What is Apple CarPlay? Like most smartphones, your iPhone can be linked to your car by Bluetooth for simple tasks, such as making phone calls or music streaming. Connecting with Apple CarPlay, on the other hand, brings many of your iPhone’s advanced features to your car’s infotainment system, allowing you to use them safely, hands-free and legally while you’re driving.
CarPlay is now a must-have feature for iPhone-wielding new and used car buyers. Fortunately, it’s so common that it’s only notable when a vehicle doesn’t support it. You can even get CarPlay support in an older vehicle by updating to a car stereo with a video screen.
What is Apple CarPlay?
Apple CarPlay is a smartphone mirroring system that allows your car to use your iPhone’s features through the vehicle’s infotainment screen.
This includes navigation, calling, messaging and music. It’s a handy way to get more use out of your infotainment system with a phone-like set-up you’re familiar with.
As it’s illegal to use your phone while on the move, smartphone connectivity like Apple CarPlay is a safer and legal way to keep connected as you drive.
It should be used with caution though, as these systems can still be distracting.
What Does Apple CarPlay Do?
CarPlay allows some iPhone apps to be displayed on and controlled by your car’s infotainment system. It also lets these apps better integrate with your vehicle’s hardware. A goal of this is to reduce the use of your iPhone while driving.
Phone calls, text messaging, GPS navigation, audio or entertainment, and calendaring are among functions that CarPlay provides. When CarPlay is connected, it typically overrides functionality provided by your vehicle’s native infotainment system.
For example, most new vehicles have Bluetooth. When making a phone call, the car’s built-in speakers and microphone handle the audio. When CarPlay is connected, the call is handled in the same way. However, your car’s infotainment display shows a layout resembling the phone app on your iPhone. Your iPhone’s contacts, favorites, recent calls, and voicemails all show up on the infotainment screen.
Another example is with GPS navigation. Regardless of whether your car has its own built-in navigation system, CarPlay can display popular navigation apps on your car’s infotainment screen. That lets you get directions from apps you may prefer over your vehicle’s built-in navigation system. It’s an example of how CarPlay can increase your vehicle’s functionality or improve on features it already has.
In 2023, Apple added its SharePlay functionality. Ever had a friend ask you to share a song or put on a playlist that isn’t in your library? Now, when the driver’s phone is using CarPlay, any iPhone-having passengers will get a notification suggesting that they join the driver’s session, from which users can play music and control playback.
What Does Apple CarPlay Look Like?
Apple CarPlay is designed to look like an iPhone or iPad screen, with rows of icons or a split-screen that shows a small map, what music is streaming and more. How many apps are shown on each screen and their layout depends on the size and orientation of your vehicle’s infotainment screen.
In some cars, the CarPlay interface will take up the entire display, while in others, it will take up part of the screen and allow you to access other vehicle functions without navigating rom CarPlay.
CarPlay has been around since iOS 7.1. With each significant iOS upgrade, such as those from iOS 13 to iOS 14, Apple refines the look and functions of CarPlay. iOS 13, for example, brought significant changes to the smartphone interface, including Dark Mode. With iOS 14, CarPlay received changeable wallpaper, including a circus-like default background. Driving Focus, which allows you to manage alerts, came to CarPlay in iOS 15.
How Do I Set Up Apple CarPlay?
Setting up CarPlay is typically simple. First, you’ll need a cable that will connect to your car and iPhone. That’ll likely have a USB type-A or type-C plug on one end, and Apple’s proprietary Lightning plug on the other.
Next, locate your car’s USB data port; some vehicles have USB ports which simply charge without transmitting data. They’re typically labeled with icons. Plug the cable into the data port and into your iPhone.
After that, you’ll have to grant permission both on your infotainment screen and on your iPhone. Watch for prompts to pop up on both. The prompt may explain what information is being shared between your car and iPhone. You may also see a random number that can be found on both as a sort of “receipt” confirming the pair between your car and iPhone. Simply tap the prompts in the affirmative to proceed with pairing.
That’s all it takes to set up CarPlay. From that point on, CarPlay should start automatically whenever you plug in your iPhone using that USB port. If you need to use your car’s native infotainment system for whatever reason, there should be an icon or button that allows you to switch back and forth between it and CarPlay.
Does Apple CarPlay Work With Bluetooth?
An increasing number of vehicles are ditching cables in favor of wireless Apple CarPlay. Functionality is identical, just without a physical connection between your phone and car—wireless CarPlay works with Bluetooth instead.
Setup is slightly different; you’ll need to go through the Bluetooth settings in your car and iPhone. Once that’s done, it’ll work just like plugging in, pairing, and starting CarPlay automatically every time you get inside.
One drawback of wireless CarPlay is that it doesn’t simultaneously charge your iPhone, like when you plug in with a USB cable. That said, you can still plug your iPhone into a USB port to keep it charged—the wireless CarPlay connection will continue to work. Or, if your vehicle has a wireless device charger, you can simply rest your iPhone there instead.
What Apps Work With CarPlay?
A large number of apps are compatible with CarPlay, and unsurprisingly include many of Apple’s own. Maps, Phone, Messages, Music and so on are all available, but there are a lot more third-party CarPlay apps as well.
While Apple does not offer a comprehensive list of CarPlay-compatible apps, there is a healthy selection of options available. But, considering these apps have to be driving-friendly, you won’t be finding anything that’s too distracting or requires extended eye contact. So no Netflix, no Apple TV Plus, no gaming and so on.
Instead the apps fall into a few basic categories: Navigation, communication and audio. So there’s a range of apps that let you listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks and internet radio, including big names like Audible, Spotify and TuneIn.
Likewise, Google Maps and Waze are both CarPlay-friendly, so you don’t need to use Apple Maps. EV owners will also be able to access apps like PlugShare, in case you need to find an electric car charger in a hurry. And you can make calls or send messages using just your voice via services like WhatsApp.
The easiest way to tell if CarPlay supports a particular app is to plug in your phone and see. Alternatively, searching for ‘CarPlay’ on the app store will offer up some options you may not have considered before — though there’s no obvious way to filter them.
However, if you tend to stick to the big-name apps, you shouldn’t have too many issues.
How To Use Siri With Apple CarPlay
To support its mission of reducing distraction behind the wheel, CarPlay limits some of your iPhone’s normal functionality. You can’t do everything in CarPlay that you can when you’re simply holding your phone. Instead, the Siri digital assistant helps do those for you.
Take text messages, for example. When you receive one, you’ll see a notification on the CarPlay infotainment screen. When you tap it, Siri will read the message aloud. You’ll have a chance to reply by dictating a message for Siri to transcribe. That way you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to type out a message.
Siri can do lots of things in CarPlay. Besides text messages, it can set calendar reminders, get GPS map directions, play a track from your music library, or make a phone call. There are a few ways to activate Siri in CarPlay. One is to speak “Hey, Siri” if that functionality is set up on your phone.
Another is to press and hold the CarPlay home button on your infotainment screen, which looks like two rows of squares, or the CarPlay dashboard button, which looks like a square and lines. If your vehicle has a voice control or phone button on the steering wheel, pressing or pressing and holding that can activate Siri as well.
How Do I Turn Off Apple CarPlay?
Turning off CarPlay is simple: just unplug the cable. That’ll restore your vehicle’s native infotainment software to the display. You can also use it while CarPlay is running. Use the infotainment’s home or menu button to access those functions while your iPhone plays music or makes a call through CarPlay, or just charges. There will be a button or icon to return to CarPlay when you want to.
If for some reason you want to disconnect your phone from CarPlay entirely, find the CarPlay menu in your iPhone’s settings app. That will bring up a list of any vehicles it’s connected to CarPlay with. From there, you can delete that car. Doing so will require you to set up CarPlay again next time you plug in.
Does CarPlay Take Control of The Dashboard?
Not yet, but it is happening in the near future.
CarPlay as it is right now is essentially just an external display for your phone, and Siri can only handle requests that relate to your device. So while Siri can change the volume, it can’t raise the temperature or activate your cruise control.
However this is likely to change going forward, with Apple announcing a new version of CarPlay at WWDC 2022. That version was originally scheduled to arrive sometime in 2023, but has been completely absent so far — and failed to make an appearance at WWDC 2023.
Whenever it does arrive CarPlay 2.0 will have the ability to take over every screen in your car, and let you access car controls that are currently off limits. Much like Android Automotive OS, but running off your phone instead of being pre-installed on your car.
This likely means that you don’t have to use Apple software because you like a certain car. Not if you don’t want to, something that isn’t really possible with Android Automotive OS.
Just like other CarPlay features, CarPlay 2.0 will require automakers to opt in. Some have already done so, including Polestar which runs its cars on Android Automotive — and took its sweet time bringing CarPlay to its cars.
But for the time being, and until CarPlay 2.0 is ready, in-car systems are being kept firmly separate. In the meantime some carmakers do offer CarPlay in a split-screen mode, ensuring you have access to both your phone and car systems while you’re driving.
Other automakers committed to the offering the new CarPlay include Audi, Ford, Honda, Jaguar/Land Rover, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, Renault, VOlvo, Acura, Infiniti and Lincoln.
What Are The Benefits of Apple CarPlay?
The biggest advantage of using Apple CarPlay in your vehicle is that you can seamlessly enjoy the features you use on your phone inside your car.
You’ll be able to access your favourite playlists on music streaming sites, have your contacts and messages at your fingertips, and receive real-time traffic updates on the go.
You’ll also benefit from the constant roll-out of updates that the iPhone receives instead of waiting for the slow movements of car manufacturers.
Using the manufacturer’s infotainment system alone will often mean you end up with an out-of-date system much quicker, whereas CarPlay benefits from regular updates to things like maps and music streaming services.
Apple CarPlay Features
The features you get with your Apple CarPlay unit depend on the model you opt for, but even the standard models are filled with handy touches.
Selected 2021 car models will now be able to unlock and start their car using their iPhone thanks to the CarPlay set-up, and you can even share your key with friends and family via their phone.
The CarPlay unit can make calls while on the move, and you can easily answer them too.
You’re also able to send and receive messages, and have Siri read them to you while you drive.
This is ideal in case of emergencies, and gives you a way to make quick phone calls in a safer fashion.
You’ll be able to access Apple Maps on your infotainment screen when using Apple CarPlay, and it can even make predictions on where you’re going based on addresses in your calendars, contacts, messages and emails.
You’re not limited to the standard iPhone apps either, as CarPlay supports other applications for things like music, messaging, audio, and even parking and ordering food.
Which Cars Offer CarPlay Integration?
While CarPlay started off as a fairly niche piece of software when it launched in 2014, it’s quickly spread through the car industry. With that in mind, you’ll struggle to find a carmaker that doesn’t support CarPlay in some form, and even fewer modern cars that go without it.
More than 600 cars currently support CarPlay, with support from almost every major car manufacturer. Apple has a fairly comprehensive Apple Car vehicle list showing which automakers support CarPlay, and on which cars. However, it’s always worth double checking CarPlay support for any car you’re interesting in buying.
The obvious exception to this trend is Tesla, which doesn’t support CarPlay or Android Auto. Instead the all-electric car maker offers its own premium connectivity package — complete with navigation, streaming, and remote control of certain features. However, this does cost $10 a month, while CarPlay is free and relies on your existing data plan.
A growing number of cars are also looking to Google for their software needs, running their cars on the new Android Automotive OS. Unlike Android Auto, which is a CarPlay-like app, Android Automotive is built into the car from day one — replacing the need for any in-house software. But what does this mean if you have an iPhone?
The good news is that CarPlay can still work if your car runs on Android Automotive OS. Provided the carmaker supports it for that particular model, like Polestar does with the Polestar 2, you can plug your iPhone in and use it as normal.
Can You Add Apple CarPlay To An Older Car?
You can add Apple CarPlay into an older car, but it depends on the model you’re working with. You can buy aftermarket radios/head units separately and fit them into the vehicle, with some cars being easy enough to do yourself.
The best way to check is to do some research and see how easy your car is to upgrade. Some models might only need a retrofit, which just requires updating the vehicle’s software. A garage might be able to advise you as well, so it’s worth reaching out if you need a hand.
Do CarPlay-Enabled Vehicles Also Support Android Phones?
Typically yes, though there are a few exceptions.
In the early days automakers only seemed to offer CarPlay or Android Auto, but not both. However, they quickly realized supporting both was the better option — so the vast majority of them do.
Google has a list of cars known to offer Android Auto support, which you can cross-reference with Apple’s. That way if you use an iPhone, and another person driving your car prefers Android, you can both use the right respective system.
Mini and Rolls-Royce both only support CarPlay, and haven’t announced any plans for an Android Auto rollout just yet. Meanwhile, Bentley and Koenigsegg have Android Auto support firmly in the “coming soon” category, but haven’t revealed any sort of timeline.
As previously mentioned, Tesla supports neither.
What Cars Have Apple CarPlay?
In 2022, only niche or outdated vehicles aren’t equipped with CarPlay. A few manufacturers—Ferrari, for example—offer CarPlay at extra cost. But the majority of cars in our 2022 vehicle rankings feature CarPlay as standard. It’s evidence of how two of our most important, useful devices are becoming ever more closely linked.
What are Apple CarPlay’s newest features?
Apple CarPlay sometimes changes when a new operating system is released for iPhones, with subtle improvements made to app functionality and on-screen appearance.
Is Apple CarPlay safe to use?
Anything that takes your attention from the road increases risk, and any in-car functions should only be used sparingly, and when it is safe to do so.
What iPhone models are compatible with Apple CarPlay?
The earliest model of iPhone that is compatible with CarPlay is the iPhone 5, with all subsequent models having the functionality. Your iPhone will also need to be running the iOS 7.1 operating system or later.
Can I use an Android phone with Apple CarPlay?
No. Apple CarPlay is only compatible with iPhones. If you have an Android phone the car will need to have Android Auto, but the good news is that most cars that have CarPlay also feature Auto.
Can I watch TV on Apple CarPlay?
No. For obvious safety reasons, you cannot watch television in your car via Apple CarPlay.
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