Just a couple months ago, Android Auto added six preset images hidden away in the code that could be used as future backgrounds. We had been hoping that this meant that full custom wallpaper support would be coming soon, but instead, Google has removed most of the previous images in favor of 12 new, more car-oriented backgrounds that suit Android Auto a lot better. When they were first discovered by 9to5Google, they weren't selectable by users, but that appears to be changing: Many people report that wallpapers are now rolling out to their cars.
Google Maps may be getting a new driving mode, but it turns out that the engineers over there are having some fun with more trivial things as well. The Maps app has just added three vehicle icons that you can opt to replace the car navigation icon with, though you likely won't.
When you're running late to an appointment, or even just driving around town with several stops planned, the last thing you should do is reach for your phone to look up an address. When Android Auto was announced, this seemed to be the type of problem Google was trying to solve. An imperfect solution existed through Google Assistant, but it was removed without a good alternative to replace it. But things are looking up because Google is launching a calendar on Android Auto that gives you quick and easy access to your itinerary.
I reviewed the Owlcam, then known as the Owl Car Cam, nearly two years ago. I felt that I had been a bit hard on the product in the review, but the complaints that I'd highlighted were all valid.
Now that Owl Cameras has been bought out by a company called CallPass (this PCWorld piece does a great job of describing Owl's demise), things have taken a turn for the worse. Owlcam's LTE subscription fee is now $215 per year, a dramatic increase from the $99/year cost under previous ownership. If you were hoping you could just use your Owlcam without LTE now, think again — many Owlcams that haven't been registered for a subscription, mine included, have been completely disabled.
Before there was the Echo Auto, there was the Anker Roav Viva: an accessory that is part phone charger, part microphone for Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. If that sounds like something you might get some use out of, it's just $17.99 at B&H Photo for the next few hours.
Google Assistant started with native support for basic smart home products like thermostats and lights, but has since expanded to dozens more from locks to vacuums, cameras, kitchen appliances, bedroom furniture, and bathroom equipment. With today's addition of chargers, Assistant has upped its tally to 60 different product types.
Google Assistant is everywhere these days: phones, tablets, speakers, Chromebooks, and more. The first Assistant devices for cars were unveiled earlier this year, and the first model from Anker launched in April. The other device, JBL's Link Drive, was announced at CES and seemed like it wasn't going to come out. Of course, JBL is no stranger to delays, and the Link Drive just became available recently. So, how is the JBL Link Drive? It's an almost identical experience to the Anker Roav Bolt, but with more hardware disadvantages and a higher price.
Back in February, Toyota announced it was finally working on adding Android Auto support in its vehicles. Given it's one of the largest car manufacturers worldwide, it's very surprising it was so late in making the move, but the Japanese company seems to be serious in its commitment to Android Auto, as its luxury division's cars will also support it.
Ever since Google bought Waze, we've feared that the company might kill off the app and roll a worse version of it into Google Maps, as is sometimes the case with other services it owns (looking at Nest right now). But Waze is alive and well, and Google keeps adding useful new features to it, such as the Google Assistant and a carpool service. Today, Waze is also gaining support for the podcast app Castbox.