Google is telling users of the Android Auto for Phone Screens app that it’ll no longer work soon via an in-app pop-up message (via 9to5Google). The app enables a simplified in-car interface of Android that is safer to use while mounting the phone on a car dashboard, a great feature for those who don’t own newer cars with the version of Android Auto that runs on the infotainment screen.
This is actually not Google’s first warning that it was putting Android Auto for Phone Screens in exile. It was already deprecated last year when the company disabled Android Auto for Phone Screens on newer Android 12 devices. People with older devices could still access the app, but Google didn’t give a timeline on how long it would last, stating it has “no further details to share at this time.” Google regurgitated a similar message to 9to5Google this week, again omitting a timeline on when the app will cease to work.
This whole debacle is happening because of Google’s confusing plans in 2019; it wanted users to transition from an on-phone Android Auto experience to the then-upcoming Google Assistant driving mode. But the feature got delayed and wouldn’t see a release until 2020. During that delay, the Android Auto for Phone Screens app became the stop-gap solution for using your Android while driving if you didn’t have a newer supported car.
The Android Auto for Phone Screens app is an accessible solution that anyone can use in any car and get all of the benefits of Android Auto. Now, users will have to either get a costly new head unit installed that supports Android Auto or buy a newer car if they want the Android Auto experience.
Google Assistant driving mode is not a one-to-one replacement solution either; it’s a linear solution with prompts that could get distracting compared to the Android Auto interface. It could also lead users to fumble with a hand-held phone while driving if Google Assistant gets a voice request wrong.
Google has ambitious plans for the automotive industry though, and Android Auto for Phone Screens probably dilutes it. It has a full car operating system called Android Automotive that’s in cars like the Polestar 2, and it will make its way into Ford vehicles as well. Google also upgraded the connected Android Auto experience this year, focusing on responsiveness and making better use of different car infotainment screen sizes.