Drop everything and download: Android Auto

Finally, Google’s car-friendly app is untethered for the masses

What a crazy few weeks it’s been. First Sonos announces that it’s finally released Spotify Connect support for all of its users, and now Google decides to unleash Android Auto for all the world to play with.

That’s right folks - while up until now you needed an Android Auto-compatible car (or a compatible third-party car audio system) - Google has finally done the sensible thing and allowed all Android handsets - running 5.0 Lollipop or higher - to run the app itself.

Gone are the days of downloading Android Auto only to discover that it infuriatingly couldn’t run on your perfectly capable smartphone without being hooked up to a compatible screen.

Here’s why you should download and take it for a spin, right now:

What does it do?

In essence, Android auto serves up the most useful features of a smartphone, in a safer, driver-friendly interface - namely navigation, notifications, music controls and a dialler for making and receiving calls.

All of this information is presented in a finger-friendly menu, with big fonts, large buttons, and a clutter-free UI - all of which is designed to ensure quick and easy use, keeping distractions to a minimum.

Navigation is, of course, one of the most important things you’re going to be looking for in Android Auto, given that Google Maps is pretty much good enough to kill off the need for a dedicated sat-nav.

If you go back to the main menu during a journey - to change the music for example - upcoming directions will still be displayed as text at the top of the menu while you line up your next track, ensuring you won’t be surprised by a wayward hair-pin turn.

Speaking of music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer are supported, and if you’re into your audiobooks then Audible’s on the cards too.

Again - the music app is basic, simple to use, and designed to let you quickly and easily skip to the next track or change the volume. It’s of course worth noting that, despite Android Auto’s best efforts to reduce distractions, you should still minimise the time spent prodding away and looking at its screen, for safety reasons of course.

While we’re on the subject of safety - there’s no way you can respond to text or WhatsApp messages by typing, which is obviously a good idea.

Instead, tapping on message notifications reads them out to you, and you can hit a button to fire off a pre-made reply along the lines of “I can’t chat right now I’m driving”, or dictate your response if you trust Google’s voice assistant not to mangle your words.

Answering/making is as easy as tapping answer (or decline), or selecting to call someone from a list of your contacts. You can also use voice commands to dial someone without raising a finger.