Is it possible to use my smartphone when Android Auto is active?
AA used to entirely shut off the phone, but that was too restrictive. After all, we are parked and at traffic lights, and having to unhook the phone to use it short was a bridge too far. The architects of the system appear to have relented since, while not straightforward, AA allows you to access some features directly on the phone by swiping up on the default in-use screen. Some in-dash apps, such as Google Maps, cannot be used on the phone when connected.
How Well Does It Work?
Both CarPlay and AA are so amazing that we're upset when a test vehicle doesn't have either. Unsurprisingly, vehicles with touchscreens provide the greatest experience because smartphones utilize the same method, but vehicles with no-touch displays and remote controls may still provide a good experience. We've encountered vehicles that limit the AA interface to a portion of a widescreen display, such as Mazda's early integrations, but an app update can fix that - and may have already done so by the time you read this.
Native navigation used to have a considerable advantage since its rooftop GPS antenna and a backup technology called dead reckoning kept the car icon moving on the map even if the car lost its GPS in a natural or urban tunnel or canyon. However, the capability is always improving and upgrading, and AA currently receives data from the car itself (such as current speed), which offers some dead reckoning to the phone-based navigation software. Although not all head units (the in-dash system) have this capability, AA may use a car's rooftop GPS antenna, which is likely to be more effective than the antenna installed within the phone.
Clearly, AA has begun to take use of the benefits that native navigation previously possessed, and it adds the flexibility to evolve that few in-dash solutions have ever provided. It's not impossible that AA and CarPlay will force automakers to abandon native navigation and maybe other functions like sports scores and stock quotations. How many subscriptions can a single individual handle?
It's worth noting that issues can arise from time to time, and they tend to differ depending on the car and phone in question. AA is typically rather stable if both are running recent operating systems, applications, and firmware. One notable exception that Google hasn't addressed is the voice-to-text function's tendency to record some or all of its own prompt — "What's the message?" — at the beginning of any text you then vocalize for the purpose of transmitting. (My wife has learnt to disregard texts from me that begin with such erroneous wording.) For what it’s worth, this happens only in some cars, which might explain why Google hasn’t licked it or perhaps tried very hard.
We're not clear how effectively subsequent phones will operate with the first AA-compatible autos. Some of them, at the very least, have USB connectors that don't produce enough power to charge a contemporary phone's battery while AA is running, like as a Hyundai I drove a few years ago. I came with a lesser charge than when I left. If processor demands rise, older vehicles may struggle to keep up with charging. Let's hope Google takes this into account.
- Qiang Ling