Best app for get­ting around

TRANS­FORM YOUR SMART­PHONE INTO A SAFER IN-CAR DASH­BOARD WITH THESE ES­SEN­TIAL DRIV­ING APPS.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ JOEL BURGESS ]

WHEN YOU’RE BE­HIND the wheel, it’s not only il­le­gal to do most of the things you nor­mally would on your smart­phone, it’s also of­ten much more dif­fi­cult. Even if it’s safely stowed in a cra­dle, pages of tiny app icons, per­va­sive no­ti­fi­ca­tions and un­read­ably small sys­tem in­for­ma­tion are just a few of the is­sues you’ll en­counter if you try to use your phone in the car. It’s easy, then, to see why Aus­tralian laws have got­ten so strict around in-car phone use.

In-car dash­board apps can, how­ever, make a big dif­fer­ence. These es­sen­tially take your overly-smart stan­dard phone in­ter­face and re­move the com­pli­cated nav­i­ga­tion but­tons, strip away dense back­grounds, stream­line your piles of apps and make any­thing im­por­tant RE­ALLY BIG. Yes, it’ll make your fancy QHD AMOLED smart­phone look like it be­longs to a thrifty, short­sighted techno­phobe — but it also makes it way eas­ier and safer to do ev­ery­thing you legally can while driv­ing.

While some of the best apps here might seem like a drag be­cause they force you into an in­ter­face that won’t let you do any­thing that’s il­le­gal. The bet­ter ones make up for this by be­ing eas­ier to nav­i­gate and stream­lin­ing pro­cesses that would other­wise take mul­ti­ple taps, swipes and but­ton presses. The way we use your smart­phone in the car is (or should be) very dif­fer­ent to the way you use it gen­er­ally. An­droid Auto is a Google Play Store app that runs a stream­lined in­ter­face de­signed to make ev­ery­thing you’re al­lowed to do in the car while driv­ing much sim­pler. It does that by strip­ping back all the apps, ser­vices and in­for­ma­tion to just the es­sen­tials.

To start, that means ditch­ing your An­droid’s gen­eral Back, Home and App Switch­ing but­tons and re­plac­ing them with the in-car es­sen­tials, giv­ing you ded­i­cated but­tons for di­rec­tions, calls and me­dia play­back, plus an exit but­ton.

An­droid Auto also jet­ti­sons your back­ground and home­page for a mag­ni­fied no­ti­fi­ca­tions panel that takes up the bet­ter part of the screen. Dis­play­ing things like sim­ple me­dia play­back con­trols, up­com­ing nav­i­ga­tion sug­ges­tions, the weather and snip­pets of SMS or web mes­sen­ger no­ti­fi­ca­tions (which it of­fers to read aloud for you) — there’s ev­ery­thing you’d want to do in the car within easy reach.

While it’s tech­ni­cally not le­gal in some re­gions of Aus­tralia to re­spond to text mes­sages while driv­ing (even us­ing your smart as­sis­tant voice recog­ni­tion to dic­tate re­sponses), An­droid Auto does of­fer the abil­ity to send a one-tap “I’m driv­ing right now” re­sponse to any in­com­ing mes­sages, in case you’re wor­ried oth­ers won’t un­der­stand your tardy re­sponses.

An­droid’s usual time, bat­tery level and con­nec­tiv­ity in­di­ca­tors also re­main on-screen, but they’re much big­ger so you can read them from afar. Other than this, there’s just a Set­tings tab (which you prob­a­bly shouldn’t use while driv­ing) and a voice con­trol but­ton (and ‘OK Google’ voice trig­ger) so you can get di­rec­tions, change the mu­sic or make calls with­out ac­tu­ally touch­ing the de­vice.

While it’s neat to have all these fea­tures, re­mem­ber­ing to open a spe­cific app ev­ery time you get in the car is a hur­dle that most will want to avoid. To get around this, An­droid Auto can launch the app when­ever a par­tic­u­lar au­to­matic Blue­tooth con­nec­tion is en­gaged. For any­one with an in-car Blue­tooth re­ceiver, this means An­droid Auto will turn on and off au­to­mat­i­cally with your car, mak­ing it a pretty pain-free process all round. Read more about An­droid Auto on page 96.

GOOGLE’S IN-CAR APP CUTS THE CRAP TO KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD. Free | www.an­droid.com

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