Odds are pretty good that today's Android Auto news will only matter to extreme car buffs. Google's in-car phone extension has been officially announced for upcoming models from Lada, Koenigsegg, and Borgward. If you've never heard of any of those manufactures, you're in good company: you're unlikely to see them driving down the street unless you live in Russia, Beverly Hills, or 1955, respectively.
Android Auto works in a few dozen markets already, but until today Japan was not among them. Google has announced that its in-car platform is available in Japan effective immediately, and several cars will be ready to accept Android Auto connections just as soon as Japanese users can find a USB cable to plug in.
Slowly but surely, the wider Android community is adopting support for Android Auto. Well, maybe support is too strong a word. They definitely don't object to it. And most of them have probably heard about it. They've certainly skimmed over a bit of text mentioning Android Auto in the latest SDK. Maybe. Alright, so Android Auto support isn't quite as robust as it might be, but Synology's NAS music app works with it now! That's nice.
And here's reason number 249 not to install beta software onto a device that's critical to your everyday life. Android Auto users who have upgraded their Nexus phones to the latest version of the Android N Developer Preview are reporting that Google Maps navigation is no longer working in the car interface. (Remember, Android Auto isn't an independent system - it needs a powered-up and connected phone in order to work.) The Maps app is simply crashing on launch and returning users to the Auto home screen.
You usually have to get a car with Android Auto pre-installed if you want the feature to ever be available to you, but Hyundai has embraced Google's car platform more so than others. It just announced an update is available for some of its 2015, 2016, and 2017 models that adds Android Auto and CarPlay. You can install them yourself or go to a dealership and pay them to do it.
Android Auto is quite possibly shaping up to be the dark horse in Google's larger Android family. At I/O 2016, Google announced more new Android Auto features than it ever has before, including the much-demanded wireless mode which will finally see Android Auto freed from the tether of a USB cable (if that's something you're into).
The real story from an adoption perspective, though, wasn't really Wi-Fi mode, the standalone phone app, or Waze integration: it was a silly little tire pressure notification in a Honda Civic.
You see, to date, Android Auto's interface has had five tabs - telephony, navigation, media, home, and the mysterious "OEM" tab, which has an icon that looks like a vehicle gauge.
There were plenty of features announced at Google I/O yesterday regarding Android and some of those new things are meant for Android Auto - Google's car dashboard system. The most exciting of them is the fact that you will no longer need an Auto-enabled vehicle to be able to benefit from the simplified car-friendly interface while you're driving. You can also learn more about the features in our video, below.
In the next few months, Android Auto will get several interesting additions. First is Waze compatibility with the app running on your dashboard and keeping you in the loop of hazards ahead and potential delays and problems. Second is OK Google hotwording which will activate voice commands when you say "OK Google" instead of requiring you to press a button to start listening.
If you've read any of my articles on Android Auto, you'll know that my thoughts - for the sake of brevity - are that it's just kind of OK. This is because Android Auto's philosophy of projection via smartphone over USB and Bluetooth is inherently limited in what it can actually do with a vehicle. And so, many of you have asked on Auto articles I've written in the past: "Why doesn't Google just build an Android Car OS?" WhileGoogle may not have been listening per se, they definitely had the same idea, and have created just that. You can also check out our video quickly going over the concept below.
The past year has been good for Android. As Google likes to do during each of its annual developer conferences, it happily boasted about a few numbers. Engineering Vice President Dave Burke appeared happy to give the news.
Companies launched over 600 phones in the past year. During this time, Android users installed apps over 65 billion times.