If you’ve been shopping for a new car recently, it’s likely that you’ve come across the terms Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Initially released in 2014 and 2015, respectively, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are designed to link your smartphone to your car, and offer functionality beyond what a basic infotainment system is capable of.
What’s the difference
At their core, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer the same features – and your decision as to which one to use will be determined by your phone and its operating system (OS).
iOS devices, such as Apple’s range of smartphones, will use CarPlay, while Android phone – such as those from Samsung, will use Android Auto.
Keep in mind that new vehicles will have the latest OS installed in their infotainment systems, meaning that phones which are too old, or that have not been updated, may not be able to connect to the service.
At the time of writing, CarPlay requires that your device is running version 9.3 of iOS or newer – while Android Auto requires a minimum of Android 6.0.
What they do
In older vehicles, as well as certain entry-level cars of today, the onboard sound systems usually only support an aux input, USB port, Bluetooth, or a combination thereof.
The crucial limitation of these systems is that most controls are still on a smartphone, which is dangerous as it can take a driver’s attention off the road.
Cars equipped with multifunction steering wheels can mitigate this to an extent, but their range of functions is limited.
This is where Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come in, allowing the driver to access many of the features on their phone, without using the phone itself.
Once a device is connected, several apps appear on the vehicle’s infotainment display and the driver can then select an app without taking their attention off the road for long.
The range of supported apps can vary depending on the vehicle, but the most common ones include music, navigation, and some form of communication app.
CarPlay supports the following: music, maps, messages, calendars, and more.
Android’s system is similar, allowing drivers to download and use supported apps from the Google Play Store that fall under one of three main categories: navigate, communicate, and entertain.
On both systems the audio apps are rather self-explanatory – you select them and play their respective audio, such as music or a podcast, using either your phone’s music player or a 3rd party app like Spotify.
Phone calls can easily be made or accepted, too, using the infotainment centre which can display your contacts. Cars further up the price ladder may even feature voice activation for hands-free control of the infotainment system.
Navigation apps will display a map of the route to your destination on the infotainment screen, which can be set to either a 2D map of the area or a 3D map that follows the car as it moves along.
This is one of the selling points of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – as drivers can use services like Google Maps to navigate, and do not need to rely on a car’s built-in navigation systems.
Certain vehicle brands also have a diagnostics tool, which provides the driver with information such as tyre pressure and fuel efficiency.
Finally, the driver can use apps like the calendar and a number of messaging services, from normal SMS to third-party offerings like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, to stay on track with their daily commitments.
Apple CarPlay is currently supported by over 600 vehicles, and the majority of cars that support CarPlay also support Android Auto.
It must be noted that not every app running in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto supports a wireless connection – so double-check to make sure you know whether your smartphone will have to be connected to your car via a cable, or if it supports full wireless operation, before making a decision.