Manually Installing Google's Car Home App

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In my years owning Android devices one of my favorite applications has been Car Home from Google Inc. Unfortunately, since I rarely have purchased AOSP devices this application is frequently hidden in the Play Store for compatibility reasons. I did a little reading on the subject and it seems that either Car Home is listed as incompatible with newer versions of Android (ICS and newer) or that it’s listed as incompatible as a favor to manufacturers who have competing apps (ie: Samsung’s Car Home).

At any rate, I bought a Samsung Galaxy S3 when they first came out. Since then, I have been busy rooting, flashing and modifying the phone to my heart’s content. In the process, I lost the Samsung Car Home app and wanted to see if it could be replaced by installing Google’s Car Home app. But this application is not listed in the Play Store as compatible with my device. Therefore ,I had to find a way to manually install it which inspired me to write up this blog article in case it was useful to other Android users.

The only thing that I can think of in these directions that is unique to the SGS3 is the path to the external SD Card. I was able to follow these same directions on the Samsung Vibrant, and Asus Nexus 7 Android devices without too many problems, even though the app layout of the Asus Nexus 7 is not tablet-optimized. I imagine that these steps should work for a variety of other Android devices. If these steps work for your Android device, please let me know in the comments and I’ll keep an updated device list below.

Note: Rooting your phone and tinkering via ADB (and the like) are potentially dangerous and could cause permanent damage to your phone. In addition, it likely voids the manufacturer’s warranty on the phone. I make no claims beyond the fact that I did these steps and it worked on my phone(s) and tablet. Please proceed at your own risk.

Pre-requisites

  • Your phone must be rooted (to install it as a System App)
  • ADB must be installed and functioning on your computer.
  • You need to be a little fearless

Because the app is available over the market, it should also be safe to install this as a user app if you wanted. In my research, some users who installed it a User App had some difficulties with the settings getting wiped out on each reboot. I very quickly tested this by installing as a User App, making some changes to the app, and rebooting my phone a few times. I did not have any of the problems that were described. Because of that, I chose to install it as a User App. If you wanted to install this as a System App, there are steps below to describe how to do that.

Installation as a User App

  1. Download the Google Car Home APK and Car Home Launcher APK.
  2. Install the apps using ADB:
    • adb install signedCarHome.apk
    • adb install signedCarHomeLauncher.apk
  3. Optional – Reboot your phone (adb reboot) to ensure your launcher has a current list of installed apps.

Installation as a System App

  1. Download the Google Car Home APK and Car Home Launcher APK.
  2. Copy the APKs to your phone’s SD Card using
    • adb push signedCarHome.apk /external_sd/
    • adb push signedCarHomeLauncher.apk /external_sd/
  3. Use an ADB shell to mount /system and copy the files to /system/app
    • adb shell
    • su
    • mount -o remount,rw /system
    • cp /external_sd/signedCarHome.apk /system/app/
    • cp /external_sd/signedCarHomeLauncher.apk /system/app/
    • exit
    • exit
  4. Reboot your phone (adb reboot) to ensure your launcher has a current list of installed apps.

Congratulations! You have now installed the Car Home app from Google on your device. Of the few similar apps I’ve tried it has always been my personal favorite. I am hoping the popularity encourages Google to resolve whatever outstanding incompatibility issues are out there and make it available for more devices via the Play Store.

Devices

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 (SGH-T999)
  • Asus Nexus 7
  • Samsung Vibrant
  • Samsung Galaxy S2 (see notes)

Notes

Commenter, biggjeff5 followed these steps and had this note to add about getting it working on his Samsung Galaxy S2:

“Just an FYI, To get it to work with my Galaxy S2 running JellyBean (CM 10) I had to rename the files to com.google.carhome.apk and com.android.cardock.apk (carhome and carhome launcher, respectively). It wasn’t showing up in the apps list and I was getting a package parsing error when trying to run it from the file explorer. After that it worked great. So, if you run across a similar parsing error on a package, you might fix it by re-naming it to the internal name.”

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