Test driving Google’s app in the Volkswagen ID.4


Google’s Android Auto began off with a bang in 2014. The app promised that your automotive’s infotainment system might talk along with your telephone, and vice versa. Finally, you can make your automotive’s show simply as highly effective as the one in your pocket!

However, issues didn’t go as easily as Google seemingly anticipated. Manufacturer adoption of Android Auto lagged far behind that of Apple’s personal system, often known as CarPlay. Even the automobiles that did have it confronted limitations, corresponding to a scarcity of wi-fi assist and a dated interface. It wouldn’t be till 2019 that Google would lastly push a UI overhaul to the system in addition to some upgraded options, together with wi-fi connections.

Related: 15 best Android Auto apps to get the most out of it

Now, issues are wanting again up for Google. More producers than ever assist Android Auto. As the years go on, there received’t be many Android smartphones that don’t work with it wirelessly out-of-the-box, both.

To test in on the standing of Android Auto in 2021, I test-drove the new Volkswagen ID.4. This all-electric compact SUV has a 10-inch show that absolutely integrates with Android telephones. The automotive even has a wi-fi charging dock in which you’ll be able to retailer your telephone whereas driving, supplying you with a totally hands-free expertise whereas conserving your machine topped up.

Volkswagen ID.4: An EV for everybody

Volkswagen ID.4 2021 First Edition

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

When I spoke with Volkswagen about testing the ID.4, the firm made one factor exceptionally clear: it isn’t gunning for Tesla prospects. Obviously, with how prevalent the Tesla model is, it’s unattainable for any absolutely electrical car to not be in contrast in opposition to it. However, the Volkswagen ID.4 is designed — and priced — to attraction to common of us who simply need a new compact SUV, no matter whether or not it’s electrical or not.

With all that in thoughts, it was unsurprising to search out that the ID.4 seems, feels, and drives similar to each different compact SUV I’ve used. There’s much more tech in right here than traditional and the all-electric driving takes a little bit of getting used to, positive. Once I bought acclimated although, it didn’t really feel like I used to be driving the automotive of the future. It felt like I used to be driving the automotive of at this time, however higher — and extra environmentally pleasant.

Getting behind the wheel of the ID.4 seems like driving the automotive of at this time, however higher — and extra environmentally pleasant.

One of the largest bits of reports surrounding the ID.4 is Volkswagen’s dedication to creating Android Auto a typical function throughout all fashions and trims. Many different producers supply Auto as an improve, which inevitably causes plenty of of us to go attributable to the additional value. The commonplace providing with the ID.4 is a big boon for Google as it’ll get Android Auto into thousands and thousands of extra automobiles. This ought to assist give Google the impetus it must maintain making its auto-centered app higher and higher.

During my time with the ID.4, I targeted totally on Android Auto and the infotainment system. Below, you’ll discover a bunch of knowledge on what you possibly can anticipate with an ID.4 or most different 2021 automobiles with Android Auto included.

The ID.4 mannequin Volkswagen supplied to me is a difficult-to-get First Edition. The common ID.4 Pro will begin at $39,995 in the United States, earlier than tax breaks and subsidies. Depending on the place you reside, these incentives might knock the value of the automotive all the way down to solely slightly greater than $30,000. Hit the hyperlink beneath to see all the accessible choices.

What is Android Auto?

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Google Maps Navigation

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

The finest strategy to describe Android Auto is that it’s an app that offers your automotive’s infotainment system a strategy to mirror your telephone’s display. Granted, it’s extra sophisticated than that, however that boils it all the way down to its core purpose for current.

Once your telephone and automotive are linked, you possibly can entry a lot of your telephone’s apps and options proper from the automotive’s media show. When you launch an app from the infotainment display, it really launches in your telephone, however in the background. This permits your telephone to energy the apps in your media show however prevents you from needing to really contact your telephone.

See additionally: Please, please stop making video calls while driving

The core concept behind Android Auto is security. Simply put, it’s safer so that you can faucet your automotive’s media show just a few occasions to launch Spotify or Google Maps than it’s to fiddle along with your telephone whereas driving. As talked about earlier, the Volkswagen ID.4 has a wi-fi charging dock in the heart console close to the cupholders. You can drop your telephone into it while you get into the driver’s seat. Once you do, you possibly can’t even see your telephone’s show, a lot much less management it.

Obviously, there are specific issues Android Auto received’t allow you to do. For instance, the system doesn’t assist any video-based apps — Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and so on. It wouldn’t be secure to observe TV and drive at the identical time, in spite of everything. It doesn’t assist video games for the identical purpose, and even productiveness apps like Google’s personal Docs, Sheets, Slides, and so on. The apps it does assist revolve round music, navigation, voice-powered messaging, and audio-based data methods, corresponding to podcasts and climate/information reviews.

What is Android Auto not?

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 App Selection Screen

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Android Auto isn’t your automotive’s sprint interface. This is usually a bit complicated as a result of there are crossovers, however the two methods are very a lot separated.

For instance, you can’t use Android Auto to manage the temperature of your car. You can’t flip car methods on or off, corresponding to wipers or lights. In the case of the Volkswagen ID.4 and different EVs, you possibly can’t even test your charging/battery standing, nor are you able to entry EV charging station apps (though that will change soon).

Remember: all Android Auto does at its core is mirror your telephone. That means in case your telephone can’t do it, neither can Android Auto.

See additionally: The best car chargers: A buyer’s guide

Google has a equally named however wholly completely different platform referred to as Android Automotive, launched in 2017. This product makes use of a personalized model of Android as the automotive’s “operating system.” Very few autos have this Automotive platform proper now, however that’s going to start out altering. Earlier in 2021, Ford announced a partnership with Google that may deliver Automotive to thousands and thousands of Ford-made automobiles beginning in 2023. Those automobiles and others with the Automotive platform would have self-sustained Android apps and full integration with the car’s numerous options. This would mean you can, for instance, say, “Hey Google, open the sunroof,” and it will occur.

The Android Auto platform that seems in the ID.4 and thousands and thousands of different automobiles at the second, although, is a little more restricted.

Setup is a snap

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Connecting With Smartphone

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

During my time with the ID.4, I linked it with my Samsung Galaxy S21. As with most trendy Android telephones, Android Auto comes pre-installed on the Galaxy S21 and it’s able to wi-fi connections with autos.

When you get into the automotive for the first time, you hit the App-Connect button on the infotainment display. That offers you some easy directions for connecting your telephone — the traditional stuff, not too dissimilar from connecting your telephone’s audio and name options through Bluetooth.

Getting setup with Android Auto is simple. Once you do, it is a set it and overlook it scenario.

Once linked, the App-Connect button turns into an Android Auto button. Your telephone will now auto-connect every time you enter the car. In the case of the ID.4, connections occurred fairly rapidly, though it wasn’t instantaneous.

If you have been utilizing Android Auto while you final exited the automotive, that interface will routinely launch on the automotive’s show while you subsequent enter. It defaults straight to Google Maps navigation. If you have been enjoying music through your telephone, it’ll routinely begin enjoying it from the place you left off.

This bevy of auto-start choices lets you actually get in the automotive, toss your telephone into the wi-fi charging dock, and begin driving. It’s very handy.

It’s all about Google Assistant voice instructions

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Google Assistant Command

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

As talked about earlier, Android Auto’s main perform is to get your telephone out of your fingers when you drive. However, if you happen to’re touching your automotive’s media show as a lot as you’ll be touching your telephone, that doesn’t actually make it a lot safer, does it? That’s the place Google Assistant comes in.

At this level, it’s tough to think about that Android Auto as soon as existed with out Google Assistant (Assistant is about two years youthful). In the trendy model of Auto, the Assistant microphone icon is in the lower-right nook always. Additionally, it’s at all times listening for the “OK Google” hotword. This lets you challenge voice instructions to manage Android Auto options. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be many occasions that you must contact the media show in any respect.

Related: Google Assistant guide: Make the most of your virtual assistant

If you do want to the touch the show, the Android Auto residence button is at all times in the lower-left of the display. Tapping it opens your “app drawer” of types, which exhibits you the apps in your telephone that work with Android Auto. Most of the time, while you launch an app it simply launches an Assistant function. For instance, tapping the Google News icon simply begins an Assistant-powered readout of the day’s main information occasions.

If you’re the sort of one that hates voice instructions or doesn’t like utilizing Google Assistant, you’re going to have a troublesome time with Android Auto. However, utilizing your voice to launch apps, ask for driving instructions, conduct internet searches, and even begin/cease your music is what makes Android Auto so highly effective (and secure!).

In the case of the Volkswagen ID.4, I didn’t have any points with voice instructions. The system heard most of them accurately, and the Snapdragon 888 in my Galaxy S21 carried out these instructions rapidly. The solely time I confronted issues was with the home windows down or the music approach up. However, that’s only a common limitation with voice instructions.

Android Auto apps: Lots lacking

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 App Selections

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

I’ve practically 200 apps on my telephone. Of these, solely a few dozen assist Android Auto. You can think about my shock at this after I pulled up the accessible apps on the ID.4’s infotainment show.

As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous apps that merely don’t have any place in Android Auto, corresponding to video streaming apps and video games. However, there are many apps that might have an Android Auto model however don’t. Weather apps are a superb instance, as are food delivery services. Even purchasing apps that work via voice instructions could be cool (you possibly can already store on Amazon utilizing Alexa voice commands, however not on Android Auto).

Related: 10 best music players for Android Auto

Unfortunately, the blame for this falls squarely on Google. Up till very not too long ago, the firm disallowed any third-party apps on Android Auto that didn’t fall into three very particular classes: music, maps, and messaging. In 2021, although, Google is lastly opening up the doorways a bit extra and permitting another classes, the most welcome of which is EV charging apps.

Thankfully, which means Android Auto is just going to get higher. However, throughout my time with the Volkswagen ID.4, I used to be caught with a really restricted set of choices. Still, what was there labored properly and was actually helpful.

What does Android Auto do properly?

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Start Android Auto

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Walking away from Android Auto, the factor that left me the most impressed was how the whole lot simply labored. Once I bought via the preliminary setup process, I didn’t even want to consider it anymore. I’d get into the automotive, begin her up, and drive off. By the time I bought to the finish of my driveway, my music could be enjoying and maps could be prepared for me to enter my vacation spot.

At no level throughout my week with the Volkswagen ID.4 did I expertise a loss in wi-fi connectivity with Android Auto. My voice instructions all labored (except for the occasions when it was too noisy). Navigating round the interface was easy and self-explanatory.

The smartest thing about Android Auto is that it really works as anticipated. That won’t look like a giant deal, however that is Google we’re speaking about!

This would possibly all sound boring, however that is Google we’re speaking about. Two wholly completely different methods speaking properly with little or no work on my half isn’t the norm for Google. Additionally, from what I’ve heard, this isn’t how Android Auto has at all times been traditionally. This was my first time ever utilizing Auto, so I can’t communicate for older iterations.

Although the system is lacking a ton of options and apps it might — and possibly ought to — have, Google has nailed the base components of Android Auto. That’s positively an achievement and makes me optimistic for the future. If all Google must do is make the base-level expertise higher and extra succesful, that’s quite a bit simpler than what it wanted to do from 2014 to 2019, which is make it really work as promised.

What about Android Auto wants work?

Volkswagen ID.4 Infotainment without Android Auto

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

One factor that left me irritated with Android Auto was its poor use of display actual property. Above, you’ll see Volkswagen’s format for its personal sprint system inside the ID.4. You’ve bought VW’s maps app on the left, after which three smaller widget-esque options on the proper. This makes far more sense to me than protecting the complete show with one app after which having a small widget beneath for a secondary app.

Granted, Android Auto does support split-screen functionality. However, it’s a very new function that my ID.4 didn’t have but.

More customization choices and higher use of display actual property are the areas the place Auto wants some work.

Another factor I’d prefer to see improved is extra customization choices. Auto has a approach so that you can select wallpaper to higher match your car’s inside, which is good. However, you possibly can solely select it from a number of wallpapers that seem like they have been designed in the 1990s. There’s additionally no strategy to management issues like setting a everlasting darkish mode.

Finally, I did have some points with notifications. The little crimson dot on the notification bell could be there, however after I’d open notifications, there’d be an previous alert I had swiped away way back. I’d test my telephone, however there’d be no notifications there. This is probably going a minor bug, however it’s proof that Google hasn’t ironed out all the kinks fairly but.

Android Auto in 2021: I’m glad this got here as commonplace

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Background Choices

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Earlier in this text, I discussed that Android Auto is normally a paid improve in numerous autos. With the Volkswagen ID.4, that’s not the case — each mannequin may have it with none additional cost to the purchaser.

After spending time with the ID.4, I couldn’t assist however really feel paying additional for Auto could be a wasteful expenditure. Granted, automotive producers are likely to bundle Android Auto and CarPlay with different perks, corresponding to bigger shows, cameras, sound methods, and so on., so that you’re normally not simply paying for Auto/CarPlay. But it’s clear that, as helpful as Auto is, it’s not revolutionary sufficient to warrant a paid improve that may head into the four-figures with some OEMs.

Paying additional for Android Auto would not actually be value it, so the indisputable fact that the ID.4 has it as commonplace is a pleasant gesture.

Volkswagen’s made the proper transfer right here by making it commonplace. It’s a welcome addition to the driving expertise that works properly and has worth. It simply doesn’t have a price that I’d pay lots of for over the regular value of the car.

That all being mentioned, with the approach Android Auto is correct now, it most likely shouldn’t be a deciding issue on your car buy. It’s handy, reliable, and intuitive, but it surely’s additionally fairly simplistic. Google might deliver numerous developments to it in the future, however that’s not a assure, so it will be unwise so as to add an excessive amount of weight to Auto being included or not included along with your subsequent automotive.

The future: What might Android Auto turn out to be?

Android Auto in Volkswagen ID.4 Center Console Interaction with Drivers Console

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Interestingly, Google has already taken the subsequent logical step for Android Auto, which is the introduction of Android Automotive. The latter system guarantees full integration with the automotive itself, which is one thing Auto can’t supply — and certain received’t ever.

This conundrum turns into much more obvious the extra you employ Google Assistant. At residence, I exploit Assistant for the whole lot: turning on the lights, setting the temperature, beginning my robot vacuum, and on and on. When I’m in the automotive, it makes logical sense to me to say, “Hey Google, set the temperature to 68 degrees.” Doing so with Android Auto, although, modifications my Nest Thermostat at residence, which is hardly ideally suited.

Android Auto isn’t the future. Android Automotive is.

Still, Google might get Android Auto to at the least combine slightly bit extra with autos. In the Volkswagen ID.4, the driver’s show behind the steering wheel offers me very fundamental driving directions from my Google Maps app. That means the steering show and the fundamental show are working collectively, despite the fact that the steering show clearly doesn’t have Android Auto. Google might examine extra methods to combine Auto with automobiles corresponding to this, which might make the system much more highly effective.

Ultimately, although, I really feel like Android Auto’s days are numbered. In 2023, we’re going to get an inflow of automobiles operating the full Android Automotive system which received’t require a telephone to work and can absolutely combine with the car. Ford, Lincoln, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and extra automotive teams are already prepping Automotive-based automobiles. If Google could make Automotive into the system all of us dreamed of once we first heard about Android Auto, there wouldn’t be a lot want for Auto anymore.

Granted, it’ll take years for Automotive to proliferate sufficient to finish Android Auto. In the meantime, Auto works as one would anticipate. It most likely shouldn’t be the lynchpin of your car-buying choice, but it surely’s a pleasant perk to have.


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