Android Automotive Apps: Tips and Tricks for New Users

Android Automotive on the Polestar 2 10 photos
Photo: Polestar
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Google is betting big on several fronts as far as its automotive ambitions are concerned, and in addition to Android Auto, the company is also trying to bring Android Automotive into as many cars as possible.
The number of brands adopting Android Automotive is growing steadily, and the Mountain View-based search giant is already working with several other big names in this regard.

As compared to Android Auto, which requires a mobile phone to mirror the Android UI on the larger screen in the cabin, Android Automotive is pre-loaded on the car’s hardware. And as a result, it offers a more genuine Android experience, with direct integration of Google Assistant and access to the Google Play Store.

In other words, yes, you can install apps on Android Automotive right from the head unit, and today we’ll highlight the most important things every driver should keep in mind.

First and foremost, you should always remember that not all apps are available on Android Automotive. So despite having access to the Google Play Store, not all apps can be installed on your head unit, and the reason is as simple as it could be. Each app needs a car-optimized experience before making its way to Android Automotive, and Google even says that if you want a specific piece of software in the car, you should just reach out to the developer for it.

Installing apps works pretty much the same way as on Android. Launch the Google Play Store and use the search box in the top right corner to type its name. Google has also created collections of suggested apps, and these include the most popular names on Android Auto, including navigation tools and music software, such as the likes of Spotify.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel
Just like on Android, apps on Android Automotive can automatically install updates when the developer publishes a new version in the Google Play Store.

You must always, but always, be logged in with your Google account when installing apps.

As you can see, the experience overall is as straightforward as it can be, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is working exactly as expected.

So for example, Google says the Google Play Store could sometimes fail to download new apps, and in this case, there are several things you need to do.

First of all, clear the Play Store cache and data on your Android Automotive head unit from System > Storage > Other apps > Google Play Store. Do the same thing for the download manager (especially if your apps get stuck while downloaded from the Play Store), though this time the path is System > Storage > Other apps > Show system > Download Manager.

Also, clear the cache and data for Google Play Services, and your apps should now download correctly.

Android Automotive on the 2022 Hummer EV
Photo: Screenshot from GMC Hummer EV channel
In some cases, a bad Google account configuration might be the one to blame for the whole thing, and the search giant recommends drivers to start from scratch in their cars. In other words, drivers need to remove and re-add the Google Account from the Google Play Store. Just tap the profile icon in the Play Store, sign out, and then do the same thing to sign back in.

If nothing works, then simply restarting the engine could actually do the trick. In case you’re wondering how come such a basic workaround could restore apps on Android Automotive, the explanation is as simple as it could be.

Given Android Auto is pre-loaded at the hardware level, which means it is the operating system powering the experience, it automatically reboots when the head unit shuts down. So when you turn the engine off and on, Android Automotive also restarts, therefore dealing with potential errors blocking the installation of apps.
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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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