Silent Android Auto Update Makes It Feel Even More Like CarPlay

Coolwalk gets new layout update 16 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Google
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Android Auto and CarPlay are similar systems, allowing users to project the phone mobile interface to the infotainment screen in their cars.
Both require a smartphone to work, and both support wired and wireless connections.

Their feature lineups are also similar. Coolwalk, the biggest Android Auto update lately, is based on an approach pioneered by the CarPlay Dashboard, allowing users to have multiple apps side-by-side on the same screen.

The biggest benefit is that users no longer have to toggle between apps while driving, as the information they need is available on the screen anytime. Coolwalk and the CarPlay Dashboard use cards to display these apps. The system assigns a dedicated card to each app category – the largest one goes to navigation software, such as Google Maps and Waze, while music apps and phone calls use the smaller ones.

Now it looks like Google is making Android Auto feel more like CarPlay with a change that users have been asking for from the beginning but was allowed only on a limited set of devices.

The taskbar (which includes the app icons, the clock, and the microphone) resides at the bottom of the screen on small screens. Turning taskbar widgets on and off in some cars allowed users to switch to a new layout a la CarPlay, with the taskbar moving to the side of the screen. The feature was only available on larger screens, but now it seems that Google is also testing this change for smaller displays.

Someone on reddit says they're seeing this change on an 8-inch display. Once the taskbar widgets are disabled, the taskbar can move to the side of the screen, bringing the app icons closer to the driver. The new layout must be a server-side change, as I can't see the update in my car – I have a 7-inch display, but the default layout continues to be used.

The new layout on an 8\-inch screen
Photo: reddit user Gianfcal
The new layout looks a lot like CarPlay. The signal strength, the battery level, and the time are shown at the top of the screen. App icons are next, while the home screen button is at the bottom. The Coolwalk cards use the rest of the interface.

It's unclear if Google wants to introduce a dedicated setting to allow users to move the taskbar to the side of the screen or if the new layout activates once the widgets turn off – such an approach might not be everybody's cup of tea, though, as some users might want to keep the widgets off without moving the taskbar from the bottom of the screen.

The layout change is not related to the Android Auto version. I'm running version 10.1, but I still see the old layout with or without taskbar widgets, so Google is either experimenting with this change or just rolling out the new interface slowly to users worldwide.
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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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