Android Auto Is Indeed Copying CarPlay's Best Feature, And We Should All Be Happy About It

The Apple CarPlay dashboard 10 photos
Photo: autoevolution
The CarPlay dashboardAndroid Auto split-screen modeAndroid Auto interfaceAndroid Auto interfaceAndroid Auto interfaceAndroid Auto interfaceAndroid Auto interfaceThe new Android Auto UI without a status barThe card-based UI in Android Auto
Android Auto and CarPlay are two rival platforms that are supposed to bring the mobile experience right behind the wheel, therefore allowing users to remain connected without touching their phones.
In theory, two competing products should come up with their very own unique features in an attempt to prove they’re better than rivals, but more often than not, companies out there end up investing in similar approaches based on pretty much the same concept.

One such example is what happens right now in the mobile industry. One company comes up with one idea and then others start using it with their very own spin. The notch, for instance, debuted on the iPhone X back in 2017, but it then made its way to so many other devices out there with different shapes, sizes, and purposes.

Android Auto and CarPlay make no exception. While Google and Apple are obviously investing in their own unique features, there are times when the two are working on similar functionality that make the whole thing look like they’re copying each other’s ideas.

The most recent such case concerns the CarPlay dashboard.

The CarPlay dashboard
Photo: autoevolution
Apple launched the CarPlay dashboard as part of the iOS 13 update released in September 2019, so it’s already a three-year-old feature that iPhone users totally love. The dashboard makes it possible to run multiple apps side-by-side on the same screen using so-called cards. The UI is therefore divided into several cards – the largest is used by the navigation app, while the smaller ones are assigned to phone calls, music apps, and calendar entries.

Most recently, Google has started working on a major Android Auto refresh codenamed Coolwalk and supposed to bring a long-overdue update to the app’s interface.

One of the key features is a split-screen mode that is without a doubt inspired by the CarPlay dashboard and allows users to see information from multiple apps on the same screen. Once again, the navigation app typically gets the largest screen estate, while the music app and the phone calls are displayed in smaller panes.

Google obviously tries to make its approach feel more unique, so it’s also bringing weather information to one of these cards, and most likely, more such improvements would be implemented before the Coolwalk update launches for everybody later this upcoming summer.

In other words, Android Auto is about to copy one of the best CarPlay features ever. Unsurprisingly, this approach has been received with plenty of criticism by users out there, but at the end of the day, everybody should just be happy Google has decided to go this route.

Android Auto split\-screen mode
Photo: AndroidWorld
First and foremost, let’s be honest about it. The CarPlay dashboard is a brilliant idea. Running multiple apps on a screen that’s typically rather small (most car displays don’t have more than 10 inches) is obviously quite a challenge given the super-limited screen estate. Having two apps on the same screen side-by-side is much easier in the case of a widescreen resolution, but this is a rather rare feature in today’s modern cars.

The dashboard has therefore proposed another approach that makes sense on the majority of displays out there. And Google can’t ignore the benefit of having more than a single app on the same screen (as it helps reduce the distraction because drivers no longer have to toggle between apps), so at the end of the day, Android Auto users are the ones to benefit from this update.

Then, Google copying the dashboard only means that Apple’s idea would be even more refined and further improved in the long term. Since its debut in 2019, the dashboard has barely evolved, as Apple hasn’t released any substantial changes. But with Google’s involvement, this concept can be improved significantly, and once again, users are the ones to benefit from the whole thing.

And last but not least, getting multiple apps to run on the same screen in a car isn’t something that can be done in multiple ways. As a result, this card-based implementation just makes perfect sense and makes the whole thing very straightforward and convenient, so Google uses this idea because there are no other options to provide its users with such functionality in the first place.

At the end of the day, Google and Apple copying each other’s ideas isn’t necessarily the end of the world. It’s actually something that can help certain features evolve at a much faster pace, especially because the software competition behind the wheel is getting fiercer and fiercer.
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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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