Short guide to developing apps for Android Auto

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Table of contents:

As we’ve previously stated in the Short Guide to developing iOS apps for CarPlay, smartphones, the apps and the need for all of them are quite obvious, just imagine how much they ease your life. The growth of systems such as Android Auto, Android Automotive OS and CarPlay is now on the rise, and it's easy to see why when you look at their features and how they function.

Android Auto and CarPlay rely on phones to power the entire car-optimized experience and considering that everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, it's easy to see why so many people find it quite handy to reflect the interface on the larger screen in the cabin. While Android Auto appears to be a success, Google has been investing in a far more complex automobile experience driven by Android Automotive.

What exactly is Android Auto?

The Android Auto system works by connecting a phone to a compatible car and allowing drivers to interact with their phone's apps through the car screen and voice commands. It makes it simple to explore, listen to media and communications, and do other things.

Android Auto offers a driver-optimized app experience to consumers who have an Android phone and the Android Auto app but do not own a car that runs the Android Automotive OS. If a user's automobile sound system supports Android Auto, they may connect their phone and utilize your app directly on their car's display.

You, as a developer can create services that Android Auto can use to display to the driver. These services are reused for your Android Automotive OS software, but consumers do not install your phone app on their automobiles.

How does Android Auto work?

1. On the phone's screen

If your car does not have a suitable HU, you may use the solo Android Auto App on your smartphone or tablet. Following app startup, a car-friendly UI appears and is ready for usage. The app is easy to browse owing to somewhat bigger UI components that reduce the number of misclicks.

On the main screen, you'll see the currently playing music or podcast, recommended driving destinations, and alerts as they arrive. There is also a button for configuring Android Auto settings, such as Google Assistant, so that you may perform voice commands.

2. On car display

You may also utilize an Android Auto compatible automobile entertainment system (currently over 500 models are supported and even more should come soon). It is simple to run Android Auto on a vehicle display; simply connect your smartphone via USB connection (some phones also enable wireless connectivity) and your applications will mirror on it.

What type of apps can be developed for Android Auto?

1. Messaging apps

Voice-based messaging allows drivers to communicate while keeping their eyes on the road. The messaging app template in Android Auto has a common navigation mechanism for all messaging applications. Apps that use this template only receive and reply to text-based messages, converting text such as SMS and email to audio.

2. Media apps

The media template is intended for apps that need little input and provide a constant stream of audio information. The media template in Android Auto has a common navigation paradigm for all audio apps. Users traverse browsing views in this paradigm to discover and pick playable content.

3. Navigation, Parking & Charging apps

The Android for Cars App Library includes vehicle-optimized templates for app developers to use when creating three types of Android Auto apps: navigation, parking, and charging apps. App developers may alter both the templates and the order in which they appear to construct user flows inside their apps. Android Auto adjusts the UI to all supported vehicles automatically.

4. Custom apps

Android Auto is presently developing custom applications in collaboration with a number of partners. Android Auto apps should have a clean, flat structure so that drivers do not have to remember where they are in the app. Designing a flat hierarchy entails displaying the core app features on the primary app screen and navigating to supplemental information via the drawer.

General design guidance

The central aspect of Android for Cars is "design for driving." The driver's primary job is to drive safely, so this priority must be reflected in every design by automakers and app developers.

The app's information and interactions should complement the driving experience while reducing driver distraction. To keep the driver's eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, the user interface must be concise. Here is what you need to learn about designing interfaces for cars:

  • 1. Interaction principles
  • 2. Visual principles
  • 3. Style foundations
  • 4. System UI

1. Interaction principles

Interactions between a driver and a screen must be straightforward, non-distracting, and readily interrupted in order for the driver's focus to return to the road.

2. Visual principles

Content created for a vehicle screen must be clear and glanceable, with a consistent user interface and big touch targets that drivers can distinguish in all lighting circumstances.

3. Style foundations

The Android Auto style is based on the same interaction design and visual design principles. However, due to the unique context, the style and layout details for these systems differ in some ways.

4. System UI

The Android Auto UI comprises a navbar that allows you to access important functions, a primary app content area, and a status bar that shows system information. The status bar provides information about the time, weather, and system status. The app content section below it displays either the app launcher or content from the main app presently in use.

The navigation bar gives you access to the following:

  • The application launcher
  • A widget that contains controls for a second, running app
  • The Notification Center
  • The Assistant, for voice-based interactions

Android Auto design system

The UI for Android Auto, covers colour, typography and visual elements that are built strategically to improve the visual clarity on car screens. Therefore, Google Developers offers quite visual examples for their guidelines.

There you have it, a short guide to developing apps for Android Auto, apps that focus on in-car functions such as navigation and listening to media or messaging. If you're planning to create an app compatible with Android Auto from start or modify an existing app, you must consider all of the requirements and restrictions imposed by Google on such apps. Depending on the app type, you as a developer may create apps for Android Auto in a variety of methods. See Android Developer for more information.

As we’ve said before, building an Android app is quite accessible and easy for an experienced Android developer, and even if you’re a beginner, give it a try and test your boundaries. And if you ever feel overwhelmed, then we are here to take this issue out of your hand. Contact us and let our professionals build the project you desire. Until the next one, keep your hands on the wheel and drive safe!


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