Distribute Android apps for cars

You've got a great app, and Google Play can help you bring it to users in their vehicles. You do this by extending your phone app for Android Auto or building a driver-optimized app for Android Automotive OS. Then, you can publish your app using the familiar tools and processes in Google Play.

To get started, review this page to learn how to distribute your Android app to cars through Google Play. Be sure to read Android app quality for cars for information on the usability, quality, and safety-related guidelines that your app must meet. When your app is ready, follow the instructions on the Play Console to publish your app.

Get started

Google Play lets you deliver apps for use in vehicles. You can develop and publish using your existing Play Console account and your current distribution and pricing settings. The following sections outline the process.

Understand the guidelines and requirements

To prepare for a successful launch, start by reviewing the guidelines for creating great experiences on Android for Cars. See Design for driving for details on design and usability, extending your phone app for Android Auto, and building a driver-optimized app for Android Automotive OS.

As you start designing your Android for Cars experience, make sure to read and understand the Android app quality for cars guidelines. Your apps need to meet a set of basic quality criteria to be eligible for use with Android Auto or Android Automotive OS.

Develop a great app for cars

A great app is designed for in-vehicle use, providing a high-quality experience while the user is on the go. For instance, the app may provide playback for audio content or accessing messages.

As you prepare to deliver your app via Google Play, review the Android for Cars overview and design guidelines. Plan on supporting the guidelines to the greatest extent possible. Use the information in the following table to ensure that your app meets all Google Play requirements.

Category Android Auto requirements Android Automotive OS requirements
Requirements for all apps
  • Declare com.google.android.gms.car.application metadata entry with your app’s auto capabilities in your app manifest.
  • Deliver your Android Auto experience as part of a new or existing app for phones, tablets, and other devices.
  • Use the same package name if porting an existing app to Android Auto.
  • Pass car quality guidelines.
  • Declare the android.hardware.type.automotive uses-feature in your app manifest.
  • Use same package name as your phone app or create a new one.
  • Add Automotive OS-specific screenshots to your Play Store listing.
  • Pass car quality guidelines.
Media apps
Messaging apps
  • Native apps on Android Automotive OS are not supported. Messages on phones are shown on the car head unit via the car’s companion app if the car manufacturer has integrated the appropriate libraries. For more information, see Supported app categories.
Navigation, point of interest, and internet of things (IOT) apps

Test for Android app quality

Your apps should be designed to perform well, look great in the car, and offer the best user experience possible. Google Play showcases selected high-quality apps for easy discovery by users. To deliver apps that users can use easily in cars, complete the following processes:

  1. Follow the best practices for Auto app development.
  2. Test your app for:
  3. Make sure your app meets all of the Android app quality for cars guidelines.

Agree to Android for Cars terms and publish

A Play Console admin must agree to the Android for Car addendum terms within the Play Console before you can upload your build and publish the app for review.

Here are the steps to agree to Android Auto or Android Automotive OS terms and publish your app in the Play Console:

  1. Make sure your app meets all Android app quality for cars guidelines.
  2. On the home page of the Play Console, select the app you want to publish.
  3. Under the Release section, click Advanced settings > Form factors.
  4. Click Add form factor to find Android Auto or Android Automotive OS.
  5. Complete the checklist that appears, which includes agreeing to the terms, adding relevant screenshots to your store listings (both the main listing and any custom listings), and uploading a compatible app bundle or APK.

After agreeing to the terms and saving the changes, upload your APK and publish your app to the Google Play Console. Agreeing to the terms means that you want your app to be made available to Android Auto or Android Automotive OS users through Google Play. Update your store listing with any additional Auto functionality information, and set distribution options as needed. If you aren't familiar with how to prepare for launch on Google Play, see the information at Release with confidence.

Before making the app available to users, Google Play submits your app for review against the Android app quality for cars criteria and notifies you of the result. Android Auto and Android Automotive OS apps are subject to additional review. There are multiple test scenarios to take into consideration, including the following:

  • If your app requires the user to log in to access its full functionality, you must submit test account details in the Play Developer Console. See App Access for instructions on how to do this.
    • If your point of interest app lets users make a booking, this test account must be able to make a booking without being charged funds.
  • If your navigation or point of interest app is not available in the United States, you must permit a user to use a mock GPS location app so that a reviewer can test the app.

When you submit an update to an app that is enabled for Android Auto or Android Automotive OS, all currently active artifacts are subject to re-review. To see which artifacts are reviewed, check the Latest releases section of the Releases overview page in the Play Console. Make sure your updates do not include any previously rejected artifacts.

If your app is approved, Google Play makes the app available to users. See the next section for details on how to track the approval status of your app.

Understand app review

Your app is reviewed for compliance with driver distraction guidelines and the technical and quality criteria described in the previous section. This detailed review process might take more time than you are accustomed to when submitting phone and tablet apps. Until your app or update is approved, it is not published to the Google Play store.

After a successful review, your app is published and made available on the Google Play store.

You receive a notification email sent to your developer account address that lets you know whether your app was accepted or not. The email has a summary of the areas that you need to address. When you finish the necessary adjustments, including removal of any rejected artifacts, you can upload a new version of your app for review.

Note that if the submitted app is an update to an existing app, and your updated app does not meet the review criteria, the update is rejected and the existing app remains published in the Google Play store.

To understand how your apps are evaluated, see the Android app quality for cars guidelines.