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Android Auto makes it easier to stream music, read messages on the go

Apple’s CarPlay made a splash when it announced that Google Maps, Waze, and other third-party navigation apps would finally work for iPhone users plugging their phone into their cars, but Android Auto’s been quietly offering these apps for years — and on Thursday it announced some new features to make the in-car platform run a bit smoother.

Android Auto brings your Android phone interface to your car’s infotainment system on 400 different car models. While it’s not a perfect replica of your smartphone experience, new features for searching for music, books, podcasts and viewing messages are trying to make it less of a hassle to have to drive and be away from your phone.

First off, music. 

Working with Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Google Play Books, and others, the media library has a new look and layout with bigger images. Tiny print and right-hand turns do not mix. Pandora will reformat its car-compatible app later, a Google spokesperson said.

If you know what you want to listen to but you’re driving and didn’t queue up the right playlist, you can use voice. The usual “OK, Google” wake word will send the Google Assistant searching for that album or artist that you want on your drive. You can also ask for a specific song, podcast, or book. 

Just ask for music.

Next is messaging. Using Messages, WhatsApp, or Hangouts and others, you can now get a preview of the text when you’re stopped on the drive. The message will show up within whatever app you’re in (like Google Maps). The preview is an opt-in feature that can be turned on in settings. 

Group messaging is also available through the car-optimized interface, along with MMS and RCS messaging. Previously Android Auto only could display SMS messages.

Here’s the list of compatible apps for Android Auto, including all those music, media, and messaging apps. The updates will roll out in the next few days.

“OK Google, let’s drive.”

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