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Audi proves Android Auto not just for touchscreens (pictures)

At Google I/O, Audi demonstrated its implementation of Google's car software. Its new Q7 uses Audi's standard MMI controller to mirror useful features from an Android phone.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 15 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Audi was among four automakers here demonstrating an implementation of the Android Auto feature, a technology that mirrors Android phone functions on the car's dashboard.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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The new Audi Q7, introduced at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, will be the first Audi model to feature Android Auto. It should be hitting dealerships later this year.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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Unlike implementations of Android Auto in cars with touchscreens, Audi managed to make Android Auto work seamlessly with its indirect Multimedia Interface (MMI) controller.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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With Android Auto, you use the MMI's dial to select and choose menu items, and the touchpad to trace letters for alphanumeric entry or to pan and zoom the map display. Voice control also works for Android Auto in the Audi Q7.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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Audi's standard infotainment menu adds the Android Auto icon when you plug an Android phone that supports the system into the car's USB port. Selecting the icon launches Android Auto.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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Android Auto's home screen shows tiles relevant to you, such as meetings from your calendar and a history of messages. You can easily scroll through the tiles with the car's dial, and select any one of them.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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The navigation system, powered by the phone, shows up on the Q7's larger screen. A Google engineer told CNET that this implementation was still in beta, and that the Android Auto screen will fill the entire LCD in production form.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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Entering destinations for navigation is easy. You can quickly enter a destination by voice, or use the MMI controller's touchpad or dial to enter alphanumeric characters on this screen. You can also pan the map and choose a location.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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At time of writing, Android Auto supports four messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Telegram and Android's native SMS app. Android Auto indicates when a message has come in, and lets the driver decide whether to have Android Auto read it out loud. The driver can then dictate a reply.

Android Auto in Audi Q7
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Android Auto shows the attached phone's contact list, letting the driver initiate hands-free phone calls.

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Android Auto supports many audio apps, but uses a very simple now-playing template, which looks similar no matter which app is active.

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Audio apps include music, sports, audio books and news. This screen will show whichever audio apps compatible with Android Auto are currently installed on the connected phone.

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The Google Play Music app uses a very similar interface as the Spotify app, and any other audio app, lessening distraction for drivers.

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Each audio app includes a menu for selecting channels, programs, artists, playlists or any other possible category.

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Audible is another audio app available, allowing drivers to listen to audio books while on the road.

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