Big changes to thein-car smartphone interface are just around the corner according to a release by Google this morning. New, expanded categories of driver-focused, third-party apps are coming down the road, with the first being a new Calendar app from Google itself.
Android Auto currently boasts over 3,000 compatible apps in the Google Play store with "purpose-built functionality for use in the car," according to Google. However, most of those apps are simple audio playback apps (likeor ) or messaging services, which is actually fine because the driver is probably too busy, you know, driving to worry about much more. Still, there are a few notable gaps in Android Auto's suite of apps.
Fortunately, Google is expanding the categories of Android Auto-compatible apps and is working with partners to bring apps for parking (), electric vehicle charging ( ) and navigation ( ) to the dashboard. These new apps will have to conform to Google's Android for Cars App Library which aims for a low-distraction interface that "ensure[s] that all tasks within an app can be achieved with minimal glances or taps."
Google Maps in Android Auto can already display electric vehicle charging charging points along the route (sometimes even with) and find parking structures near your destination. While we don't know how these new expanded apps will look or function just yet, hypothetically, they could open the way to paying for or reserving a parking spot or EV charging station with a tap on the dashboard. That's got my interest piqued.
Leading up to this expansion, the core suite of built-in Android Auto apps is also expanding a bit with the addition of a new Calendar app.
Rather than the familiar grid of dates, Calendar presents an agenda of the day's events as a simple list with a low-distraction design that matches the standards for the rest of the in-car interface. Events with associated addresses or contacts also feature shortcuts for turn-by-turn navigation or hands-free calling.
I've noticed that, currently, Google Maps will sometimes automatically suggest destinations from my calendar in the destination search bar, but it's not necessarily reliable. The new Calendar function frees Maps users from the whims of the suggestion algorithm and could make life easier for users of other navigation apps, likeor another upcoming member of the newly expanded catalog.
Android Auto is also finally getting a true Settings app. Currently, the gear-shaped Settings icon in the Android Auto app picker is merely a shortcut that pulls up the settings menu on the host Android phone, which is annoying because the whole point of Android Auto is not having to touch your phone. However, the update adds a new on-screen Settings menu with toggles for notification preferences, media playback resumption, weather display and more.
The new Android Auto Calendar and the expanded Settings functionality will be rolling out to devices running Android 6.0 and later over the coming month. Early access partners and others will be releasing their new apps to their beta testers by the end of this year with the expanded Android Auto APIs becoming publicly available for all developers soon after.