Android Auto 12 now available to download: everything you need to know

Android Auto 12 is here
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Photo: Google/autoevolution edits

Google has significantly updated the release cadence of Android Auto, so that new versions arrive almost weekly in the beta and stable branches.

The beta testing program certainly helped, allowing users to download and install previous versions and test new features and improvements early. Google’s purpose is simple: with Android Auto betas, users have access to the latest updates before the production release begins.

They can provide feedback, find bugs, and help the company improve overall stability and reliability, reducing the likelihood of bugs and other errors; if you’re a long-time Android Auto user, you surely know how important this is.

Android Auto 11.9 hit the stable channel earlier this week, but it’s time for the app to hit a new milestone.

Android Auto Coolwalk

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Android Auto 12 is now available for download for beta testers.

Before you scan the article for the download link, here’s an important detail. While reaching this milestone is usually good news in the software world and is usually marked by major improvements, this is not the case with Android Auto.

Google considers Android Auto 12 a “regular” release, so it didn’t even update the changelog. The same old release notes are included, and users who install Android Auto 12 don’t get any new features, aside from the changes I’ve detailed below.

Now, the obligatory disclaimer.

Android Auto Coolwalk

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Android Auto 12 is currently in beta, which means you shouldn’t download this update unless you know exactly what a beta is. Given that it’s pre-release software, this version ships with a higher chance of bugs, and your role in developing a more stable update is to submit any bugs you find to Google.

Beta builds should also not be used as a daily driver. If you use Android Auto every day and can’t live without the app, you’re better off sticking with the stable channel.

Let’s see how you can download Android Auto 12 today.

The easiest way to access beta versions is to sign up for the Android Auto beta program. This means you’ll become an active tester, so every time Google sends out a new trial version, you’ll have it on your phone via the Google Play Store. If you’re already in the program, launch the Play Store and check for updates.

Android Auto Coolwalk

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

If you are not, you can download Android Auto 12 APK on your smartphone. To do this, you first need to download the APK installer on your mobile device. Navigate to its location, tap it, and follow the on-screen wizard to complete the update. You do not need to remove the existing installation, even if you are using the stable build. New files automatically replace the existing build.

What’s next for Android Auto?

Google is working on several notable changes for Android Auto, though they’re rolling out in stages and some users are getting them later than others.

One major update is how Android Auto displays notifications while driving. Android Auto allows users to stay in touch with contacts (via calls and messages) while driving with the Google Assistant, but it’s also possible to turn off notifications. However, notifications still appear in the notification center.

A new option that started rolling out recently allows users to turn off notifications entirely, so they won’t even appear in the notification center. The goal is to make driving safer, as drivers can leave their phones behind and care about nothing but keeping their eyes on the road.

Android Auto Coolwalk

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Google has also started rolling out a visual refresh for the settings screen on mobile devices. Android Auto’s settings screen is long outdated and doesn’t even support a dark mode. Google released a Material You overhaul of the mobile version of Android Auto years ago, but the settings screen was left behind, keeping the old look. Google is now addressing this setback, with a dark mode now appearing for users running the latest versions of Android Auto.

Another big change now rolling out to Android Auto is support for the stock icon design on mobile devices. With this change, Google allows users to replace the standard Android Auto icons with the ones that ship with their device. The feature is supposed to help create more consistency between smartphones and Android Auto, making switching between devices smoother. Google has also enabled phone wallpaper support in Android Auto, and users can enable the background of their mobile device to double as the background in the car.

If everything goes well and Google doesn’t find any major bugs in Android Auto 12, this build should be promoted to the production pipeline next week. When that happens, non-beta users will start receiving the update through the Google Play Store, though the rollout will continue to be done in stages. Manually installing the update using the APK installer will be the only way to update without waiting.

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