The New Android Auto Is Here: Three Essential Things to Avoid Frustration

The new Android Auto interface 9 photos
Photo: Google
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The highly anticipated Android Auto redesign mostly known as Coolwalk is here with a six-month delay, as the update was originally projected to go live in the summer of 2022.
Announced at I/O last year, the Android Auto overhaul was received with much enthusiasm by users across the globe. With a card-based interface that reminds of the CarPlay Dashboard, Coolwalk finally made it possible for users to run multiple apps side by side on the same screen.

Previously, this was only possible on widescreen displays, but even in this case, the experience was incredibly limited, with no further customization options.

Coolwalk is, therefore, one of the biggest updates ever released for Android Auto, and as such, it’s really not a surprise that everybody out there wants to try it out right here and now. However, this isn’t actually possible, and here are three essential things that you must keep in mind for the time being about the new-generation Android Auto.

The new Android UI
Photo: Google

The rollout is happening in stages

While Google announced the Android Auto redesign a few hours ago, the rollout of the updated experience is happening in stages.

In many ways, this approach is rather frustrating for users out there, pretty much because some are getting the new features faster than others. But at the end of the day, the whole concept was developed to prevent major bugs from hitting users’ devices and eventually, to be part of a straightforward and flawless update experience.

Software companies across the world are using the same approach too. Microsoft, for instance, is rolling out Windows feature updates in stages, as it wants to collect feedback, analyze it, and only then expand the availability. This system allows the company to pause the rollout if it detects a major bug, thus limiting the damage that could eventually be caused.

In other words, Google will enable the Coolwalk treatment on Android Auto for you when the device enters the rollout. Until then, there’s not much to do than wait. And this leads us to the next chapter.

The new Android UI
Photo: Google

Only enabled with a server-side switch

Since the wait for Coolwalk could be painful, especially because Google missed the original release target, many users are looking for workarounds that would allow them to get the new interface without waiting for the company to enable it on their devices.

While some users claim they’ve managed to activate Coolwalk on the stable version of Android Auto by installing build 8.6.6250 and then clearing the cache and the data of the app, this shouldn’t actually be the case. Most likely, this was just a coincidence, as Coolwalk would have been enabled on their devices anyway because they were included in the first phases of the rollout.

The Mountain View-based search giant is enabling the updated interface using a server-side switch, so Coowalk should show up in your car without the need for anything on your side. It’s impossible to tell when this is going to happen, though, but I expect Google to complete the rollout in just a few weeks, especially because Coolwalk feels pretty stable and reliable at this point.

I’ve been running Coolwalk for several weeks already, and the only glitch that I noticed was an occasional lag that showed up when switching apps. Otherwise, everything is running pretty smoothly, so there’s no reason for Google to hold back the update for the rest of the users out there.

The new Android UI
Photo: Google

It also supports cars with control knobs

While it’s pretty clear that Android Auto was first and foremost designed to be used with touch, Google knew from the very beginning that not all cars come with touchscreens.

As a result, Android Auto was updated with support for control knobs as well. This happened a long time ago, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that the rotary dial is also feeling at home on Coolwalk as well.

I’ve tried Coolwalk in a 2019 Mazda3, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting the experience to be so smooth. Using a control knob on Coolwalk feels a lot more natural than on the “old” version of Android Auto, and in some way or another, it’s easier to browse the menus and click whatever you want to click.

However, you shouldn’t be too surprised if you still come across occasional glitches. Google says the Android Auto redesign was optimized to be used on screens of all sizes and aspect ratios, so in theory, the new interface should be rather polished overall. But on the other hand, Coolwalk debuted in the beta program only a few weeks ago, and I doubt that Google had enough time to collect much feedback from users to ensure a smooth experience from one end to another.

Most likely, the search company will continue to further refine Android Auto’s redesign in the coming months, so expect the work on Coolwalk to continue behind closed doors. One thing that Google should improve, however, is how it releases updates for Android Auto.

The company typically ships just a single update every month, usually two or three weeks after a beta build goes live. However, given Coolwalk is a major overhaul and occasional glitches are still possible, Google should accelerate the pace and roll out small updates more frequently. Furthermore, the company should start publishing changelogs for Android Auto updates, as installing the latest versions and trying to figure out what’s new has long been a frustrating experience for users out there.
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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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