Android Auto is getting a major upgrade to take on Apple CarPlay — here's how

Android Auto
(Image credit: Future)

Android Auto is getting a massive functionality boost to navigation, parking and charging apps from today.

The upgrade, which is detailed on the Android developers blog, allows third-party developers to create and publish their own apps in those key areas — meaning you'll soon start seeing them appear on the Google Play Store. 

This opening up of the Android Auto ecosystem had first been teased last August, with some apps available to test in beta form over recent months. But from today, developers will be able to push their apps live to the full Play Store. 

Until now, Android Auto has been a rather restrictive platform; Google permitted developers to release messaging and media apps for it, but it was otherwise essentially a closed program. 

While we appreciated Google’s desire to create a high-quality user experience, this lack of third-party support in critical categories led to some pretty big holes in the service’s feature catalog. 

Though flagship navigation apps such Google Maps and Wyze have always been supported, newcomers to the store already include the likes of T-map, Chargepoint, and A Better Route Planner. We’re especially partial to Chargepoint, which locates your nearest EV charging station: handy if you're driving one of the best electric cars but are running low on juice. 

Of course, Google hasn’t opened the floodgates to any and all apps to be thrown onto the Play Store without oversight. It’s still insisting that third-party developers follow its guidelines when making software available via Android Auto, and will likely be quick to act should any offending apps attempt to gain a place on its digital shopfront. 

All in all, this is a pretty significant upgrade to the Android Auto platform that gives users an extra layer of customization and allows some very useful apps into the service. The update comes in the wake of a fresh Spotify’ “car thing” leak, which is hoping to rival both Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.