching with or upgrading to Android 10 — and, we have to assume, that extends to Android 11 as well. This sharp and sudden rise in downloads makes more sense in that context: Android Auto isn't suddenly taking off, Google's just forcing it to be pre-installed on more phones. It's also a good indicator that more phones are running Android 10, though Google stopped publishing platform distribution numbers that would otherwise prove it.
That's not to say Google is ignoring the Android Auto platform. Just a few weeks back, the company rolled out new tools for whole categories of apps, plus a faster onboarding experience. However, Android 11 users might be running into some issues, and folks using Android Auto standalone on their phone should probably remember that the long-awaited Assistant Driving Mode is set to eventually take over for on-device use. And let's not even get into Android Automotive.