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What is Apple CarPlay and should you get it?

By raccars Published

Apple Car Play

With the iOS 10 updated operating system, Apple CarPlay will include greater functionality.

For the uninitiated, Apple CarPlay is a system that allows drivers to view their iPhone's display and operate the device from the car's head unit or infotainment screen. Most of the major manufacturers already offer CarPlay in new models or you can install an aftermarket system.

Apple CarPlay allows drivers access to their phone and its apps including music apps, maps, iBooks, iMessage, podcasts, and third party apps including Spotify music streaming, iHeartRadio, At Bat, Overcast and Audible, for example. The latest Apple software update, iOS 10, will offer among other things new Apple Maps features.

IOS 10 updates

With iOS 10, Apple Maps will show detailed navigation instruction to a turn-by-turn level in the style of an integrated satellite navigation system. This is a welcome step to making CarPlay feel more integrated with the car instead of a separate entity, and has been available on Android Auto for some time. In addition, CarPlay Maps will now feature landmarks and predict traffic conditions along a programmed route. In the event of congestion, Maps will offer an alternative route and the new functionality will allow users to swipe the map during navigation.

As part of the update, Apple is giving third party developers access to its digital assistant Siri, allowing them to use the voice control software for more functions including changing a playlist while listening to music.

What Apple CarPlay does

Most manufacturers have built a certain degree of smartphone connectivity into their infotainment systems for a few years, allowing drivers to make calls and play music from their phones wirelessly through their car's audio system. What Apple CarPlay does is to add another level of connectivity between the phone and the car.

Essentially, your iPhone's screen will appear on your car's infotainment screen, which you can then operate as if it were your iPhone. This is a legal and far safer system than looking at and operating your iPhone by hand while driving, especially with Siri's help.

Some cars are configured to allow the driver to use controls mounted on the steering wheel or elsewhere on the dashboard to operate the phone. At the moment your iPhone is plugged into your car via a cable to enable the connection but Apple is planning to use Bluetooth or WiFi with future updates of CarPlay.

What can you do with it?

Apple CarPlay is compatible with iPhones from 5 and onwards and with iOS 7.1 or later, or essentially any iPhone with a lightning connection. When using your iPhone through Apple CarPlay you can use the voice-controlled digital assistant Siri to access and browse your contacts list, to read text messages and listen to voicemail.

You can also respond to messages by dictating to Siri, all without removing your hands from the steering wheel. You can also use Siri for iTunes navigation and with certain third party apps including Spotify. Apple Maps provides navigation services and this too can be controlled hands-free by using Siri.

Is Apple CarPlay available in every car?

Manufacturers using Apple CarPlay include, at the moment, Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Porsche, Seat, Volvo, Peugeot, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Honda, Ford, Citroen and Ferrari - but this list is subject to regular updates as more manufacturers sign up. Bear in mind that if you are buying new, Apple CarPlay is not necessarily a standard feature on every model.

Alternatively, Pioneer and Alpine make aftermarket head units which are CarPlay-enabled.

Some manufacturers are choosing to use either Apple CarPlay or its main rival, Android Auto, so make sure that your mobile phone and car are going to be compatible before buying a new version of either. In time you should no longer have to make this choice as both systems and others such as MirrorLink become universally available.

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