6 Interface Screens to Know When Designing Apps for Android Auto

6 Interface Screens to Know When Designing Apps for Android Auto

In this day and age, everything is becoming more connected. Phones, computers, tablets, toasters, microwave ovens – everything’s got an internet connection and every device connects to every other device. It was only a matter of time until apps made their way into cars. Now, riding the tech-wave that lead to the prevalence of smartphones and other mobile technology, you can develop apps that run on a car’s onboard computer. Android has its own service for this kind of app, called Android Auto. It provides a basic platform for developed Android apps to run off.

In order to develop apps for Android Auto, a set of quality standards must be met which ensure that any apps downloaded into a car, fit a certain set of quality criteria. This article is an overview of the various development screens you’ll want to be familiar with before you start designing Android Auto apps. Additionally, we will go into a bit more detail about what constitutes an Android Auto app and what the standards of quality enforced by the Android Auto framework look like.


Interface screens
There are, in general, six main screens used in the Android: the overview screen, the audio app launcher, the primary app UI, the user actions page, the drawer list, and day and night transitions. This section of the article contains an overview of each of these different types of screens, and explains a little about how they are used in the context of Android Auto.

Interface screens

The overview screen is the first thing that a user sees when they connect an Android device to their car. It offers a bunch of contextual information like the user’s location, time of day, weather, traffic, and so forth. This screen also works as a sort of hub that can connect the user to services like messaging apps, and it can also display the most recent message from an app without having to switch to another screen. Messages can be selected by voice control, allowing a hands-free method of accessing information from the overview screen.

overview screen

The audio app launcher is activated by tapping the headphones icon from the Activity Bar. As its name suggests, it is a launcher screen that manages all the audio apps installed on the user’s android device; such as Google Play, podcast services, internet radio, and many others. The screen formats the available audio apps into a list with an easy-to-access touchscreen that can scroll easily between multiple apps. These apps must have Android Auto display support in order to run on the car’s display, but they can still run off of a connected handheld device without Android Auto support.

Android Auto support

The primary app UI is one of the most common screens used for Android Auto. It’s also different between each app. This screen makes up the basic UI of each individual app, and allows the user to control the app’s features and settings. For example, a music app uses the primary app UI screen to choose songs, playlists, or artists to search from, and then plays music when the command is accessed.

android map

A map, meanwhile, might have search functions, directions, and other things. Users will spend most of their time in a screen like this, so it’s important that it looks pretty good and has an easy-to-use interface.

easy-to-use interface

Learn Android Development From Scratch

User action cards are not quite a screen, but rather an augmentation to an existing screen, usually the primary app UI. They are activated when the user selects something from the primary app UI that has to bring up another menu – for example, liking or disliking a song on Google Play or internet radio. The action card interface supports from around three to five actions, with a few sub-actions available off the main bar that pops up. These actions can be selected from a standard list when developing, or they can be customized to fit a particular app.


The drawer list is another augmentation type of screen that pops up when the user accesses a browse function. It handles the transition from the primary app UI to the list UI. The drawer is the list that appears in the center of the screen and shows a cascading series of options, which are generally the search returns. However, this can also be used to create a dropdown menu that is a little more extensive than something you can make with the action interface card.

Finally, day and night transitions handle the change between color schemes for day and night. Ideally, day interfaces are bright in order to compete with ambient sunlight.

coming of age light

Night color schemes are dimmer so that they don’t strain the user’s eyes with too sharp of a contrast between the ambient darkness and the screen.

google play music

The exact method of color change isn’t important or predetermined. You might simply dim the lights on the screen, or you might shift to another color scheme entirely; perhaps changing to a softer red light that won’t mess up a user’s night vision.

Auto app requirements
There are a few quality requirements to follow when creating an app for Android Auto. First, there are standards of visual quality and formatting that must be taken into account. Essentially, you must conform to the standardized pixel depth, screen resolution, and color formatting that every other Android Auto app does. Additionally, there are other standards in place, such as requiring the app to start and stop in 10 seconds or less, and that no function of the app take more than six seconds to complete. View all the details using the link above.

Learn more about Android Auto here, and expand your application’s reach into the car of your users!


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