Google launched Android Auto back in 2014 as a way for smartphones to interface with car stereos. When your phone is connected to a compatible car stereo, it projects a car-optimized launcher with quick access to select multimedia and navigation apps suitable for use when driving. In late 2016, Google launched a new way to use Android Auto: on phone screens. The Android Auto app on smartphones featured big icons, quick access to the voice assistant, large cards for notifications, and integration with Google Maps, the dialer, and select media apps, but it has since been succeeded by a new experience that’s part of Google Assistant. Now, Google is preparing to kill off Android Auto for phone screens.
Back in 2019, Google announced a new driving mode that’s built into Google Assistant. At the same time, the company initially said it would kill off Android Auto for phone screens, but they backtracked a bit and launched a dedicated app that’s simply a shortcut to the old experience within the Android Auto app, now preinstalled on all devices running Android 10 and above. That app is aptly called “Android Auto for phone screens“, and after launching it today, some users noticed that the phone screen experience is skipped entirely and a notice is shown that Android Auto is now only available for car screens.
So far, we’ve only seen reports that this notice is showing up on Pixel phones running Android 12, which suggests the deprecation could be OS-specific. However, the app is marked as “incompatible” on Google Play with the Pixel phones in our possession, meaning we were only able to launch the “Android Auto for phone screens” app by sideloading it or by already having it installed. On my Pixel 3 XL running Android 12, I get the above message, while Rich’s Pixel 5 running Beta 4 doesn’t show the message after sideloading it. It’s possible that the deprecation warning is slowly rolling out to users, as we haven’t seen many reports of it online just yet. Google’s support page mentioning the Android Auto for phone screens app hasn’t been updated to reflect the deprecation notice, either.
This feature’s replacement, Google Assistant driving mode, first rolled out to users in October of last year. Back in April, the feature expanded to users outside of the U.S. Most users should have access to the feature now when beginning navigation in Google Maps, so it’s no surprise to see Google end support for the Android Auto phone screen experience.