Apple CarPlay is now the standard interface on OEM head units for iPhone users that allows for a much more seamless and integrated connection between your car and phone. CarPlay allows your car's stereo/head unit interface to resembles iOS with the same icons, color schemes, (compatible) applications. But is more simplified to ensure that it's also not a distraction on the road like your phone is. There are two ways to connect to Apple CarPlay depending on the head unit that your car has from the factory, or head unit you may have purchased aftermarket. You can either:

  1. Plug in your iPhone via USB
  2. Wirelessly connect to your vehicle's head unit. Wireless connectivity uses a WiFi signal to connect directly to the head unit. It's worth noting that while using wireless CarPlay, you can't also be connected to WiFi. At least yet.

USB connectivity was once the only method of connectivity until around 2020, when it switched to wireless connectivity. Although USB connectivity is great to ensure a direct connection and also charge your phone, we prefer wireless connectivity over wired.

Once connected though, the iOS home screen replaces the vehicle's factory OS with a more familiar Apple interface. It offers hands-free access to a variety of apps and a functional virtual home button. When used with compatible cars, CarPlay is consistent and reliable.

Why You Need Apple CarPlay

Let's summarize some of the reasons we think you need Apple CarPlay in your vehicle!

Enhances Your Safety

Safety has to be one of the top priorities to the Apple team. It's clear in the interface that it's a factor – it's simple to use and offers ‘lite' functionality rather than the full features of an app that might distract you. Bluetooth just doesn't cut it anymore – Apple Carplay allows you to be safe while on the road by reducing distractions. A study that was done by the National Safety Council shows that using cell phones while driving accounts for 1.6 million accidents annually.

Apple CarPlay apps screen
Apple CarPlay's easy to use app screen with large app icons

Apple Carplay helps to prevents you from scrolling through your phone for every text, music choice change, phone call – whatever. This is why we think it's a huge safety enhancement to your car and can protect you and your loved ones from unnecessary accidents. With CarPlay, users can text, make calls, and even check maps without taking your eyes off the road. You can use Siri for hands-free texting, asking for directions, playing music and more. Or, you can use the easy-to-navigate interface to open up your music streaming apps and play your favorite music.

Apple CarPlay Phone Keypad
Phone keypad interface on CarPlay

Easy Navigation in Your Car

Apple CarPlay maps
Google Maps app (at night time) that enables all of the directional functionality of Google Maps directly on your head unit

CarPlay provides for effortless navigation in your vehicle from your iPhone. This enables you to access crucial information, like traffic data, that is also accurate. With Siri and the Maps app, you can find different locations when necessary; like gas stations and hotels. It also makes it difficult for you to get lost even when you are exploring new regions.

Reminders & Alerts

Busy schedules require you to set reminders so that you do not forget important things. With Apple Carplay, you can access your iPhone's reminder app even while you are driving. The reminders can be audible, and you will hear them every time you enter or exit your vehicle. They'll also be displayed directly on the screen as a notification. When you don't need them, or do not have a very tight schedule, you can turn them off.

Not only does this apply to reminders though, it applies to all types of alerts. Including phone calls, texts, alarms, even calendar events.

Apple CarPlay Alert
Example of an alert/notification on the screen. In this case this is a text

Quality Streaming Music

Apple CarPlay Spotify
Spotify app where users can find recently played music, browse their library or search for their song of choice

Carplay also allows you to stream high-quality music whenever you want, from virtually any music streaming application. Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Prime Music – you name it. Most of the functionality that you find on your phone in these apps is available directly on the head unit with a familiar look and feel. This includes things like song and artist details, navigating to artists and songs, recently played and lists. However, there are some limiting factors that we've found such as the inability to type in an artist in a traditional ‘search' functionality. Sometimes it's still easier to jump on your phone and find a song or list to kick things off with and then take it from there on the head unit.

In terms of audio quality – the connectivity that Apple CarPlay uses is superior to a majority of Bluetooth units alone. Since it uses either USB or WiFi to connect, the signal is stronger and it's capable of sending less lossy audio. It's still limited to the quality of the audio file on your phone, but in our experience the connection and audio quality is superior to that of traditional Bluetooth.

Which Cars have Apple CarPlay?

Major automobile manufacturers are offering car models that are compatible with Apple CarPlay; standard or optional. There are more than 400 models out there. At this point in time, nearly all major auto manufacturers offer Apple CarPlay as a standard option.

Aftermarket Solutions for Apple CarPlay

Aftermarket solutions are ideal for those who's car does not support CarPlay from the factory but want it. There are various of aftermarket stereos out there that support CarPlay. It's virtually the new standard in the aftermarket realm as well so almost every new head unit will come with it. They come in two different sizes: double-DIN (two inches tall) and single DIN (four inches tall)

Phones that are Compatible with Apple CarPlay

You can use a variety of iPhone models with Apple Carplay as well. It's compatible with iPhones 5 and greater with iOS 7.1 and higher. You can connect them to CarPlay using a USB cable. Some vehicles also support wireless CarPlay connection (if it doesn't support wireless, check out our recommended Wireless Apple CarPlay adapters!). To do it, press, and hold your steering wheel's voice command button. Remember to buy data because you will require it.

iPhones with 30-pin connectors do not work with Apple CarPlay. The same applies for all iPad and iPod Touch models.

Using your iPhone while driving is fun. You can also enjoy benefits like getting timely information and accessing directions. Do you want to do it safely? Apple CarPlay allows for hands-free use of your phone with little distractions. Therefore, you can text, call and use other apps on your phone. If your car model does not support it, you can buy aftermarket stereos and enjoy these benefits. A variety of iPhone devices support it; hence you are not limited to one or two.