Google Maps is getting this big Android Auto upgrade — what you can do now

Android auto
(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time with Android Auto, you might have noticed Google Maps has an odd restriction. Once your phone is connected to your car, the app stops working — forcing you to use it through the car’s infotainment screen. But that weird restriction might be in the process of changing.

Trying to open Google Maps when connected to Android Auto flashes up the message "Your phone can't display Google Maps while Android Auto is running." But users on Reddit have started noticing that they can now use both simultaneously.

Some of you may be wondering why you’d even want to use Google Maps on your phone when it’s available on your car’s screen. Well, it all comes down to the fact that Google Maps on your phone is a heck of a lot better, and the only disadvantage is that the screen is a lot smaller. Android Auto is larger, and friendlier to the eyes while driving, but is a lot more limited.

There have been times when I’ve got in my car, ready to go somewhere, and have been put on a route I don’t want to take. Whether that’s because it’s longer, has tolls, or some other reason, Google Maps on Android Auto has made its decision and it’s up to you to figure out how to change it. 

The Android app usually gives you that routing choice before navigation begins, and makes all the important information a lot clearer in the process. Not to mention the fact that a smartphone touchscreen is a lot easier to use than a car screen. 

On top of that you could, in theory, have two displays showing different things — which is especially useful with a passenger. If you need to look at the route as a whole, but don’t want to lose your position on the navigation screen, your passenger can use the phone to see what’s going on up ahead. Or, alternatively, they can search for locations or add stops without needing to disconnect your phone from Android Auto first.

Personally, I find that sitting in traffic is a lot more tolerable if you can skip ahead up the route and see how serious the problem is. It doesn’t change the situation in any way, but knowing the roads are backed up by 2 miles as opposed to 20 is a comforting feeling. Especially if you’re close to the end.

It’s not clear why this limitation was imposed for so long, but we’re glad to hear that Google’s finally making the fix. Even if it doesn’t matter to you right now, the option to be able to use your phone and Android Auto simultaneously is an important one to have. Let’s just hope Google sees fit to roll out a similar update to Waze in the near future.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.

  • Kirkaiya
    I noticed a month or two ago, that when using Android Auto, the map shows on my cars screen while my phone now shows the set of upcoming turns (as a list). I hadn't actually tried playing with it on the phone to see whether other functionality is enabled, but I did think it was nice that they added some extra navigation information onto the phone screen.