Android Auto 8.7 Comes With an Unexpected Change for Wireless Connections

Android Auto home screen 6 photos
Photo: Florin Profir/autoevolution
Android Auto Coolwalk interfaceAndroid Auto Coolwalk interfaceAndroid Auto Coolwalk interfaceAndroid Auto Coolwalk interfaceAndroid Auto Coolwalk interface
The wireless connection mode is the one that so many people in the Android Auto world are drooling after, and it's not hard to figure out why. Because cables are no longer required for the connection, the phone can simply stay in a pocket or in the backpack, with Android Auto launching on the head unit in the cabin as long as the phone and the receiver are paired.
The wireless mode supported by Android Auto, however, isn't all about the extra convenience. Without a cable, the likelihood of connection problems is significantly reduced - and we all know how hard is to find a cord that always plays nice with Android Auto. I've created a list of the best cables that substantially lowers the chances of Android Auto going crazy all of a sudden, so if you're struggling with the wired mode, this information might come in handy.

A new version of Android Auto shipped for non-beta users this week, but as per Google’s typical approach, no changelog is available for users out there.

As it typically happens when new versions start rolling out, it’s all just a matter of time until Android Auto users start figuring out what’s been changed, and this is exactly the case with this update as well.

Version 8.7 appears to remove the Android Auto wireless toggle from settings, making it much harder for users to disable the connection without a cable. As such, Android Auto no longer comes with a dedicated setting to disable the wireless mode.

Android Auto Coolwalk interface
Photo: Google
Google has remained completely tight-lipped on this change, so it’s not yet clear why the company decided to remove the option to disable Android Auto wireless. But on the other hand, it’s not hard to understand why this unexpected change is making it a little bit more difficult for users to disable the wireless connection.

Thanks to this toggle, users were allowed to quickly turn off the automatic launch of Android Auto, allowing the use of a Bluetooth connection to the media receiver in the car. At the same time, this was a popular option among users who wanted to use a secondary phone with Android Auto, as simply turning the wireless connection off from settings made it possible to choose which device to use for the app.

Doing this, however, isn’t impossible, even after this feature is removed. Android Auto wireless requires both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections to work properly, so it’s enough to disable any of them to prevent a phone from connecting to the head unit in the car. This isn’t necessarily the most convenient workaround, as turning off Bluetooth also means that you’re disconnecting the mobile device from other accessories, such as smartwatches or earbuds.

While Google hasn’t announced the change publicly, it looks like this is the new configuration that the company is going to use in Android Auto. Version 8.7, which is now available for non-beta users as well, has removed this feature by default, and going forward, it will no longer come back to the app.

Android Auto Coolwalk interface
Photo: Google
This isn’t going to change anything for Android Auto users who typically launch the wireless mode in their cars using just a single phone. Android Auto wireless will continue to be enabled by default, and the removal of the setting won’t affect the way they use the app. On the other hand, those who have more Android devices that are configured to run Android Auto wirelessly in the car will need to turn to the workaround mentioned above to be able to select the phone to power the experience.

The option to disable Android Auto wireless is reportedly available only in the development mode, but it’s unlikely to make a comeback in the default app configuration.

In the meantime, while Google is quietly implementing new under-the-hood changes in Android Auto, everybody out there continues to wait for the Coolwalk redesign.

Announced in early January, this big update is currently rolling out to users out there in stages, but the new versions that Google shipped to non-beta devices do not change anything in this regard. This is because the rollout is controlled by a server-side model, which means Google itself is the one enabling Android Auto Coolwalk on each device when it detects a reduced likelihood of bugs and performance issues.

Android Auto Coolwalk interface
Photo: Google
Probably the most frustrating part is that Google hasn’t provided an ETA as to when the rollout is supposed to come to an end, so in the meantime, users have no other option than to wait and hope the company would eventually enable the new experience on their devices as well. At the same time, the rollout of Android Auto 8.7, which is the one that removes the wireless toggle from settings, is happening in stages through the Google Play Store for smartphones that aren’t enrolled in the beta program.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
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Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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