Today, we use our phones to play music and games, get directions, be social, send messages — the list goes on. Even while driving, the desire to stay connected often pulls our eyes away from the road. Many car manufacturers have tried to alleviate this issue by creating car infotainment systems that let you answer phone calls, view texts, play music, or even include a mapping feature. However, many new car models include a car connectivity system that operates and syncs directly through your smartphone to consistently display your apps on the dash console.
Out of these systems, Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto vie for dominance with their unified and uncomplicated ways of utilizing both your phone and car’s power. Older cars may not have this function built-in, but entertainment consoles with Carplay and Android Auto compatibility can be purchased and integrated into the dash, regardless of the make or model.
For those with an iOS device, Apple Carplay compatible cars allow you to access a core group of apps and interact with them through Siri, touchscreen, and dials and buttons. Set up is simple: you download the app and plug it in with the power cord to your car. The dash screen should automatically switch to CarPlay mode.
Apps: Select apps appear exactly as they would on your phone. These always include Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Now Playing, Podcasts, Audiobooks, as well as some others that can be added — like Spotify or WhatsApp. You can even arrange the presentation of these apps through CarPlay on your phone.
Control: Carplay works almost entirely through Siri, and drivers can start by saying, “Hey Siri,” to open and use apps. Siri can also be activated by touching voice control buttons on the steering wheel, dash touchscreen, or dash buttons and dials. Manual control also works for opening and sifting through apps, but this can pull your hands away from the wheel. If you open a selected app on your phone, it should automatically appear on the car’s screen, and Siri should kick in.
Phone Calls and Text Messages: You can tap the dash screen’s phone or messaging icon, or activate Siri to start calls or messages. The voice control system activates automatically either way. Texts are read aloud to you, and responded to through voice-to-text dictation.
Navigation: CarPlay comes with Apple Maps set-up, but it also supports third-party navigation apps. Using the automatic maps specifically, it will try to predict where you’re going based on addresses in emails, texts, contacts and calendars. It will also let you search along the route — all voice activated by Siri. You can manually type in locations using the finder button if needed.
Audio: Apple’s Music, Podcasts, and Audiobooks are automatically available on the interface, but many other listening apps are easily added. Use Siri or the manual controls to make selections.
Apple CarPlay offers great functionality and many options for easy driving. Note that it only works with iPhone 5 devices and up. It connects to the car through the charging cord compatible with specific iPhone models. See which cars come with CarPlay built-in here.
Google’s Android Auto connects similarly to CarPlay; you only need to plug in your phone for the display system to appear. It may take some searching through the car’s infotainment setup to find the right connecting option, but it should be automatic after that. It can also be used directly on the phone if applied to the dashboard with a car mount.
Apps: You can customize the apps you want available on Android Auto. The home screen will show weather and navigation notices, but simply tap or swipe to move between screens and see different apps for music, maps, phone calls, messages, and more.
Control: Access what you want manually through the wheel buttons, or tap the screen. You can also use voice control by saying, “Ok, Google,” followed by your command, or activate it by pressing the microphone icon. To keep you from looking down and using your phone, an Android Auto logo screen appears if you try to access it.
Phone Calls and Text Messages: Use both voice or manual control to make calls or text. Manual works well for checking messages, but Ok Google is better for making phone calls and verbally drafting texts. Ok Google will also read incoming texts aloud, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Navigation: Google Maps pops up automatically for navigation, and picks up voice commands easily. Manual entry of addresses or selection of places that appear on the map is also an option. You can also use Waze, or other map apps as desired.
Audio: Though set up with Google Play Music, you can open other third-party listening apps as well. The sound will automatically decrease in volume when you receive notifications from your navigation system.
Android Auto gives you access to a vast number of apps, which, while providing many options, can lead to a lot of scrolling. Choosing from so many apps can be distracting, but you will most likely have whatever app you want while driving available. Find out which cars already come with Google’s Android Auto here.