The UX of Android Auto

By | February 16, 2017

I recently got a new car lease. (Kia Sportage 2017) I liked the Nissan Rogue but the Kia has Android Auto and I wanted to give that a try. Otherwise, the cars were very similar in price and features. Here is my run down:

The Good

  1. “OK Google” works well for a specific set of cases. Call person, directions to, etc. If you stay in bounds, it is nice.
  2. It’s better than nothing.

The Bad and the Ugly

  1. It takes too long to boot up. I turn the car on and it’s about 20 seconds until the phone can play something. Go into your car and turn it on and then count to twenty out loud. It’s not fun.
  2. You can’t use your phone AT ALL when Android Auto is happening. This means, even if you are parked, even if the engine is turned off, you can not send that chat message to your significant other. You can not use the phone at all. I don’t really see why this has to be the case. Why can’t your phone work AND the Android Auto work? Is my phone really not powerful enough for that? (Google Pixel XL in case you were wondering)
  3. You can’t easily switch between your phone and someone else’s. My kid asks me, “Can I play a song?” and I have to figure out how to disconnect my bluetooth so he can get his in there. It’s several minutes of fiddling. It’s just not worth it.
  4. Scrolling is terrible. Phones scroll really smoothly. The android auto scrolling goes page by page with crumby responsiveness. It’s such a simple thing, but they really didn’t do a good job with it.
  5. Usability will cause me to crash the car. The buttons are too small, where to click is too complicated, responsiveness is slow. I have to LOOK at it. This is a terrible thing and will cause deaths to people. Usability is paramount in this situation.
  6. They truncate words. This is inexcusable. The screen is bigger than an iPad mini. It’s high resolution. They have tons of space to write. Yet, I can’t even see the full name of the podcast I am listening to. Either make the words marquee or just wrap to the next line. Hiding the words is awful.
  7. There are no default program settings. I want to play music in spotify 100% of the time. Why does “OK Google” not understand this.
  8. Multi-tasking is super sketchy. This is a hard one and I want to give Android a break on it. However, when I am driving with directions and listening to a podcast, the experience doesn’t really make sense. For me, this is a pretty regular occurance. I listen to podcasts, I always use google maps. Focus on this particular experience and you will find it could be significantly better.
  9. I don’t get plugged in mode vs. Bluetooth mode. I really don’t understand why I should plug in sometimes but not others. This is an education thing, but the experience doesn’t help me differentiate.
  10. Android Auto apps are very limited. You get audio apps like pandora, spotify and podcasts. You get directions. After that, not much. I am not sure how many things make sense, but it seems like there could be skins and clocks and other apps.

In the end, it is still better than nothing, but the experience leaves alot to be desired. It feels like a Beta product. It needs iterations and work. Am I going to get an upgrade? Or am I stuck with one version for the life of the car. God I hope not.

Side note: The Kia rides pretty well. I like the ultra-big moon roof. The turbo engine is too much for me, even in Eco mode. I want it to calm down. Generally, I am happy with the car.

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