The Things Android Auto Does Better than Apple’s CarPlay

Android Auto home screen 6 photos
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube video
The dynamic bar, here showing Spotify media controlsThe interaction overall with Google Assistant feels more naturalThe Android Auto home screenThe Apple CarPlay dashboardThe CarPlay home screen, here with a Waze notification
In theory, Android Auto and CarPlay have the same goal: to mirror the phone experience on the head unit in the car, either wirelessly or with a cable, all in an attempt to reduce the distraction behind the wheel while keeping you connected even while driving.
So both come with a similar feature lineup that includes voice commands and apps optimized for the driving experience at the core of everything.

But of course, they also sport slightly different approaches which Google and Apple have tried to improve in the last couple of years as they both wanted to expand their operating systems beyond the screen of the mobile device.

Many believe CarPlay is the better choice between the two, simply because it’s generally more stable and reliable, whereas Android Auto can break down all of a sudden for no clear reason. While the experience with Android Auto depends on a lot of factors, including the cable you use to run the app, we’re not here to talk about its overall stability, but about what sets it apart from CarPlay.

In other words, these are the things that Android Auto does better than CarPlay, and while the list can very well be subjective, there are certainly plenty of users out there who made the switch from one app to another and who can relate after reading these lines.

The Android Auto home screen
Photo: Honda

Regular updates

Without a doubt, one of the best things about Android Auto is the monthly update cycle that Google currently uses for the app. In other words, Android Auto receives updates every single month, and while these new builds don’t necessarily bring new features, they at least try to improve the experience overall by resolving some of the bugs reportedly recently.

For comparison, CarPlay is only being updated as part of iOS updates, which obviously land less often, and just like in the case of Android Auto, it rarely receives new features.

Most of the time, CarPlay receives new functionality when Apple ships major iOS updates (such as iOS 14, which brought us support for wallpapers). Android Auto, on the other hand, is updated through the Google Play Store and every single update could bring something new for users out there.

What needs to be improved about Android Auto updates: Google must definitely provide us with detailed changelogs about what’s new in every new update.

The assistant integration

Both CarPlay and Android Auto come with assistant integration, but in most cases, Google Assistant has proved to be way more reliable than Siri.

That’s right, Siri gets you most of the time, but interacting with Google Assistant feels more natural in the car, and the more Google improves it, the easier it is to perform certain operations without even touching the screen.

Apple too wants Siri to be more advanced, so the next iOS update will introduce a new capability that will allow the assistant to remember what music player you’re using for listening to music, so further media requests would no longer require you to mention what app to use.

What needs to be improved about Google Assistant: the overall reliability on Android Auto, as plenty of users have previously complained that voice commands were broken for absolutely no reason.

The interaction overall with Google Assistant feels more natural
Photo: Google

The dynamic bar

The dynamic bar that was introduced with the latest major Android Auto overhaul is still one of the best features of the app. And CarPlay users who’ve never tried Android Auto should at least give it a shot, just to see how much of a difference this dynamic bar makes for the way you interact with the app.

The new navigation bar at the bottom automatically adapts to the apps you run, so for example, it can indicate directions provided by Google Maps or Waze when you switch to Spotify or display the media playback controls when you run a navigation app.

This dynamic bar comes in super-handy especially if you’re not in motion and you can actually touch the screen safely, mostly for those people who want to use the playback buttons on the display to control the media.

What needs to be improved about the dynamic bar: an auto-hide feature that would substantially improve the available screen estate, pretty much just like the auto-hide option works for the taskbar on a Windows desktop.

The dynamic bar, here showing Spotify media controls
Photo: Google

The downgrade support

This one is more or less related to the aforementioned regular updates, as Android Auto users are allowed to downgrade to a previous release by simply downloading the APK installer available online.

Why would anyone want to downgrade to a previous release? The first example that comes to mind is a bug breaking down a certain feature and which was introduced in the latest update, so theoretically, going back to the previous version brings things back to normal.

In the world of CarPlay, downgrading CarPlay pretty much means you need to restore an older iOS version entirely, which is often impossible because Apple stops signing previous operating systems quite fast after the release of a new one.

What needs to be improved about downgrade support: a built-in feature to allow users to restore the previous version that would be available for a certain number of days after the installation of an update, just to make sure they can revert the changes if something goes wrong.
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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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