CarPlay explains: Using the iPhone in the car


When Apple introduced CarPlay for the iPhone with iOS 7.1, the enthusiasm was high, especially among technology enthusiasts. While the automakers’ infotainment systems were negatively affected by their poor menu navigation and lack of connectivity to the smartphone, there was a new hope that Apple can also drive this market. Quickly, therefore, found some companies that wanted to support the system. It was not unusual to stumble on names such as BMW, Mercedes Benz or Volvo. It was announced then that older vehicles can be retrofitted and future models will support the new additional option. As one of the first manufacturers, however, the South Korean manufacturer Hyundai published the i40 2014 for the first time with CarPlay support. Later, other automakers followed as well.

What is CarPlay?

Before CarPlay appeared on iOS 7.1, Apple called it the “iOS in the Car” feature when presented at WWDC 2013. While the iPhone could only be connected to the vehicle at this time for phone calls and possibly for playing music, Apple positioned the system as an extended companion. This is mainly to simplify the operation of the iPhone while driving. Instead of using the small iPhone display, a surface similar to iOS is streamed onto the screen of the navigation device.

The iPhone takes over the computing power. The in-vehicle display serves only as an output device and works as if you were connecting an Apple TV to a TV. The driver does not have to pick up his iPhone while driving. The operation is done via the input methods, which can also be used for the normal navigation device. Of course, it is most comfortable when the vehicle has a screen with touch input. In this case, the CarPlay interface is almost as controlled as iOS on an iPhone. Even a home button is available. With the help of the home menu, you can always return to the integrated infotainment software, as CarPlay functions similarly to an app.

There are also apps for CarPlay

Although Apple’s infotainment system is not its own Operating system, but only a customized iOS version for the car, yet Apple does not allow any developer to use CarPlay. The company has the last word here and is committed to banishing off-road apps. The own apps were therefore strictly adapted. By default, only the apps Phone, Apple Music, Maps, News, Podcasts, and Audiobooks can be used here. However, when it comes to news, Siri always jumps in as a reader and also helps to write an answer.

Incidentally, there are also some third-party vendors who published customized apps for CarPlay. In addition to Spotify, Audible and Amazon Prime Music, the popular instant messenger Whatsapp has also recently been found on the vehicle’s home screen. Keep in mind, however, that while your CarPlay is on, your iPhone will be disabled for use so you will not be tempted to use it for other applications that may prevent you from driving.

These third-party apps are available:

• At Bat
• Spotify
• Stitcher
• Overcast
• Audiobooks
• Audible
• NPR One
• Clammr
• Downcast
• Amazon Prime Music
• Google Play Music
• Whatsapp

Does CarPlay work with your iPhone?

This is a legitimate question. Not all active iPhone models are able to run CarPlay. However, if you own an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s or later and have the latest version of iOS installed, then you can easily use CarPlay – provided that your vehicle supports the feature and is unlocked.

Next – and Disadvantages of CarPlay

Of course we could start by praising CarPlay, but at first we want to devote ourselves to a big disadvantage: the car manufacturers. These decide if CarPlay can be used or not. In doing so, they also put obstacles in the way of customers such as a paid booking or even the purchase of the more expensive navigation device. In addition, CarPlay has long been reserved for some manufacturers only the premium models. The promised retrofit options for older models were and are not. In the meantime third-party suppliers like Alpine, Clarion, Kenwood, Pioneer and Sony have stepped in.

Meanwhile, the system is available in almost all popular manufacturers in many models and makes life easier for the driver. In addition to the easy access to music, podcasts and audiobooks, the card app is a big plus point. In contrast to the map material of a manufacturer’s navigation system, this is always up to date. An update is ongoing and free. Also, the search for places of interest, such as gas stations, parking lots or the like, can be done quickly and easily via Siri. However, the read-ahead function of messages that you received with Apple’s news app or whatsapp is also particularly useful. With Siri you can respond conveniently without taking your eyes off the road.

Apps missing from Apple and Google

Especially when integrating non-native apps, Apple and Google have to give gas, so that both CarPlay and Android Auto offer the driver more benefits than frustration.

Wireless or Cable Only?

Even if your vehicle has CarPlay support and Bluetooth, the feature does not necessarily work wirelessly. Although Apple announced that CarPlay can be used wirelessly in the future, but an integration by the car manufacturers has been limited. For example, in the current five-BMW this is already possible, while almost all other CarPlay-compatible vehicles rely on a permanent cable connection. You should always leave a Lightning to USB cable in the car to use the feature.

Manufacturers supporting CarPlay:

  • Alfa Romeo,
  • Audi,
  • BMW,
  • Chevrolet,
  • Citroen,
  • Fiat,
  • Honda,
  • Hyundai,
  • KIA,
  • Mazda,
  • Mercedes Benz,
  • Mini
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan,
  • Opel
  • Peugeot
  • seat,
  • Suzuki and
  • Volvo.

A list of all models can be found on Apple’s homepage.

Payment models

Whether wireless or with cable: The manufacturers not only offer different options. These start at the time of marketing. While some car manufacturers integrate CarPlay into the built-in infotainment system for free, now and then a surcharge for this “additional option” is due. As mentioned earlier, some manufacturers tie the booking to another option: the premium model of the navigation device. One company recently announced it would go even further and, after a three-year “inclusive” phase, charge an annual fee of $ 100 just to continue using CarPlay. Whether this subscription system will make school, will have to prove itself in the coming months and years.


Apple has recently retrained CarPlay and adapted to the current iOS design. While all common input methods are supported, Apple also offers the familiar intuitive ease of use in the car, which most car manufacturers miss in their infotainment systems in many places. Just for the free map updates and voice features, you should consider CarPlay as an option on your next purchase.

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What Our Readers Say About CarPlay

“I use CarPlay in my company car. There I installed an Alpine and am happy with how I can use Siri and most recently Whatsapp. What I have to complain about is that there is not enough of everything. So: more card selection or the Blitzer app – for me it’s all too little. “Michael Schmidt

” Use CarPlay with my Kenwood sat nav! The biggest problem is that there are few apps for it. […] Siri works fine, otherwise I do not use Siri at all, with CarPlay it works well and is almost indispensable! “Mathias Bach

” Use CarPlay for two years in my Citroen C3. I wish support for Navigon. Or just a few features in Apple maps. “Adrian Nelius

” Use CarPlay in my Fiat 500 Mirror. In itself all the best, but unfortunately CarPlay is shown on the display only in one window (Android Auto in full screen mode). “Fabian Siegel

” I use CarPlay on my Sony XAV-AX100. I find it problematic that only a few third-party apps are available so far. […] I chose this radio because it’s more or less the only one on the market with volume knobs. “Stephan Krug

” I would like to have a multitouch trackpad in the car like on a Mac. “Andreas Frick

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