Rant: My Love/Hate Relationship With Android Auto
I’ve owned an Android Auto equipped vehicle for over 18 months now and I love it! The ability to have Google Maps and Waze projected on the touch screen is so much better than trying to mount my phone to windshield, dash, or HVAC vent. However, when it comes to the audio apps, they absolutely suck!
I own a 2016 Chevy Colorado with a 7-inch MyLink touch screen infotainment system. The MyLink interface is intuitive, much like a tablet. The large, colorful icons are easy to use, and the layout is customizable, with “hot keys’’ for the phone, messaging, audio, screen mirroring (Android Auto/Apple-Car Play), etc. always displayed at the top and radio presets anchored at the bottom. Those presets are for your AM/FM/SXM channels only. It’s been that way since the early 2000s when GM began allowing users to save presets without having to switch bands. So, one could have an FM station alongside an AM station or a satellite channel all in the same bank of presets, making it simple to punch around to your favorite stations.
With Android Auto and Apple Car Play, this becomes more cumbersome and a bit dangerous at times. Any of the compatible audio apps, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Radio.com, SXM, Pandora, Spotify, or Prime Music, don’t have a reasonable way of setting presets that are easily navigable while driving. All of these apps were initially designed to be used while the listener was holding their device, like an iPod, while exercising or doing some other activity that isn’t driving. Their displays of favorites must be scrolled thru. Herein lies the rub, if the vehicle is in motion, scrolling is limited for safety reasons. That makes switching between favorites while driving next to impossible and ultimately frustrating as hell.
And forget about quickly switching between stations that are exclusive to certain apps. If you like your Country from Nashville on the Big 98 and your rock from Seattle on KISW and your baseball team’s home play-by-play feed on SiriusXM, you’ll need to switch between iHeartRadio, TuneIn (because Radio.com won’t let you select favorites within Android Auto) and Sirius XM apps which requires several steps to do, distracting you from what’s happening around you on the road. Even within the same app, it’s maddening to try to select between 8-10 favorites when scrolling is blocked.
Radio needs to use whatever influence it might have to urge developers to create a more driver-friendly interface for these platforms if we want to keep our place in the dashboard. Then, as many have been doing with listening in the home via smart-speakers, radio must educate its audience on who to use these interfaces both on-air and online. Rant over. Now I’m going to stream some of my client stations and hope that I don’t get into a wreck jumping between apps.