Android Auto: we tested the new embedded multimedia interface … and it's (much) better


Google recently rolled out an update to its Android Auto media interface that now includes many vehicles. We tested it for a few days and if it's not a revolution yet, it's time for something to happen about this environment that has potential.

If you are a user of Android Auto in your vehicle, maybe you have already received the message that invites you to update this interface that allows you to enjoy multiple applications directly from the central screen of the car. If this is not the case yet, we will put you in the bath – hopefully, mouth watering – by revealing what awaits you. And you will see that if it is not a revolution, evolution is good. First of all, we received the update on our Opel Insignia a few days ago and that all applications and orders seem stable.

A new homepage …

Finished the rather sad home screen that reserved us Android Auto as soon as we connected his smartphone USB to the car. Now place a page containing all the functions that you will be able to use with this ecosystem. As always, if this is the first time you connect your smartphone to Android Auto, it is necessary that the vehicle is stopped, handbrake pulled (or activated if it is electric) to be able to follow the first steps of activation of Android Auto.

As soon as the smartphone is connected, the screen turns black to display only the "Android Auto" message, as if to limit access to your other applications. Except that for several months now, it is quite possible to return to the home menu of the smartphone to accumulate other applications. In our case, Coyote works with Waze, for example. Attention, there is no question of opening an application that would involve handling the phone while driving, this is strictly prohibited. As much use the voice recognition of Google. She is there for that and is quite suitable to make a call or dictate an SMS, for example.

This new screen is not only much more attractive, but also more effective. Firstly because you can scroll up and down all available applications: Waze, Spotify, Google Maps, Amazon Music, etc. No need, for example, to go from Google Maps to Waze, click on the old navigation icon, to open the choice of guidance applications. Ditto for music, it's now instantaneous. Note also that the first row groups the four icons of the last used applications.

… with more applications

And if the application catalog compatible with Android Auto does not expand as quickly as we would like, we appreciate the addition of new shortcut that further facilitates the understanding and possibilities of Android Auto. Thus, grouped on the two screens of the home, the new icons of Podcasts, News, Agenda, Weather or Reminder.

So many functions that it was already possible to use, but which you did not think perhaps. They are now accessible in one click and limit interaction with Google Assistant. For example, to add a reminder, it will no longer be necessary to say "OK Google" (or press the button on the steering wheel if necessary) to wake up the wizard, then say " remind me to buy the bread at 6 pm ". Now, we click and respond to the wizard by choosing the reminder. Ditto for the weather. Pressing the menu icon and Google Assistant gives you the weather of where you are. To learn more, on the week or in another city, it is enough to return by the usual orders.

The addition of podcasts from the "Google Podcast" application also seduces us a lot. Once we have taken the time to subscribe to his favorite feeds, we find them directly from the navigation menus of Android Auto with a tree similar to that of Spotify. A search engine is even available. Again, while we do not think specifically to use Android Auto to listen to our podcasts, this is now the case since this update.

More direct access

We will not dwell on the operation of applications now well known on Android Auto. Applications of streaming audio as those related to guidance still work well. Perhaps you have never taken the time to delve into the options, so we take the opportunity to point out that you can change the display of Google Maps to change the mode by default To a satellite mode display.

Some may find it too busy, others are very convenient to find out about buildings … we find it anyway more modern. But the real thing that you will have noticed in the photos above is the presence of this new bar at the bottom of the screen. This allows you to control a third-party application permanently. For example, when Waze is open, we find below the icons of the audio application that runs in the background. Whether Spotify, Amazon Music or Podcast, it becomes possible to change tracks from the touch screen in one command.

The white circle icon refers to the home page, the small bell allows access to pending notifications (call back, appointments, SMS, etc.) and the microphone icon allows you to talk to the assistant . And to finish with the bar, when you receive a phone call, three icons are always available to pick up, mute or hang up. It sounds like nothing, but again, these shortcuts avoid going back and forth between the menus of Android Auto, as was sometimes the case with the old version.

Finally, still in order to simplify understanding and better control Android Auto, Google to add to the home screen a "Settings" icon that automatically opens the system settings on the smartphone. The opportunity for the user to activate, for example, the automatic detection of keywords "OK Google" or set an SMS automatic response that will be sent to people who try to reach you when you're driving.

Android Auto is still not innovative

As we said in the preamble, this update of Android Auto is not a revolution, but a welcome update … and which began especially to be waited. Maybe we are too demanding, but we would like this interface to evolve faster and, above all, that speech recognition is even better.

When will the wireless operation of this system? This would bring a significant comfort for short trips. No need to get the USB cable under the central armrest, for example. In addition, automakers have been offering induction charging systems for some time now that would allow Android Auto to be completely wireless, without the risk of ending up with a mobile phone when it's out of the car. However, let's be realistic, we do not all have a car with this charging system, so rely on the cable.

When would the interactions that would come from the AI ​​who learned from your habits? When will our Voice Assistant tell us by short messages that we are approaching a service station that practices the cheapest prices in the region? Obviously, some people would find this intrusive or disturbing, but it would be enough for that to submit this function to the prior acceptance by the user, then to frame the use. After all, if you listen to the freeway radio stations (107.7 FM, for example), you may have received the alert messages via the functions called TA or TP, respectively for Traffic Annoucement and Traffic Program, depending on the car stereos.

When will a Google Google Assistant, using the traffic information of Maps and data entered in your calendar and your contacts, offer you to send a message to Jean-Pierre to tell him that you will be late for your meeting in because of poor traffic conditions?

In short, we still have a lot of things to do to be amazed by these systems. Although we must welcome the update, because let's say that Apple Car Play side, there too a small update of the interface would not be luxury …

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