Google has confirmed it’s shutting down the standalone “Android Auto for Phone Screens” app with Android 12. Instead, anyone who wants a driving-friendly interface for their Android phone should use the Google Assistant driving mode, which is available within Google Maps, or the native Android Auto interface available in select cars.
“For those who use the on-phone experience (Android Auto mobile app), they will be transitioned to Google Assistant driving mode,” Google said in a statement. “Starting with Android 12, Google Assistant driving mode will be the built-in mobile driving experience. We have no further details to share at this time.” Google says that the experience isn’t changing for anyone using Android Auto in compatible cars.
Google’s confirmation came after XDA Developers reported that some users were seeing a message in the Android Auto for Phone Screens app that said the service is “now only available for car screens” and pointed phone users towards Google Assistant driving mode as a replacement. Meanwhile, 9to5Google reports that the Android Auto for Phone Screens app now says it’s incompatible with Pixel devices running Android 12.
Android Auto’s app history is a little bit messy, but this is a move that’s been a long time coming. The saga started in 2019, when Google decided to build most of Android Auto’s features into Android 10 as a system-level feature, and discontinue the previously downloadable app. That’s fine for anyone with an Android Auto-compatible car, but anyone with an older vehicle would have lost access to the driving-friendly interface available directly on their phone. Bad times.
Google’s plan for these users was a new Google Assistant driving mode, but this software was delayed, and despite being announced in 2019, it only started rolling out late last year (it’s subsequently expanded internationally). That meant Google effectively needed a stopgap measure, and the clunkily named Android Auto for Phone Screens app was born. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn did a great rundown of the situation in 2019 if you want to learn more.