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Anyone can now download Android Auto 12.1. Here's how


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Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Long-time Android Auto users will surely remember the days when Google would take more than a year to release an app update. It was a frustrating experience, especially because even the most critical bugs went unpatched for months.

Although Google hasn't yet resolved Android Auto's stability issues, it has significantly increased the pace of its releases. New updates now come out regularly, and the beta program plays a key role in Google's strategy for more frequent app updates.

Android Auto 12.1 has been in beta for a week now and the company has now started rolling it out to production devices. The stable version 12.1 was recently released on the Google Play Store and the rollout is now happening for the first waves of devices.

Google uses a phased rollout model for Android Auto updates. This means that not all users will receive the update on the same day, as the search giant wants to find and diagnose bugs at an early stage. This allows the update to gain momentum while Google determines its reliability.

From a user perspective, the rollout is a laborious process that can take several weeks. Not everyone wants to wait that long, and fortunately there is a simple solution.

All you need to do is download the standalone APK installer. The Android Auto 12.1 APK allows users to install the latest update manually – just grab the file, save it to your device, navigate to its location, and tap on it to initiate the update. Depending on your device configuration, you may need to unlock certain permissions, but follow the on-screen wizard and you're good to go.

Google hasn't released an updated changelog, so users will have to figure out what's new on their own. I haven't noticed any major changes on my devices, so let me know after the jump if Android Auto 12.1 brings anything of value.

In the meantime, Android Auto will soon get the update everyone is waiting for. Google has confirmed that video apps, including YouTube, will be unlocked on Android Auto. However, the apps will land in the Android Auto world as part of a beta program before the app opens its doors wide to all video solutions. For example, it's probably only a matter of time before video streaming services go live on Android Auto, as they've already debuted on Android Automotive. YouTube is also live on Android Automotive, so Google has no reason to block it on Android Auto.

The rollout is not tied to a specific Android Auto version, so installing Build 12.1 won't unlock any new app categories. The update is recommended for all users despite the lack of a changelog, as it is likely to include under-the-hood optimizations and bug fixes that will improve the experience using the app.