Apple CarPlay

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Everything you need to know about Apple CarPlay

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Our cars are becoming more like second homes to us with loads of advanced technology at our fingertips, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. But, complexity need not breed confusion. As these new features become more commonplace, they also become easier to use.

Apple CarPlay

What is Apple CarPlay?

Simply put, Apple CarPlay is a way to interact with your smartphone via your infotainment interface. Operating your mobile phone while driving takes a lot of concentration, which comes at the cost of road safety. However, automobile touchscreens are placed high on the dashboard in such a way that interacting with them does not require you to take your eyes off the road. This means that you can have all the functions and apps from your mobile device at the ready. Most systems that support smartphone integration also allow for voice command inputs, further alleviating any loss of focus. But what exactly are the advantages of this technology?

Pros and Cons of Using Apple CarPlay

  • Use your phone to play audio through the entertainment system
  • No need to add on an expensive navigation system - use the existing iOS navigation
  • Steering wheel inputs and vocal commands mean you operate all the features while never taking an eye off the road
  • All applications are unified within a single screen that is usually easy to operate
  • Overcomplicated infotainment systems may negatively impact the user experience
  • Some older systems are not compatible with the app or may be frustratingly slow to respond
  • If not included as standard, it may be pricey to add
  • Even when included as standard, there is often an activation fee
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What Functions Does Apple CarPlay Support?

There is no denying the convenience and quality of life that Apple CarPlay adds. By creating a direct link between your mobile and the car infotainment system, you can access all the features in a far more easy-to-use manner. Simply put, it allows your vehicle to do everything your phone does via a larger interface without the need to divert your attention from the act of driving. Though most modern vehicles are Apple CarPlay compatible, you may need to spend a little extra to add it via the paid-for packages. Even older cars that may not have this compatibility allow you to add it using aftermarket accessories such as an in-dash Pioneer multimedia system with Apple CarPlay services. Here are some of the features and apps that Apple CarPlay gives you access to:

  • Phone calls and messaging - Make phone calls and send/receive text messages as you do with your mobile. Though similar to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay also supports social messaging services such as WhatsApp, which means you'll never miss another message.
  • Apple CarPlay navigation - Most phones come with several standard or available navigation apps to make getting around easy. Connecting your car's display grants access to Apple CarPlay with Google Maps, for example, rather than opting for a factory-installed system, which may cost you a lot more.
  • Apple CarPlay music - While you can listen to the radio through Apple CarPlay, streaming music directly or through applications such as Spotify and BBC Sounds make it an invaluable traveling companion. Through Apple CarPlay, your car stereo gains almost unlimited possibilities, and you could even listen to an audiobook through Audible, if the fancy takes you.
Apple CarPlay navigation

New functions are constantly added through over-the-air updates, or you could take your car in for a firmware/software update. The most recent upgrade to Apple iOS 14 includes an updated interface with multiple appearance themes that allow you to customize the appearance and color scheme. The entire Siri interface has been overhauled, too, so as to be less intrusive and more user-friendly. Other added functions include the ability to share your trip ETA through Siri with friends or send an annotated voice message if a little more explanation is required. EV route planning allows you to take charging stations into account when organizing longer drives, while traffic camera alerts for maps help to avoid traffic jams or potential hazard zones. The app categories have also been expanded upon with three new options, making it easier for you to find exactly what you are looking for. These comprise parking, EV and EV charging stations, and food ordering.

A new related feature added to the Apple arsenal is the patented CarKey function. So long as you have an active account linked to your mobile device, you can essentially treat it as an additional key. All you have to do is authenticate your device through the Apple Wallet app, then you simply tap your phone to the car door to unlock it. Naturally, you also need to be able to start the vehicle. This is accomplished by resting your linked device on the wireless charger, then tapping the ignition button. Thanks to this innovation, it is now possible to share access to your car with trusted family and friends. You simply add them as authenticated users through the app, using their phone numbers and an activation code. Once entered, their devices act as additional keys, meaning you can avoid the risks that go along with creating multiple physical keys. This is just one of the many ways in which Apple seeks to make your life a little easier.

Setting up Apple CarPlay on Your Stereo

If you want to know how to use Apple CarPlay, it is a simple process. To install Apple CarPlay, follow this list of steps:

  1. To begin, your vehicle needs to be turned on, as does Siri.
  2. Either connect your device to the console via the USB cable marked with the CarPlay/smartphone icon, or you can connect to Apple CarPlay with wireless technology if your vehicle supports it. This can be done by holding down the voice command button while your stereo is set to wireless or Bluetooth mode. This will search for a device with which to pair your car.
  3. You then need to make the connection via your mobile phone. To do this, go to your settings and choose the general tab. After selecting CarPlay, you will be presented with a menu of available devices. Simply select your car, and the connection will be complete.

What Phones and Cars Have Apple CarPlay?

Smartphone integration is becoming quite a common and useful feature on modern vehicles. Before, opting for a higher trim level or speccing it on as part of the available packages was required. But, most new vehicles in the US include Apple CarPlay even at the base-model level. In general, luxury cars have Apple CarPlay as standard, including models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Tesla. There are many more affordable cars with Apple CarPlay, too, from Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and Subaru, though upgrading a trim or two is sometimes required.

Cars Have Apple CarPlay

Different smart devices work with different infotainment apps, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Similarly, compatibility is not shared among all iPhone models. Here is a list of which makes and models can be used in conjunction with this technology.

  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone XSiPhone Ten S
  • iPhone XS MaxiPhone Ten S Max
  • iPhone XRiPhone Ten R
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE (1st generation)
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 5c
  • iPhone 5

FAQs

How do I get Apple CarPlay?

Assuming the car you are interested in supports Apple CarPlay, it may come standard or as an optional add-on. If it is the latter, you will need to spec it on when building your car in the online configurator or at the dealership. The price of Apple CarPlay differs between carmakers, so you may want to factor that in when deciding what your new vehicle should be.

Does my car have Apple CarPlay?

Most car models in the USA support Apple CarPlay, but only some include it as standard. If you're unsure whether or not it is included on your preferred model, check the manufacturer's website. The Apple website also lists every vehicle that is compatible with the feature.

Is Apple CarPlay worth it?

The cost of Apple CarPlay differs between brands and models, so there is no simple answer to this question. However, even if it is included as a standard feature, you will often be required to pay an activation fee. This can put off many buyers looking for the cheapest deal on a new car. It is certainly a useful and convenient feature, but it is not essential and most of the applications it offers can be accessed through the standard Bluetooth functionality that almost all cars include at no extra cost. If you have the extra cash, it is definitely nice.

What do I do if my Apple CarPlay is not working?

First check if your car actually has Apple CarPlay, or not. Sometimes, even when included on the feature list, it must be activated first. If your Apple CarPlay is still not connecting, here the steps to follow. (Keep in mind that using any hacks to unlock extra features in your Apple CarPlay suite may cause compatibility issues and will void any warranty on the system.)

  1. Check your connection to your stereo. If connecting via a cable, try using a different one. For wireless, ensure that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled.
  2. Restart your phone, while ensuring that Siri is active.
  3. Check that CarPlay isn't restricted by going to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps
  4. If all this fails, go to the CarPlay section of general settings and select Forget This Car, then follow the steps in the aforementioned section on how to set up Apple CarPlay.
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