Apple’s iOS in the Car has finally been launched as CarPlay. It is basically a system to integrate your iPhone to your car. This is not an in-car system in itself that runs on iOS, so it is not another version of GM’s OnStar or Toyota’s Entune. Instead, CarPlay simply makes use of your vehicle’s already built-in in-car system. You can then use your automobile’s in-car digital infotainment system to control your iPhone and use its apps.
CarPlay is a new standard, which means that it has been built from the ground up and from scratch. It allows you to use your iPhone even while driving without having to be very distracted from the road. In short, it is a very safe way to use your iPhone while driving.
All you have to do is connect your iPhone to your in-car system via USB and it will recognize your phone and add your iPhone’s functionality to that of your car. You no longer have to tinker with your phone and take your eyes off the road, giving you a much safer, more convenient and easier driving experience.
For example, if there are audio files on your iPhone that you would want to play, you can do so without having to touch your phone. You can tell Siri where you want to go, and navigation will come up. You can take phone calls or have your text messages read to you. You can even watch YouTube videos, although that is certainly not recommended.
That is just what is inherently possible and available now. You can also expect to have third-party companies come up with their own apps or modify their programs to make use of CarPlay. As early as now, there are already companies that have said that they would be coming out with CarPlay apps. These include Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher and Beats Radio.
- Using Siri. CarPlay enables you to talk to your car, via Siri. Just tell it to play your favorite song or mention the playlist you want. And after having your text message read out to you, you can even dictate your reply.
- Using touchscreen. With newer car models having touchscreen displays, some CarPlay vehicles will have a touchscreen display that will feature a simple home screen from which you can open apps and then close them.
- Using knobs. Your car now comes with knobs and other physical buttons. For example, you can use your car radio’s volume buttons to adjust the volume of the music being played by CarPlay.
Is CarPlay available now?
Today’s cars are not yet equipped with CarPlay, but there are some coming your way this year. Check out cars from:
- Mercedes Benz
- Land Rover
What is sure is that CarPlay will be onboard the Ferrari FF. Apart from helping the driver operate his or her phone with as less distractions as possible, there are also some cool features that we have seen in a CarPlay demo.
For instance, the system can collect information from your e-mails and calendar to suggest potential locations. So if you have noted that you are going to a meeting at Hotel Q in half an hour, CarPlay would read that calendar entry and ask you if you are indeed on your way to Hotel Q and show you how to get there. You no longer have to go through a lot of steps or search for Hotel Q in order to get navigation to go there.
There is a music app that uses iTunes Radio.
Two other cars that Apple has demoed CarPlay on are Volvo’s XC90 SUV and Mercedes Benz’s C-Class. If you have just bought your car and it has no CarPlay on it, then you might have to wait for a while. As of now, there are no talks of an aftermarket version for Apple CarPlay. Mercedes Benz, however, is rumored to be coming up with an aftermarket version for CarPlay, or at least making use of its technology.
But even with Mercedes Benz’s confidence, both Ferrari and Volvo are hinting at possible technical and usability roadblocks for an aftermarket version of CarPlay. Ferrari has even declared that CarPlay will only be available in its new cars and may not be installed on their older models. Ferrari has come up with a different aftermarket product that also allows you to connect with your smartphones (both iPhone iOS and Android) and this will be available for their older cars.
Furthermore, you should know that not all iPhones are compatible with CarPlay. You can only use iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, and new iPhone versions from today forward. It is only available to iPhone models that use the Lightning Connector. You would also need the iOS 7.1 operating system or later.
And oh, Apple CarPlay will only be initially available in these countries:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
Google and Apple
It is inevitable that a discussion of Apple’s CarPlay system would draw comparisons with arch rival Google. Both companies have been very vocal in telling the world that they want their respective operating systems, which together powers a vast majority of smartphones and tablets, to be powering cars as well. Apple has been keeping iOS in the Car in the works for the past few months and rebranded it at launch as CarPlay. Google, on the other hand, currently calls it the “Projected Mode”.
To be clear, both Projected Mode and CarPlay allow you to make use of your smartphone’s computing power, which could rival your desktop computer’s. This means that maps and other applications are rendered faster and better using your smartphone than your vehicle’s in-car entertainment dashboard. This will ensure that not only will you have enough computing power to run your applications but it will also mean that your car will have access to even the latest technology. You do not have to wait through your car’s lengthy development cycles to get the latest technology installed, by which time the technology would have been rendered obsolete. With CarPlay and Projected Mode, you have access to the latest tech out there!
You also get the convenience of already knowing the interface you are working with, while using only one device to manage your digital life even while you are inside your car.
But between Google and Apple, which system is better?
It would seem like Apple’s CarPlay is new, having been launched only in March 2014. Even though there are no cars that have CarPlay now, we can still take a look at the features. When it comes to multimedia playback, both seem to be at par with each other. The assessment could be the same for apps. Chances are, if there is a noteworthy app for the iOS, then you could find a comparable app for Android devices.
One area where Google reigns supreme is maps. Android devices have great mapping capabilities due to the long-term investment Google has on maps. Apple Maps is very substandard especially when compared to Google Maps. And for an in-car system, mapping might be the one most important feature. Google also does great when it comes to navigation. And because we are talking about cars, that is simply a deal breaker.
So does that mean that we should all pass on CarPlay? Not really. Especially if you are a diehard Apple fan and you have iOS devices running your life. It does not make sense to switch to an Android device simply because of your car’s infotainment system. Apple’s mapping capabilities might not be as good as Android, but it still works and it might be better than those mapping systems that come with your vehicle. At the very least, you still have that to fall back on.
The bottom line
CarPlay might be exciting because of two reasons. It allows you to use your iPhone in the car, while also keeping you safe. It comes with a lot of features that extend your automobile’s information and entertainment value. But another, bigger reason for being excited about CarPlay is that it finally provides an in-car entertainment experience that most car manufacturers have failed to deliver. They may know about how to make your car engines more fuel efficient, or how to give you better mileage for your car, but automakers have so far failed when it comes to in-car infotainment systems. And this is where CarPlay helps.
It is hoped, however, that Apple has spent all these months tuning up its mapping capabilities, or have worked with another company to provide mapping for them. Although it is possible that CarPlay allows you to use Google Maps, it might be better to actually use your own native mapping app and come up with your own unique set of features.
Photos courtesy of Apple.