Android Auto Coolwalk Review: The Big Redesign That Puts CarPlay to Shame

Android Auto Coolwalk is here 15 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
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Announced with much fanfare at Google’s developer event in the spring of 2022, Coolwalk is perhaps the biggest interface update ever received by Android Auto.
It took longer to land in the hands of users, as Google missed its original mid-2022 launch target. After being pushed back for several months, Coolwalk is here, and it’s even more exciting than users expected it to be.

The redesign first showed up in beta builds in December, but the official rollout to production devices started in January. Google shared very few details regarding the release, but I’m being told the company wants to bring Coolwalk to all Android Auto users by the end of the year.

The rollout relies on a server-controlled process that allows Google to closely monitor the reliability and discover bugs in an early stage. This way, the company can limit the damage a major issue can produce, as the rollout can be suspended for certain hardware configurations.

As such, enabling Coolwalk isn’t possible by updating to a certain Android Auto version. Google takes care of the whole thing, so the new interface shows up when the company decides your configuration (the mobile phone and the head unit) can provide a flawless experience.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

What is Coolwalk?

The Android Auto redesign, internally known as Coolwalk, relies on an approach that looks similar to the CarPlay Dashboard.

The app now allows users to run multiple apps side-by-side regardless of the screen side. Previously, having two apps on the screen at the same time was only possible on displays with wide resolutions. With Coolwalk, however, Google significantly revamps this model.

Coolwalk puts each app in a dedicated card. Just like on CarPlay, the navigation app is provided with the largest card. Media apps, phone calls, and suggested cards use the remaining screen estate.

Google does not have an official name for Coolwalk, but the experience overall feels like a, well, dashboard. Users can see essential information, including navigation directions, what song is playing, and the duration of a call, at a glance. If they still want to run an app in full-screen mode, tapping its card expands it to the entire screen.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

How it compares to the CarPlay Dashboard

Launched in 2019 as part of iOS 13, the CarPlay Dashboard evolved to become an essential feature for Apple users. Starting with iOS 13.4, it also allows third-party apps to use the available cards, and companies like Google Maps, Spotify, and Waze rapidly updated their software in this regard.

Android Auto Coolwalk and the CarPlay Dashboard are, therefore, based on a similar concept. However, Google has managed to make its experience overall feel more dynamic, especially thanks to suggested actions and cards that can reveal more options with just a swipe.

On CarPlay, Spotify uses the Dashboard only to show the playing song and provide one-tap access to playback controls. On Coolwalk, its dedicated card displays the same information, but a quick swipe left on the widget reveals additional options. Users can shuffle-play their content, listen to a specific playlist, or start listening to their liked songs.

The bar at the bottom of the screen provides nearly the same functionality as in the previous version of Android Auto, but it’s still far more advanced than its CarPlay sibling. If you enable this behavior in settings, the bar can provide app information, such as the next turn in the navigation app and the music controls in Spotify.

Waze on CarPlay
Photo: autoevolution

What Coolwalk feels like

After over a month of using the new design regularly, Coolwalk truly feels like a major step in the right direction. The new design makes more sense from a driver’s perspective, as you can see more information at a glance without having to interact with apps.

This helps reduce the distraction behind the wheel, and at the end of the day, this is precisely what apps like Android Auto and CarPlay are all about.

In my experience, the screen size still plays a key role in this. On my 7-inch display, Coolwalk feels a little cramped and cluttered, especially because its purpose is to show more information on the screen. This is the drawback of putting more than a single app onto the same screen.

The way you can interact with Coolwalk feels a little unnatural. You can’t move cards around the screen, though Google is now bringing an option to choose if the media or the navigation card should be displayed closer to the driver. Long-pressing a card, however, does nothing.

The animations are fluid, at least in Android Auto 9.0, and Coolwalk overall feels pretty responsive. Compared to the CarPlay Dashboard, Coolwalk seems snappier too.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution


In many ways, Coolwalk feels like a work in progress. But on the other hand, it’s already more refined than it was when I first tried it out in beta in late 2022.

This is living proof that Google keeps improving the new Android Auto, and there’s no doubt more work is required on this front.

One of the things I’d like to see getting polished is the customization side of the new UI. Coolwalk is centered around the navigation software, but some drivers would rather have other apps in the largest card. Furthermore, options to drag the cards around on the screen, and therefore change the default layout, would be great.

Right now, Coolwalk is the update Android Auto really needed to make CarPlay feel old. Especially because the Dashboard has been around for several years, that is. More work and developer support are crucial in the short term, especially because several big apps, including Waze, aren’t yet compatible with the new design.


  • Dynamic interface
  • Runs on all screens regardless of size and resolution
  • The media card is great


  • Weather card restricted to portrait screens
  • Limited customization options
  • Major apps still not supporting it

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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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