Mobile this week: OK Google listens more; Android-powered cars

There were some interesting developments across multiple platforms this week: Microsoft started its rollout of Lumia Denim software, Apple outlined 64-bit app deadlines, and BlackBerry officially launched its new Classic smartphone. But Google wasn’t standing still.

Perhaps the most surprising news reported was that Google plans to use its next major version of mobile software — Android M — directly in vehicles. Android Auto already exists and works much like [company]Apple[/company]’s competing CarPlay: The implementation uses your connected phone to power the in-dash experience.

Photo by Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

What [company]Google[/company] allegedly wants to do is fundamentally different: Android Auto software would be embedded and use an integrated 4G connection in the car or truck. Think of it as a giant smartphone, only one that can drive you down the road.

With tens of millions of vehicles used daily, this would give Google even more data: Where we are, where we’re going, how fast or slow, etc…. While that would likely bring consumers even more personalized services from Google, it could present some lock-in for consumers — what do non-Android users do, for example?

You don’t have to use Android, however, for “OK Google” voice commands: They work in Chrome and in the Google Search app for iOS. And now they work on Chromebooks in an always listening mode, just like on newer Android devices.

OK Google

The feature — on the Chrome OS Dev channel only, for now — is experimental and requires a few setup steps that I’ve outlined here. Once enabled, you can speak your question, command or query to Google whenever your Chromebook screen is on and the device is unlocked. I’ve already found it handy to use, although this functionality is duplicated on my Moto X and Sony Smartwatch 3.