Earlier this week, a redditor reported, as spotted by Android Police, that the Android Auto app disappeared from their app drawer since updating to Android Q Beta 5. Realizing that something was up, our APK Insight team dug in a little deeper and learned why.
Some had speculated that the disappearance of the Android Auto app from the drawer could be the first sign of it being killed in favor of the Google Assistant’s upcoming Driving Mode. What made it especially strange, however, is that this was not taking place for everyone. We couldn’t immediately replicate it on our end, either.
Digging into the code, we discovered that Android Auto now checks two things to determine whether the Android Auto app should appear in your app drawer. The first is whether or not Android Auto is installed as a system app. We’re not sure yet what factors play into whether it becomes installed as a system app, but we currently think it’s only a system app for Pixel phones on Pie or Q Beta 5.
The second factor Android Auto checks before putting an app icon in the drawer is whether your device is one of the few on an internal list. Our Dylan Roussel found that this list currently consists of the Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL. This lines up with the reports from Reddit where Pixel 3 and 3a owners were able to access Android Auto as normal, while older Pixel owners could not.
So to sum it up, if you’re on a Pixel or Pixel 2 on Pie or Q beta 5, Google has decided to hide the Android Auto app from the app drawer. Having this info in hand, we were able to confirm that Android Auto leaves the app drawer on a Pixel 2 on Android Q Beta 5 immediately after the Android Auto 4.4 update.
Thankfully for those affected by the issue, the Android Auto on-device interface has not been removed at all. Instead, it now launches automatically when your phone connects to your vehicle’s stereo via Bluetooth.
It may be that this is indeed prep for the Google Assistant’s Driving Mode, announced at Google I/O as a replacement for Android Auto. It’s possible that in the coming weeks or months, Pixel devices may automatically launch to Assistant Driving Mode instead of Android Auto upon connecting to a Bluetooth car stereo. For now, though, it’s just a minor inconvenience to not have Android Auto easily and manually accessible from the app drawer.