Earlier this year I had a Pioneer Android Auto head unit installed in my car and to be honest I was very disappointed with it. One of the issues I had with it was that at times it was difficult to see the maps when it was in day mode. When Dan attended Google IO he asked the question of the Day/Night mode of the Android Auto developers and was told that the ability to force Day or Night mode (along with satellite view) was going to show up in Android Auto soon.
Whether it is due to bugs in code or whether it is because Android Auto requires more testing of safety features or some other reason, Android Auto doesn’t seem to see the updates that other Google apps see. It has been a long time between drinks for updates for Android Auto, with the last update arriving on the 6th of June. Needless to say we have not seem a user switchable Day or Night mode for Android Auto yet … or have we?
Over the weekend I came across a nice little hidden feature of Android Auto — Developer Mode. Just as tapping on the build number in About Phone unlocks the phone’s developer options, tapping on the header in the Android Auto app ten times unlocks the developer mode or Android Auto. This mode/menu can be accessed via the overflow menu at the top right of the Android Auto app.
Inside this menu there is a Developer Settings sub-menu. Select this and you will be taken to the developer settings where you can, using the second item in the menu — Day/Night — select whether the Day or Night mode to be either Car-controlled, Phone-controlled, Day or Night. Obviously these settings are there for developers to test how their app looks and interacts both during the day and the night but there is nothing to stop you from selecting these yourself. Select Night and then your Android Auto will be locked to Night mode until you change that setting.
The mode cannot be altered while connected to your Android Auto unit (without some hackery, which I am looking in to) so you need to make these changes before connecting. Do not perform it while driving — that is very unsafe — but instead do it before you plug in the phone before starting your drive. Night mode results not just in dark maps with contrasting road colours so you can actually see them easily, but also a dark interface for the home screen and the media screen.
Until Google release an official update including this manual change to night mode, this is the only way to do it consistently. Hopefully Google bring that change soon, along with touchless voice recognition.
This will be a great and welcome tool for those with more modern cars with auto dusk-sensing lights. Chris has driven a few of these in recent weeks and he’s complained pretty vocally about how overly sensitive those lights are, resulting in a switch to night-mode when its still very light outside, making it hard to see what’s going on.
Having the ability to control this yourself, instead of having it automatically happen at the wrong times, will be very welcome.