Just plug it in and let your phone do the navigating. And texting. And phone calling!
We live in a time where everyone and their mamas are glued to their phones. It’s like a lifeline. If you’ve been inside a new car lately, you’ve surely noticed that most new cars on the market offer a smartphone integration for both Apple and/or Android phones. With these new features, drivers are able to simply plug in their phones and stay connected while driving. As cars become even more tech-focused, you can expect to see a lot more integration of these two systems going forward, and the ongoing war between the two systems continue to heat up.
But what, exactly, do these two systems do? What do you need to know about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? aAnd can you get these systems if your car didn’t come with it, or if your car was built before these systems were offered? We put together a little guide.
What Exactly are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are in-car assistant systems that let you access certain features of your phone, either through your infotainment system or through your phone interface. Either system you can do a variety of things like display turn by turn navigation, play music or check your messages using voice commands or by tapping buttons in your car. Plugging your phone into the infotainment system offers drivers both convenience and safety: fewer distractions and temptations to glance over at the phone while driving, and you can access some of your favorite apps from your phone, access your playlists and make hands-free calls.
How Can I Access Apple CarPlay?
To activate Apple CarPlay, you must plug your iPhone into the main USB port of the car. In some vehicles, you can wirelessly connect your iPhone to the car. If your car is equipped with Apple CarPlay, the system will launch on your infotainment screen. If you have a lock on your home screen, it will prompt you to unlock it. It will then access the apps on your phone such as Spotify, Waze, text messaging and more. You can even access Siri and Google Maps!
As Apple and car manufacturers update their systems, you should too. Updates can add new apps to the offering and make some of your older apps work better. We were delighted to find that after an update Apple Maps added speed limit signs to navigation and this displays nicely on the infotainment screen.
The development of Apple CarPlay took nearly a decade (it’s been around since 2014). If you have iOS 7.1 or higher installed on your iPhone, you have Apple CarPlay. You do not need to download Apple CarPlay to have it on your phone. It comes pre-installed and launches automatically when your car is equipped with Apple CarPlay. Vehicles from 2014 on can come equipped with Apple CarPlay.
What is Android Auto? What Can Android Auto do?
Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto is Google’s version of the in-car assistant. Android Auto is designed to make using things like Google Maps, Waze, and Google’s Voice Assistant technology, easier and safer when you are driving. Like Apple CarPlay, you can do things like navigate, play music, listen to audiobooks, respond to and send voice-to-text messages and emails and make calls.
Android Auto launched in 2015 and uses Google’s suite of technology. This includes Google Maps (which also owns the popular navigation app, Waze), and Google Assistant which allows you to use voice commands to ask your Android phone to do things like changing a Pandora station or read the last text message you sent. If you have an operating system of 5.0 or higher on your Android phone, then you can get Android Auto.
You have to download Android Auto on your phone. It does not come pre-installed. You can use Android Auto on your infotainment system if your car comes with Android Auto capability or you can use the system on the phone itself. Unlike Apple CarPlay, you can use the system on the phone alone. Android Auto can be connected wirelessly to some vehicles equipped with Android Auto technology, but some Android phones will not work wirelessly. Android Auto can be found on some cars that are from 2014 or later.
Why should I get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?
Why not?! If you are looking for a safe way to use your phone while driving, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are great to have. If you use the navigation or like to listen to music apps like Spotify, Pandora, or music stored on your phone, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay are great ways to do so, safely. You can even listen to audiobooks on the go. Both offer voice control, and in newer cars, you can use buttons on your steering wheel to access the voice systems. And, in many cars the systems are standard (though some brands offer it as an option) and you can even skip purchasing the car’s navigation system, saving you a bit of money.
If your car doesn’t have an infotainment system with a screen that will accommodate these, the Pioneer AVIC-W8500NEX ($529.97 on Amazon) can be installed in most cars; it has built in navigation along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
What’s Great and Not So Great About Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
Everyone uses their phone in the car to some capacity even though states like California have outlawed touching your phone more than once while operating a vehicle. One of the best things about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is that both offer a safer way to operate your phone while driving.
- Easy to use and can be used with voice activation.
- Can be controlled with buttons on the steering wheel in cars equipped with the systems.
- You don’t have to use Apple’s iMessage or Android’s messaging system to get the systems to work with incoming text messages. Apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype, and even WhatsApp will work on both platforms.
- You can listen to a variety of music platforms on both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay including Pandora, Spotify, Last.fm and others.
Some of the things that you might not like about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto include the fact that not all apps are available on either platform. Other cons are:
- The voice recognition in both is not accurate. If you’re trying to send accurate text messages or emails using Siri or Google’s Assistant, do not expect perfection. If you’re trying to dictate where to navigate to, be prepared to repeat yourself.
- Neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto solve the problem of distracted driving. You can still get distracted using either of them so pay attention to what you are doing when interacting with the system.
To simply use your phone’s systems in cars not enabled with CarPlay or Android Auto, accessories like an aux cord ($9.59 on Amazon) will connect your phone to audio and a magnetic mount holder ($11.99 on Amazon) will attach your phone to the dash. A Bluetooth receiver ($16.49 on Amazon) is a great alternative for iPhone users who cannot connect to a traditional AUX cord.
How do I know if my car has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?
Most cars from 2014 or later offer Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto. To find out if your vehicle has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto you can either look through the user manual or do a Google search for the year, make and model of your vehicle. You can also plug your phone into your car’s main USB port (unless it has a wireless dock) and look at the menu on your screen. If your car has it, an app will pop up on the screen and it will ask permission on your phone. These apps are very user-friendly but if you have trouble, there’s always Google (and YouTube!).
Some car systems automatically launch Apple CarPlay or Android Auto when you plug in your phone (Hyundai, for example); others require you to activate it through the infotainment system (BMW, for example). If CarPlay or Android Auto are featured on the Monroney window sticker of your car, the systems are installed but you may have to search for them.
If you are upgrading your current vehicle and only have a single installation slot, then the Pioneer AVH-3300NEX ($529.97$ on Amazon) is a good system to check out.
Can I get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto if My Car isn’t Outfitted With It?
Some car brands took a few years to integrate Apple CarPlay (Toyota, for instance, didn’t add it until 2018), and not all brands support both systems. Toyota does not yet support Android Auto. However, if your car is newer than 2014 and has a navigation-capable infotainment system, you may be able to get a software upgrade that includes Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, though you may need to pay a fee for it.
If your car that is older than 2014, you can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but you will need to get some aftermarket items or install additional apps to make it work. Android Auto is simpler to use on older cars since you can use the system on your phone screen. Apple CarPlay does not work on the phone alone. You will need to download other software to make it work on your phone.
The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX ($693.00 on Amazon) is a popular, if not a bit pricey, option with a 7-inch screen that’s compatible for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. For Apple users, Sony XAV-AX100 ($298.00 on Amazon) is a more budget friendly choice albeit with fewer bells and whistles.
Disclosure: A Girls Guide to Cars uses affiliate links and may receive commissions for sales generated by those links.