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Android Auto for Phone Screens support ending with Android 12

Drivers who make the upgrade will be nudged toward the new Google Assistant Driving Mode.

android-auto-car

The days of running Android Auto directly on your phone's display may soon come to an end.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow 

When most of us think about Android Auto, we're thinking about the simplified apps and audio interface that a compatible phone projects onto your car's dashboard display. However, it is possible to run a version of Android Auto directly on your Android phone's screen… at least, there was. Google has confirmed this week that the Android Auto for Phone Screens interface is being phased out with the arrival of Android 12 later this year.

Drivers looking to interact with their maps and apps on the road will instead be presented with the new Google Assistant Driving Mode, which Google first announced as the replacement for Android Auto's phone screen interface at its I/O developers conference in spring 2019. However, just ahead of its expected launch window, Driving Mode was delayed. And in November 2019, an Android Auto for Phone Screens shortcut app arrived in the Play Store to fill the gap while Google, presumably, continued to work on Assistant.

It appears that Google is finally ready to launch Assistant Driving Mode with the move to Android 12. In a statement issued to 9to5Google Tuesday, the search giant said: 

Google Assistant driving mode is our next evolution of the mobile driving experience. For the people who use Android Auto in supported vehicles, that experience isn't going away. For those who use the on phone experience (Android Auto mobile app), they will be transitioned to Google Assistant driving mode. Starting with Android 12, Google Assistant driving mode will be the built-in mobile driving experience. We have no further details to share at this time.

Google Assistant's previously delayed Driving Mode will be the preferred interface starting with Android 12.

Google

Reading between the lines, users of devices that aren't getting the Android 12 update should retain access to the Android Auto for Phone Screens app, so it's not completely dead. However, devices that receive the update -- and new Android 12 devices going forward -- will lose access. I am still able to launch and run Android Auto for Phone Screens on my Pixel 4 XL running what was the latest Android 12 beta at the time of publication, but the rollout may just not have hit my device yet. Testers at XDA Developers have already reported the appearance of new messaging in the Android Auto app nudging them toward Google Assistant Driving Mode.

Assistant Driving Mode isn't a perfect replacement, but it's also not half bad. You can call the interface up with a simple, "Hey, Google, Driving Mode" command. Driving Mode offers access to many of the same Android Auto-compatible apps for media consumption and messaging, as well as Google Maps for navigation. There's even a very Android Auto-esque bar along the bottom edge of the display with media controls, shortcuts to Google Assistant voice search and an app switcher with large, legible icons that are easy to tap at arm's length. 

Unfortunately, that very useful bar currently disappears if you don't have a destination set or if you rotate to landscape orientation. Hopefully, there's still time for Google to iron out the kinks in Driving Mode before it becomes our sole option.