What Are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
By Jakob Hansen, 6/3/2020
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are two of the most useful in-car systems, what exactly are they and how do they work?
Two new features have started popping up in all cars from entry level sedans like the Nissan Sentra, to flagship SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So what are these new features and why are they suddenly showing up in every car?
Modern infotainment systems are capable of amazing feats. These in-car computers have more computing power than Windows 98, though I guess that's not saying much. (Burn.) We are able to make dinner reservations, search the web, check live traffic updates, and more all from in the driver's seat of our car. We sure have come a very long way from the old dot matrix screens that almost always seemed to have one light burnt out, driving you mad!
The issue with modern infotainment systems is the lack of integration to our personal computers we carry around with us everywhere, our smartphones. Bluetooth is a great feature and allows the user to make calls, use voice commands, and listen to our favorite music or podcast, but beyond that, it’s lacking. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are the ultimate integration of your phone to your car.
What Are They?
Think of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as the safest and most efficient way of using your phone while driving. Designed to keep you connected to the world while also keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrate your phone into your existing cars infotainment system.
Designed to handle simple tasks with touch screen and voice commands, the systems make it so you can stay connected with the outside world while driving, without putting you into danger.
Several apps are available for use with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and can all be accessed on your car’s screen rather than your phone.
What Can it Do?
Several apps have been developed to be used by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. First and foremost, of course, are the messaging and calling functionalities of your phone. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto make it possible to make and receive calls and texts all through voice command.
Making calls from your car is really nothing new. Calling through Bluetooth has been around for nearly twenty years now (whoa, we’re getting old), but these phone calls do not use Bluetooth. While they are using the car's microphone and speaker, they are integrated through the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which means you will experience better call quality.
Texting clearly has never been possible on a car before. All texting is done via voice command. This means the texts get read to you and you can only text back using voice command converting your voice into text. This can clearly get a bit frustrating and annoying. However, this is the best use of texting and driving. Texting and driving is a massively dangerous problem that has plagued American roads. Make the best if the scenario and take the pledge to never text and drive without using these convenient tools.
Other apps that are compatible include music apps, such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Amazon Music and Google Play Music.
Audiobook apps and podcasts are also available, such as Audible, Apple Podcasts, CBS Radio, NPR One, Downcast, and many more.
The best part is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both seamlessly integrate your favorite map app as well. Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze and more all are integrated directly into the system. Waze even allows you to still drop tags and warn other drivers while also giving automatic traffic updates.
How to Set It Up
Plug and play is all you have to know to set up Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Simply plug your phone into the cars USB receiver, and the car and phone do the rest. It’s really that simple.
Once your phone is plugged into the car, the infotainment system automatically brings up an in-car version of your phone's operating system on your car's screen. The best part about Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is since they were developed by the phone companies rather than the automakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto always use the same interface. No matter what car or system you are using, the operating system will always look and operate the same way. Which means you don’t have to learn a different system for each car you buy, just plug in your phone and you’re off. From Ferrari to Kia, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto always look exactly the same.
And the best part is, your phone gets charged every time you use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Meaning when you get to where you are going, simply unplug your phone, finish up that last text, and you’re set with a fully charged phone.
What Cars Have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto?
Throughout the world, there are over 500 models that come equipped with one or the other. They are available in almost every vehicle available on the market today. I started to put together a list of available vehicles with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto available and my web page designer fell out of his chair. The list went on for days. Nearly everything from Toyota Camry's to Ford Explorer's to Audi A6 comes available with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
The biggest point is to make sure that you choose the trim level with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For example, Jeep Compass has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available, but only above the base model. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are certainly worth the extra buck, especially if you're like me and are tempted to send that quick text while driving.
Both of these systems make your experience while driving far better. Not only do they present you with a polished and effective tool for using your phone while driving, but they also are capable of making your trip safer. Quite the double-edged sword.
Jakob is our writer with a love for all things automotive. He comes from a dealer background with experience on both sides of the fence. Knowing the system inside and out, he knows the best cars and the best deals. No matter what.