What Everybody Must Know About the Android Auto Coolwalk Launch

The Coolwalk update for Android Auto was announced by Google with much fanfare at the I/O developer event earlier this year, and needless to say, users have been super-excited with this new feature.
Android Auto Coolwalk UI 6 photos
Photo: Google
The new Android Auto UIThe new Android Auto UIThe new Android Auto UIThe new Android Auto UIThe new Android Auto UI
Inspired by the CarPlay dashboard, Coolwalk splits the Android Auto UI into multiple cards, essentially allowing users to run several apps side-by-side.

In other words, each app runs in its very own card, so you can have the navigation software, a music player, active phone calls, and other apps on the very same screen. Regardless of the screen size, that is, as Coolwalk works on both standard and widescreen resolutions.

The Mountain View-based search giant originally promised to bring Coolwalk to users in the summer, and given we’re already in the middle of August, it’s easy to see why so many people are disappointed. Furthermore, the latest beta version of Android Auto (build 8.0 is now available for download) doesn’t include Coolwalk, so at first glance, all signs suggest that Google is about to miss its ETA for the debut of this highly anticipated Android Auto overhaul.

And yet, Coolwalk not yet rolling out to users isn’t by any means the end of the world. And it’s all because the release of this feature isn’t tied to a specific Android Auto update.

The new Android Auto UI
Photo: Google
Here’s how the whole thing works.

Big new Android Auto updates don’t require a new Android Auto version as they are activated via a server-side switch when Google completes the development work.

The code for running Coolwalk is already there in Android Auto, and most recently, it was discovered that Google has made good progress on this feature. It doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time, that’s true, but most likely, the company is working around the clock on last-minute touches.

In case you’re wondering if it’s possible to enable Coolwalk right now, you can do this as long as your Android phone is rooted. But again, the current version of Coolwalk feels unpolished, so waiting for Google to start the official rollout is the right way to go for most users.

The one thing that everybody must know is that Coolwalk will roll out with a server-side switch and not as part of a new Android Auto update. In other words, while version 8.0 doesn’t include this new feature, the rollout can still begin by the end of August.

The new Android Auto UI
Photo: Google
A little birdie told me that Google was actually planning to enable Coolwalk for the first wave of users in early September, possibly in the first week of the month, but I couldn’t get a confirmation on this ETA from another source, so take it with a pinch of salt for now. For what it’s worth, some users could still be provided with the feature by August 31.

The server-side switch allows Google to control the rollout in a much more efficient way. If the company discovers a major bug that breaks down something, it can always disable Coolwalk completely for all users, therefore suspending the rollout and thus limiting the damage until it comes up with a fix.

This is the reason it’s also using a gradual release. Google closely analyzes the feedback received from the first devices getting the new features and then tries to make sure everything is working precisely as expected. If no glitch is found, the rollout can proceed with the next phase of users, so the availability expands.

In other words, not everybody is going to get Coolwalk on day one, and an ETA for broad availability will be impossible to predict given the rollout model detailed above.

At this point, however, the only thing we can do is wait and hope Google pushes the green button sooner rather than later.
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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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