Google’s grand plan for Android in cars is as clear as its grand plan for Android on TVs and wearables. Which is to say it’s totally not. A few months back it promised a new chapter in the Android Auto story. Half a year later, Google accidentally broke Android Auto on phones while also delaying that promised Assistant Driving Mode. Now it’s rolling out a fix to the former with a new Android Auto for Phone Screens that, for all intents and purposes, does what the disappearing Android Auto icon on Android 10 phones.
There are two separate but perhaps related stories to the origin of this standalone app. At I/O 2019 in May, Google revealed a new Assistant Driving Mode that was going to be a stand-in replacement for Android Auto on phones. As the name suggests, it focuses heavily on the voice assistant to control apps safely without taking your hands off the wheel.
But not only did Google miss its September target, it may have broken something while delaying the release of this new feature. For some users running on Android 10 already, the icon to launch Android Auto from their phones has completely disappeared. This may be in preparation for Assistant Driving Mode but since that never happened, the launcher just vanished.
Google’s fix is a separate standalone app that does the same thing. Android Auto for Phone Screens does exactly what the name says. It transforms the Android UI into a form more conducive for quick and easy touch but the primary point of interaction, if Google is to be asked, is voice.
Android Auto for Phone Screens is available only for Android 10 phones, which is a very small set at the moment. Furthermore, Google wants to make it clear that if you own an Android 10 phone and an Android Auto compatible car, you don’t need the app at all. Simply plug the phone in and enjoy the drive.