In the car with CarPlay, the in-car system from Apple


In the car with CarPlay, the in-car system from Apple Jaiz Anuar /
On a day-to-day basis, on-board systems developed by car manufacturers quickly run into limits, either due to a lack of updates or due to a high subscription. Like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay tries to remedy the problem by offering a wide choice of features available in the cabin. Operation, functions, advantages and disadvantages: we take stock of Apple's on-board assistant for cars.

For a long time, the interior of the car was one of the few places that it was not possible to control from your smartphone. This anomaly has since been repaired, notably at the instigation of Apple and its CarPlay system.

What is Apple CarPlay?

First called “iOS on the car”, this device saw the light of day in 2014, more or less at the same time as its main rival: Android Auto. An innovation which - although it still struggles to seduce - is of real interest, as the on-board systems offered by manufacturers are often limited. Note also that the redesign of Android Auto has been deployed since the summer.

CarPlay is an in-car version of the iOS operating system for vehicles. Concretely, it allows the main functions of the iPhone to be used directly on the vehicle's on-board screen, such as GPS and telephony for example. This system is also equipped with a voice assistant which allows you to control the main functions of the telephone. One way to take advantage of the full potential of your smartphone, reducing distractions as much as possible and staying focused on the road.

How does Apple CarPlay work?

To use CarPlay, you must already ensure that your vehicle is compatible. In this area, Apple is doing a lot of things since more than 500 models can already benefit from its on-board operating system, from the Renault Clio (2017-2019) to the BMW 3 Series (2017-2020), including the Peugeot 4008 ( 2016-2019). Be careful, however, to check that the version of your vehicle is compatible. If this is the case, all you have to do is connect your iPhone (equipped with at least iOS 9) to the car - which is done in a rather intuitive way - either via a Lightning connector or via Bluetooth (depending on the vehicle). The motorist then has three solutions to control his smartphone:
  • L'assistant vocal : it is necessary to hold down the vehicle's voice control button, usually located on the steering wheel, in order to activate Siri and pass its instructions.
  • The vehicle screen: if the multimedia screen is touch-sensitive, it is possible to control Apple CarPlay from it. For this, the motorist can find the compatible applications that are present on his iPhone.
  • The controllers: in most vehicles, CarPlay can be controlled from the knobs and other dials on the steering wheel and dashboard. This will allow you, for example, to adjust the sound volume or change the music.

Apple CarPlay features

Let's move on to the most important: the features offered by CarPlay. Basic, Apple's on-board system offers the primary functions of the iPhone, namely:
  • Phone: the system makes it possible to make and receive calls relatively easily, either by using Siri, or with the keypad that appears on the vehicle's screen, or directly from the smartphone.
  • Message: the application allows you to dictate an SMS to Siri, but also to read a message received by the voice assistant. However, only the last receipt can be viewed in this way. In addition, email notifications are not available, which can be prohibitive for professionals.
  • Plan : Apple's GPS functionality is intended to be fairly easy to use and intuitive, in addition to providing advice on the best route to take. Small flat in this area, few alternative GPS applications are compatible with CarPlay. Fortunately, one of the best performing - namely Google Map - has been available since 2018.
  • Music: all iTunes content is accessible, as well as several other music applications, such as Spotify and Deezer, compatible since 2015. Once again, it is Siri that allows you to choose the appropriate titles. We can simply regret that the research is not always intuitive.

In the car with CarPlay, the in-car system from Apple Chinnapong /
On a daily basis, these are the 4 functions that will be mainly used by the motorist. There are however other applications compatible with Apple CarPlay, even if their number is still limited (compared to the catalog of the App Store). The most popular include:

  • Music apps : in addition to Deezer and Spotify already mentioned, Apple CarPlay allows you to use Amazon Music, Vox, Google Play Music and Tidal.
  • Podcast applications : in addition to the Apple Podcast, the on-board system manages Overcast, NPR One and Downcast.
  • Audiobook apps : in addition to the aptly named Apple Audiobooks, CarPlay is compatible with Audiobooks and Audible.
  • Radio services : like Stitcher and Clammr, CarPlay allows you to enjoy various streaming radio services.
  • The messages : we also note that WhatsApp does work with this device and that it can be used in the same way as Message and Telephone, in particular thanks to Siri.

What we like about Apple CarPlay

  • Ease of use : barely connected to the vehicle, Apple CarPlay can be used directly by the motorist or his passengers. Not only is the interface uncluttered, but the use is intended to be intuitive because there are not countless features to assimilate.
  • The voice assistant : In this area, Siri is once again a benchmark and stands out from that of Android Auto. The voice recognition system is relatively efficient - even if the "Hey Siri" command does not work - and the majority of actions can be commanded by voice.
  • Auto compatibility : where Android Auto is currently only compatible with 400 models, Apple CarPlay can already equip more than 500 vehicles. However, it will be necessary to verify that the functionality is available on the version of his car.
  • The available applications : beyond the basic functions already present on the iPhone, Apple CarPlay offers a large catalog of applications, including WhatsApp, Deezer and Spotify. This is all the more true since Google Map, much more efficient than Plan, is also available.
  • Regular updates : Apple has understood that to attract as many users as possible, the catalog of applications must be as large as possible. After Google Map - which had long been lacking - CarPlay can be proud of being compatible with a growing number of apps. Last year, Coyote and Waze made their appearance in particular.
  • Wireless use : although not all vehicles and versions of the iPhone offer this possibility, Apple CarPlay can be used wirelessly. The lack of connection via Lightning is also very practical for short trips and to allow automatic fitting.
  • IPhone control : even when it is connected to the car screen, the Smartphone can still be used, especially by passengers. It is thus possible to return to the main menu and make a call or send a message, for example.
  • The proposed interface : one of the big advantages of CarPlay, which Android Auto also has, is that it is much more pleasant to use than the vehicle's original on-board system. It must be said that manufacturers rarely update their interface or ask for it to pay a price considered exorbitant.

What we don't like about Apple CarPlay

  • The cost : if CarPlay is free on the majority of the vehicle fleet, it is however chargeable at certain manufacturers. BMW users, for example, must now pay a subscription of 300 € for 3 years in order to be able to use Apple's in-car system. In addition, the CarPlay version of some applications is more expensive than that for iPhone, like Coyote.
  • Lack of customization : the applications that you use on your iPhone and via the on-board screen of your car are generally not the same. However, it is not possible to customize the order of the icons. Compatible applications will indeed be displayed according to their location on the Smartphone.
  • Blocked applications : a large number of apps are not available on CarPlay for security reasons, such as Facebook, YouTube or Safari. However, they could be of interest when the vehicle is stationary.
  • The possibilities offered by Siri : even if the voice assistant is one of the most powerful currently available, it has certain limitations. For example, Siri cannot be used with all available apps. Sometimes, it will therefore be necessary to go through the vehicle's touchscreen to control certain actions.
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