Extend your apps to Android Auto

Goal behind every new advancement in technology is to enhance the customer experience by staying more connected with the customer. This enhances the customer trust and bonding.

A recent study from Google reveals that on average an US car holder spends at-least 1 hour a day driving. There are so many apps in play store already available for the mobile platform. Companies like Uber, Google are so close to launch their driver-less car platforms to public. Taking into consideration on all these factors, Android Auto helps developers extend their app to cars.

Basic setup and requirements –

  1. Car dashboards should have android auto capability. Many manufactures are already releasing their car models with Android auto support.
  2. Android enabled phone with Lollipop (Android 5.0) and above.
  3. Android Auto app installed on the mobile device which helps in setting up the session between your car and mobile phone
  4. Remember there is no play store app for car dashboard. Your mobile is the ultimate mirroring source of your car dashboard.
  5. A USB cable to connect your phone with car 🙂 (This is one weird feature that I look from Google to get rid in the future)
  6. Even your mobile phone can act as a dashboard with Android Auto app
AndroidAutoDemonstration
Android Auto – Understanding

Two Types of Apps

Currently Android Auto helps extending only 2 different types of apps –

  • Audio apps
  • Messaging apps
Android Auto - Actions
2 types of android auto apps

In order to extend your app to support both the features, do the simple steps below –

Step 1) – In your Main->res->xml folder create automotive_app_desc.xml file.

Step 2) – Add the following content in the xml file –

<automotiveApp>
   <uses name="media" />
   <uses name="notification"/>
</automotiveApp>

Step 3) – Do the following addition to the AndroidManifest.xml file

<application>

    ...
    <meta-data android:name="com.google.android.gms.car.application"
     android:resource="@xml/automotive_app_desc"/>

</application>

Audio app development – 

Now to extend your audio app to car – There are 2 things that has to be done –

  1. Browse the files
    • MediaBrowserService helps in listing the track information of the music titles
  2. Play the files
    • Enable playback controls using MediaSession.Callback object
Android Audio App - Media Playback
Android Auto – Media action

Design tips –

  1. Browsing hierarchy limitation to maximum of 6 levels
  2. Only a maximum of 8 actions in media controls

Messaging app development –

For the messaging app there are 2 primary actions that can be delivered in car –

  1. Notify the user
    • Custom notifications to be displayed on the car dashboard
  2. Read and reply to messages –
    • Intents are used to read and reply to messages
Android Messaging App - Notification
Android Auto – Notification Action

Design tips – 

  1. Android auto messaging app uses a single navigation model. All apps follow the same style.
  2. Remember 2 things
    1. Car dashboard acts a mic – its the phone which does voice processing
    2. Mobile reads the messages which in turn is heard in car audio system

Now that we have seen how to extend apps to car using android auto. It is equally important to test the app and ensure its quality before submitting to play store.

You need not be in a car to test android auto. Android Auto can be tested as below –

  1. Car Screen –
    • Desktop Head Unit (DHU) adds the capability to test the android auto apps from the development machine.
  2. Phone Screen –
    • Android Auto app from play store helps in testing on the phone screen itself.

Like I mentioned earlier, not much customization can be added to UI. The layouts are mostly predefined by Google itself. Please refer to below URL for design guidelines on the custom UI –

Custom App Anatomy

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