Update: Latest Android Auto update has a major bug — see if you’re affected.
Android Auto does not have the best interface. But those of you who just can’t stand the way Google’s software looks are in luck, because it looks like the long-rumored Android Auto redesign could be here fairly soon.
Images of the new UI, codenamed “coolwalk” , have surfaced on Reddit and Android World, showing some pretty extensive changes to Android Auto’s look. It’s very similar to what we first saw back in September, but there are some key changes. More to the point, there also seem to be some interesting new features coming along for the ride.
Gone is the dock at the bottom of the screen, where things like the music-playback controls lived. Instead, there’s a dedicated toolbar, complete with basic phone data such as battery capacity and cell-signal strength, a notifications icon and a Google Assistant microphone. There’s also what looks like a home-screen button but also seems to activate retractable widgets for features like weather and music playback.
It seems Android Auto has made changes to how it behaves when navigation is running. Not only does the bottom bar appear to show some navigational information when the map isn’t open, but the widgets menu lets you do things while still showing a portion of the map.
This is, honestly, fantastic. The number of times I’ve had to forgo the visual-navigation cues so I can make a call or deal with music playback is ridiculous. Sometimes voice controls just don’t cut it, and closing the navigation makes it much harder to get stuff done. That’s never a good thing when you have to concentrate on the road.
The split-screen design is also very reminiscent of Apple’s CarPlay, which suggests that Google has been looking at the competition to see how Android Auto can improve.
Also revealed is a new casting feature that seems to mirror your phone’s display on your car screen. That could be useful if you need to do something that Android Auto or Google Assistant doesn’t support. Just don’t use this feature as an excuse to watch Netflix while you drive, because the law will not like that.
The ability to reject calls with a text message has also been spotted by Android World. That way, you can dismiss calls and inform people that you’re driving with a single push of a button. It will be interesting to see if this feature can send a pre-set text message, or if you have to dictate something to Google Assistant. Both would be a nice option.
There’s no telling when this new version of Android Auto might roll out, especially since it’s not been confirmed by Google. These screenshots were only uncovered by people manipulating the Google services database. There’s no update or APK that you can install to magically get the new interface for yourself.
Hopefully, the fact that the changes can be found in the Google Play Services app means we don’t have to wait too long to check it out for ourselves. We’ll bring you more on this as and when we hear it.