Android Auto Icons Looking Like Android KitKat: What You Need to Know

Android Auto looking like old Android 15 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/reddit user Ryyudo
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While Apple has taught the world otherwise, customization is king in the software world, as users, especially those tech-savvy, like to personalize the experience with an app.
Android Auto is no exception. Android Auto and CarPlay have been designed to leave little room for customization power. Google and Apple developed templates that all app developers must use for their software. This is why all music apps look the same, and all navigation solutions adopt a similar layout.

Google and Apple tried to make the experience as convenient and straightforward as possible. Allowing developers to choose how their apps would look in the car could have backfired, leading to a distracting experience behind the wheel.

However, both companies have slowly opened the door to customization options. The support for wallpapers was a step in this direction, albeit extremely limited. Google and Apple allowed users to only choose from a pre-loaded wallpaper pack, with support for custom backgrounds.

Google decided to go a step further earlier this year.

The search giant enabled new functionality on Android Auto, unlocking new app icons and wallpapers. The purpose was to offer more consistency when switching from a mobile device to the screen in the car, making Android Auto feel more like an extension of Android.

Google unlocked two features.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
The first one allowed the Android home screen wallpaper to be used as a background for Android Auto. The feature still isn't widely available, but its goal is to let the wallpaper roam across devices to ease the transition from one screen to another.

The second concerns app icons. Google enabled the stock icons on mobile devices to replace the default design on Android Auto. The rollout started with exclusive Samsung support and expanded to more Android OEMs.

A new behavior that's now becoming more widespread seems to cause confusion in the Android Auto world. The icons now long follow the stock design on mobile devices, using a square look that reminds of the Android KitKat days. While users would have expected the rounded icons on their mobile devices to appear on Android Auto, the app recently switched to this look for a reason nobody could determine.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Many users believe this is intended behavior, and Google is perhaps rolling out a new look for Android Auto.
This isn't correct. The outdated square icons are produced by a bug in Android Auto and can be resolved by re-enabling the stock icons on the mobile device (if you enabled a third-party pack) and relaunching Android Auto.

The issue plagues various device brands in the Android ecosystem, including Xiaomi, Honor, and Google Pixel. I've rarely seen users complaining of this problem on Samsung phones. As I said, the support for stock app icons was released with Samsung in mind, so maybe the support for other OEMs is still glitchy.

The first reports signaling this error appeared in early February, albeit Google's forum moderators quickly locked the discussion threads. One of these topics received 39 "I have the same question" votes before it got closed, so the icon glitch was already fairly widespread approximately four months ago. Without a fix, it has perhaps become even more widespread, hitting more users who received the support for stock icons.

Android Auto Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
I encountered the same error with a Google Pixel 7 in my car, but it only happens sporadically. I couldn't determine a pattern, as I don't use third-party icons, but if I disconnect the mobile device and plug it in immediately, the expected app icons load correctly on Android Auto.

Google has yet to acknowledge the glitch, and the discussion threads on its forums are still locked. One reader recently told me that the issue appeared after updating to Android Auto 11.9, though I don't think the app version has anything to do with this error.

Meanwhile, the first thing you should try is returning to the stock icons on your mobile device. Next, try to reconnect your phone to the vehicle when the issue occurs – this solution typically works for me, albeit I'm only seeing the same problem sporadically. Clearing the cache and the data, the common fixes in the Android Auto world, doesn't seem to improve the experience. This is a sign that the Android Auto version doesn't impact the error, albeit you should try to keep the app up-to-date, just in case Google ships a fix.

The most recent Android Auto version is 12. It reached the stable channel earlier this week, and the rollout is now underway through the Google Play Store. If you're comfortable with sideloading an update on your mobile device, you can update today using the stand-alone APK installer. Otherwise, you'll have to wait several weeks until Google completes the Android Auto 12 rollout through the store.

I can't yet confirm if the new update resolves the app icon glitch, but if you have already installed the latest version and noticed an improvement, let me know in the comment box after the jump.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

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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