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Apple CarPlay – 8 things you can do with Apple’s in-car system

Andrew Williams


Apple Carplay: All you need to know
Apple CarPlay

What is Apple CarPlay?

CarPlay is Apple’s new in-car platform. It will let you control your car’s entertainment and GPS system, and it connects to any Lightning dock-equipped iPhone – that’s an iPhone 5, and iPhone 5C or an iPhone 5S.

However, this isn’t the sort of system you can simply buy from PC World and bung into your car. At present it only comes built into a limited number of cars from Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedez-Benz. One of the less expensive cars set to get CarPlay integration is the Volvo XC90, which costs around £40k.

Manufacturers with generally more accessible prices are getting on-board too including Kia and Ford. What exactly can Apple CarPlay do? Here are the eight maifn things you can do with the system.

Turn-by-turn GPS navigation

Apple CarPlay 2Probably the most obvious use of CarPlay is turn-by-turn navigation. As it’s a platform designed with a central display in mind rather than a traditional smaller head unit, CarPlay will have everything it needs to succeed as a GPS system.

CarPlay uses Apple Maps rather than Google Maps or the TomTom mapping system. Apple Maps is a lot better than when it arrived in 2012, but it still lacks the nuanced traffic information of TomTom’s Live Traffic system. You’ll know about traffic information, but it’s unlikely CarPlay will launch with the same sort of to-the-second, in-depth information of a mature GPS system.

I expect improving this is the sort of thing Apple has on its roadmap, though.

Siri can read you text messages

Apple CarPlay 1One of the most important features of CarPlay is Siri integration. What can seem a slightly silly gimmick on a phone becomes useful in a car, where the less time your hands spend off the wheel the better.

CarPlay will let Siri read out new text messages through your car’s speaker system, in that endearing robotic voice. You can also send messages, dictating using Siri and then sending them with a voice command or a tap of your car’s touchscreen.

CarPlay will support third-party apps

Apple CarPlayThe key reason why CarPlay is interesting is that it hooks into the Apple ecosystem. It's designed to feel like a continuation of the phone. Third-party developers are able to make their apps work with the CarPlay system, although this is likely to be subject to even more tight restrictions than Apple’s normal iOS app guidelines. It won't let you play Angry Birds, for example (a strict safety no-no).

Apple has said that Spotify will work with CarPlay, as will the Podcast app and Stitcher. We can imagine most of the main audio apps will get a look in, although we sincerely doubt whether you’ll be able to use Google Maps with the system any time soon. It's also unlikely that Apple will allow movie player apps to get on-board, as it would be a safety concern.

Control your in-car entertainment with your voice, a touchscreen or buttons

CarPlay offers up to three interface methods. You can use your car dashboard’s touchscreen, if there is one, any physical controls that interface with the main screen, or your voice - through Siri.

Sensibly, though, you need to activate Siri by pressing down on a physical button or switch. It isn’t listening to you 24/7.

Take calls hands-free

Naturally, CarPlay can be used to make and take calls. As with other elements of CarPlay, you’re able to use Siri to choose who you want to call.

The exact microphone, speaker and noise cancelling setup will depend on the car it’s in. Each CarPhone setup is an effort on both the manufacturer’s part and Apple’s.

Control music playback with your voice

Apple CarPlay 3Siri integration makes controlling music playback a lot safer. It’s not just about hitting play or pause, either. Those commands only demand a fraction of a second’s attention.

With CarPlay you’ll be able to directly head to an artist in the music player app – no more lengthy flicking through a list of artists. What we’re not yet sure of is whether Apple will give third-party apps like Spotify free rein to use Siri too. Fingers crossed it will.

It will charge your phone

At present, CarPlay needs a physical connection between your phone and the car, meaning it should be able to charge your phone. It connects using the Lightning port – the phone’s charging socket.

However, Volvo has revealed that Wi-Fi Direct transmission between CarPlay and the phone is in the works too. CarPlay works by streaming an H.264 video stream from the phone to the car’s display, so there’s no change in the way the system works needed to make it run over Wi-Fi. It’ll just be subject to a few more potential technical hiccups.

Stream music, listen to internet radio

Apple CarPlayCarPlay’s iPhone connection and support for third-party apps means you’ll be able to use the system to stream music over your phone’s mobile internet connection, whether that’s through Spotify or an internet radio service like Stitcher.

Being able to get this sort of content in the car is nothing new – you can do this with other phones using a Bluetooth head unit – but CarPlay will give the driver more control.

Are you excited about CarPlay? What are the most interesting features? Let us know in the comments section below.

Next, read our best iPhone apps round-up


March 4, 2014, 9:28 pm

I don't want Apple in my car. I don't want Apple on this planet.


March 6, 2014, 10:30 am

Thanks for letting us know!!

Prem Desai

March 6, 2014, 8:32 pm

No. Not excited. Scared? Yes.

Apple do not have a history of producing quality, reliable software. Beauty is only skin deep.

In a car, things need to be reliable and just work. No excuses and BS allowed.

I'm glad that 'normal' car won't be getting this.

There might be an opportunity for a new industry here - owners of luxurious cars may want to 'downgrade' their high-end Apple nonsense for something that works!!


March 7, 2014, 10:17 am

Well I recently installed both a Clarion & Kendwood headset into out VW, the Clarion was a piece of ****** and had to be removed, the Kendwood was better, but how I wish Apple or even Google had written the software instead. Saying that, the Head unit built into my Volvo V40 is rather nice, but a little bit of Apple TLC might still have helped.

You Apple reliability comment is of course just bonkers!! All I can assume is you got it mixed up with MS.


June 22, 2014, 4:40 pm

Apple has a long history of quality and reliability. I've saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on IT costs by switching my company's computer products from Microsoft and Android over to Apple.

Your comment is insane. Does the word "quality" mean something different in India?


June 22, 2014, 4:41 pm

On which planet do you reside?

Prem Desai

June 22, 2014, 6:49 pm

You are offensive and racist.

What has a comment about Apple software got anything to do with quality in India??

You have wrongly ASSummed that I am in India. Whether I am or not is irrelevant.

The only reason why any business (your included) switches over to Apple is because they are cheapskates and don't want to pay for proper software (they ALWAYS end up paying later).

Apple cannot even give away their server solution free with cereal - that's how rubbish it is.

If you're happy with Apple, then I am pleased for you.

Do note however - if Apple stopped trading tomorrow, there'd be some anger, some frustration and maybe even some grumbling. If Microsoft stopped trading tomorrow, the world would stop spinning.

I do not have shares in Microsoft and own lots of Apple gear myself. But software is NOT their strong point. Anyone who knows anything about software will confirm this.


January 28, 2015, 9:08 am

Do you have any idea what you are talking about?

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