Apple CarPlay: features, how to connect

Apple CarPlay lets you interact with your phone via voice commands or your car’s on-screen infotainment system, as shown here.
Reuters/Robert Galbraith

  • Apple CarPlay is an iPhone mirroring system for vehicles.
  • If your car comes with Apple CarPlay, you can connect your phone to the system to perform various tasks.
  • Hands-free navigation, music and texting are among the features CarPlay can enable.

If you think Apple CarPlay is just a way to stream music while you drive, then you don’t know the half of it.

Of course, CarPlay makes it much easier to stream music from your smartphone, but there are several useful features of this iPhone mirroring system.

Apple CarPlay lets you interact with your phone via voice commands or your car’s on-screen infotainment system to do things like dictate text messages, get turn-by-turn directions, make phone calls, and more.

First released in the spring of 2014 at the Geneva International Motor Show, according to Apple’s Newsroom, CarPlay is now a standard feature in more than 800 vehicle models worldwide.

If your car is one of them — and you’re using an iPhone — here’s what you need to know about this integrated system.

How do I connect to Apple CarPlay?

Connecting to CarPlay couldn’t be much easier. First, make sure your car is running (not driving!) and that Siri is enabled on your iPhone. Then, if you’re using a USB-to-light or USB-C cable, simply connect your phone to the car via a cable. Your device will automatically connect to CarPlay in any car equipped with the platform.

This wired connection will also allow your phone to connect wirelessly in cars where it’s an option. You will receive an alert on your phone asking for permission to provide the wireless connection.

The setup process is slightly different in vehicles where only a wireless CarPlay connection works.

How do I use CarPlay wirelessly?

To connect to CarPlay wirelessly, make sure your car is turned on and Siri is enabled on your iPhone. Put your car’s infotainment/audio system into Bluetooth mode, then hold down the voice command button. On your phone, open Settings, tap WiFi, and then tap the CarPlay network.

Finally, back in Settings, go to General, tap CarPlay and select your vehicle. Your phone will now be connected and will reconnect every time you start the car.

Can you use Apple CarPlay without USB?

yes CarPlay can only to be used wirelessly in some vehicles. In other cases, you can use CarPlay wirelessly after you have initially connected your phone to your car’s CarPlay with a USB cable, received a warning on your phone to grant wireless permission, and accepted the wireless connection.

What apps are compatible with Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay works with Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music and many other music apps. You can also drive and listen to audiobooks and podcasts with CarPlay.

Navigation apps are another big feature to control through CarPlay, which is compatible with Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, TomTom and more. Using these apps, you can get turn-by-turn directions powered by your phone but fed through your car’s speakers.

CarPlay also works with messaging apps, including iMessage, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Telegram and more. You can use CarPlay to dictate messages or have them read via Siri so you can send text messages hands-free and safely.

You can even control your Calendar app, Zoom meetings, news apps, email, and your phone’s Settings app, all using voice commands or the touchscreen or steering wheel interface that’s built into your car’s infotainment system.

Is there a monthly fee for Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay is free. There is no initial purchase, nor are there any ongoing fees to pay. CarPlay is a built-in feature of many current and recently released cars — it’s not an aftermarket upgrade or add-on.

However, you can pay for an infotainment system with CarPlay installed in an older car that doesn’t have one.

What are the disadvantages of Apple CarPlay?

In one way of thinking, there are few downsides because Apple CarPlay is optional. You can always choose to rely on your vehicle’s native features instead, even if you’ve used CarPlay in the past.

However, it’s worth noting that CarPlay doesn’t work with every app, so some actions may be limited while using it.

Depending on how you use it, CarPlay can require some interaction with the screen, and that means taking your eyes off the road—never a good thing when you’re driving. But if you use voice commands exclusively when connected to CarPlay, this is not a problem.

Finally, no significant customization is allowed with CarPlay. Applications and control functions must be used when they are completed on your vehicle’s screen.

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