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Android Auto now works as a standalone app

Android Auto, Google’s answer to Apple CarPlay, now works without the need for a new car or a fancy stereo ─ and the update roll-out has begun.

The updated app means anyone with a smartphone or tablet capable of running Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer will be able to use Android Auto, where previously it was limited to cars with an infotainment system and certain aftermarket stereos that supported it.

The user simply has to connect their phone to the car’s Bluetooth connection, run the app and a new Android Auto user-interface is presented albeit one slightly different from what you get built into a car such as the VW Golf.

The new Android Auto app ─ now available in 30 countries ─ has four main tabs at the bottom of the screen: Maps, phone, audio and home screen. From here you can change the song, make a call, send a text by voice and more, with streamlined notifications making it less demanding of your concentration.

There are more than 500 apps that currently play nice with Android Auto and all are said to work with the updated Android Auto app, including Whatsapp, Pandora and Spotify.

“Ok Google” voice commands will be added in a future update in the coming weeks so you will have to wait before shouting orders at your smartphone. An odd omission, we must admit, given that driver distraction is a hot topic right now.

To those concerned about the battery drain of running an app constantly while driving, Google Maps and Android Auto product management director Mickey Kataria says to expect only a “tiny bit more” drain than if running Maps. Probably best to bring a car charger just in case.

The addition of a proper Android Auto app experience puts Google ahead of Apple, which is yet to offer an equivalent for CarPlay, but is also indicative of the fact the advertising giant wants to speed up the adoption rate that, until now, had been at the mercy of car manufacturers.

The new Android Auto app is probably worth a download if you spend a lot of time in your car and need to be connected to the outside world, but do try to keep those eyes on the road ahead. The world can, after all, wait an extra half-hour for that semi-ironic Instagram of your lunch.

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