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Android Auto developers will have limited choices when it comes to UI customization

A new post from Google gives us some new details regarding Android Auto, including the fact that developers will have some restrictions when it comes to the customization of their app's UI.
September 29, 2014
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Although Android itself is open-source, many of Google’s recent Android-related projects have been a bit more tightly controlled than this. For example, Android Wear OEMs are unable to deeply modify or skin the platform like they can with Android and Google seems to be a bit more picky about what manufacturers can and can’t build watches using their OS.

So what about Android Auto? Today Google updated its Android Developer page with some new details regarding their auto efforts, and it seems that Mountain View is taking a more controlling approach here as well. For starters, media apps will all basically look the same whether its Google Play Music or Spotify. That said, developers can customize the background images, colors and icons. Google is also limiting voice commands to those pre-defined by the platform, meaning developers can’t add or create their own custom phrases.


The reason why Google wants to limit UI customization is that the Android Auto experience should be simple, uniform and not distracting to drivers. Here’s how Google sums up the Android Auto experience:

  • Glanceable and simple. Driving requires users’ full attention. In-car software should not. Android Auto was designed to simplify not only the UI, but to optimize interactions and require less thinking, induce lower cognitive load, and ultimately, be safer. Effective apps provide just enough information in the minimum amount of time the user needs to glance at it and return their attention back to the road. Apps should also reduce the number of features to only those that are safe and drive-appropriate.
  • Predictive, yet predictable. Android Auto leverages rich, contextual awareness to keep the driver informed about important situations during the drive. Rich, timely help is combined with predictable functions. Effective apps make use of the patterns for common tasks and show timely information only when relevant.
  • Connected. By leveraging the user’s personal ecosystem of apps and services, Android Auto promotes a continuous experience from phone to car to other devices. The user’s music, destinations, and virtual ecosystem are always available to augment the drive. Experiences that leverage personal context and other devices are naturally part of Android Auto.
  • Naturally integrated. Android Auto blends the user’s apps with the car, creating a truly integrated experience that leverages what is unique about each car. By using the screens, controls, and capabilities of the vehicle, Android Auto feels like an extension of the car.

In addition to making the platform as simple and non-distracting as possible, Google is also throwing in a night mode so that way the interface isn’t hard on the eyes either.

For those interested in more details, you’ll want to head over to the Android Developer’s page. Developers should also take note that the Android Auto SDK will reportedly land sometime this fall. Based on everything we’ve seen so far, what do you think of Android Auto — impressed or not?