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What Is Apple Car Play: Set Up, Uses, and More

a person touching a touch screen in a car

Ever wanted to use a handy-dandy app that can assist you while driving through hands-free control and easy integration with your vehicle? It turns out it’s not a pipe dream; it’s possible, thanks to CarPlay.

CarPlay is a software widget Apple produced. Today, let's break down Apple CarPlay in detail. We’ll go over how to set up CarPlay, how you can use it, and more.

What Is CarPlay?

In a nutshell, Apple CarPlay is a software solution that allows you to import applications from your mobile device to your vehicle's infotainment system. An infotainment system is a touchscreen that sits on your vehicle dashboard or slightly off-center.

It's a touchscreen where you can tap buttons to play music, play media, and answer phone calls. Many consider infotainment screens to be must-have iPhone accessories.

Similarly to Android Auto, CarPlay lets you access apps from your phone’s home screen without physically picking up your phone, which can lead to dangerous driving situations.

CarPlay or CarPlay-compatible systems allow you to customize your driving experience safely, the same way you navigate your iPad or iPhone’s home screen to access notifications, find playlists on music apps, or even deliver voice commands.

You can enjoy audiobooks, manage calls through voice control, and more with CarPlay support.

When you use a CarPlay dashboard, the apps go from your phone to the infotainment display, offering hands-free control and a very driver-friendly interface.

As a result, you can call or text, navigate, control music, or even open apps from your phone without taking your hands or eyes away from driving responsibilities.

What Does Apple CarPlay Do?

But what does Apple CarPlay do for your phone? Essentially, it displays some iPhone apps on your vehicle’s infotainment system. This reduces the use of your iPhone while you are behind the wheel.

As long as CarPlay is connected, it overrides any functionality provided by the native infotainment system hooked up to your vehicle. So, if your car has to choose between doing one task or another, it will prioritize whatever task is native to your iPhone.

For instance, the majority of new vehicles have Bluetooth connectivity. When you make a phone call, your vehicle's built-in speakers and microphone handle audio facilitation. But when you connect CarPlay, the call is handled the same way.

The only difference? Your vehicle’s infotainment display will show a layout that looks like your phone app on your iPhone instead of whatever native setup might have been included in the vehicle’s software.

Similarly, if your car has a built-in navigation system, using CarPlay will instead default your vehicle’s infotainment system to using Google Maps, Apple Maps, or whatever other apps you have on your mobile device instead.

Note that many of the above features are available with Android Auto: the Android counterpart to Apple CarPlay. Similarly to CarPlay, Android Auto lets you beam Android apps to your car infotainment system to provide many of the same benefits.

Bottom line: CarPlay lets you enjoy hands-free control of your iPhone apps, improving your safety while allowing you to use all your iPhone functionality as you drive. It can be convenient for using navigation apps, answering phone calls, responding to texts through voice responses, and much more.

How Can You Set Up CarPlay in Your Car?

Fortunately, setting up CarPlay in your car is pretty straightforward.

First, get a cable that connects your car and your iPhone. This means getting a USB type-A or type-C cable. The cable should have a USB connector on one end and Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector on the other.

Next, determine the USB data port for your vehicle. This can be anywhere on your vehicle's center console, but most ports are labeled with USB cable icons. Plug the cable into the data port and plug the other end into your iPhone.

Then you need to grant permission on your iPhone and vehicle infotainment screen. This gives the devices permission to speak or communicate with each other. Watch for the device prompts to pop up on both your phone and the car’s infotainment screen.

There you have it. You’ve finally set up Apple CarPlay. At this point, CarPlay will automatically kick in whenever you plug in your iPhone using the same USB port. Therefore, you don’t have to go through the same permission access process again.

Turning Off CarPlay

What if you want to go back to using your vehicle’s native infotainment system? Luckily, turning off CarPlay is just as easy as turning it on. Simply unplug the cable to your iPhone, and your vehicle’s native infotainment software will pop up on the display.

But what if you want to use the native infotainment system while CarPlay is up and running? In that case, use the home or menu button on the infotainment screen to access your vehicle’s core software functions.

This can be handy if you want to use an app built into your vehicle in conjunction with an app only located on your iPhone.

What Should I Know About iPhone Compatibility With CarPlay?

CarPlay has worked with every iPhone released since the iPhone 5, which was released in 2012. As a result, recent iPhones like the iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 and older, including iPhones like the iPhone 5C, work with CarPlay.

If you have a working iPhone device, the odds are that it is compatible with CarPlay, and you can take advantage of the benefits mentioned above.

What Should I Know About Car Compatibility With CarPlay?

CarPlay began as a minimal software when it initially launched in 2014. However, it’s now much more common throughout the automobile industry. Most new cars from makers like BMW, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Mercedes, and Hyundai offer CarPlay apps specifically for this purpose.

At the time of this writing, over 600 car models support CarPlay integration. These include vehicles from practically every major car manufacturer.

You can check out the Apple Car vehicle list from Apple to show which automakers support CarPlay and which makes and models specifically include integration capabilities.

Notably, you cannot use CarPlay or Android Auto on Tesla vehicles. Instead, you'll have to use the proprietary connectivity package, which costs $10 per month.

Can You Use CarPlay in Your Current Car?

It depends on your vehicle’s make and model. The answer is no if your car doesn’t have an infotainment system.

Still, if your car has an infotainment system yet is not on the Apple Car vehicle list, you might still be able to use Wireless CarPlay in that vehicle if you purchase a secondary display that supports CarPlay connectivity.

Some examples include Intellidash Plus. Secondary or aftermarket displays go on top of your car’s existing infotainment screen or serve as a primary infotainment screen if your vehicle doesn’t already have one.

What Can You Use CarPlay With?

Now that you know how to set up CarPlay and which cars are compatible, you might want to know what apps and services work with CarPlay.

Using Apple CarPlay With Apps

Some of the best apps are compatible with CarPlay, including top iPhone features and software solutions. These include Maps, Phone, Apple Music, and Messages. Unfortunately, there’s no comprehensive list of apps compatible with CarPlay.

Still, you can use most third-party apps on the Apple App Store, provided they fall into categories like navigation, audio, and communication.

These include:

  • Spotify and Pandora
  • Audible
  • TuneIn
  • Google Maps
  • Waze
  • WhatsApp, which allows you to send messages through your voice

If you’re unsure whether a given app works with CarPlay, simply plug your phone in and see if the app appears on your vehicle’s infotainment screen.

If it shows up, odds are you can use it. However, we don’t recommend using apps like Netflix or Apple TV Plus, which require you to take your eyes off the road.

Using Apple CarPlay With Bluetooth

Luckily, Apple CarPlay does work with Bluetooth. This means you can use the CarPlay software solution without having to use any cables whatsoever: a significant advantage if you don't want to struggle with the Lightning cable setup.

Note that the setup is slightly different should you choose Bluetooth. You have to navigate through the Bluetooth settings in your iPhone and your car. But once you do that, it'll work like plugging it in.

On the downside, wireless Bluetooth CarPlay does not result in your iPhone being simultaneously charged. Therefore, you’ll have to keep an eye on the battery of your iPhone if you choose to use Apple CarPlay with Bluetooth.

Using Apple CarPlay With Siri

What about Siri? CarPlay tries to limit your distractions while you are behind the steering wheel. That’s why Siri — a digital assistant — can do many things you would typically do while holding your phone.

Siri, for example, reads text messages allowed whenever you receive one while CarPlay is active. You can then dictate a message for Siri to transcribe if you want to respond. You don’t have to take your eyes off the road whatsoever.

Aside from this, CarPlay also works with Siri, which can do many other things, such as:

  • Set calendar reminders
  • Receive GPS instructions
  • Play tracks from a music library or podcasts
  • Make phone calls

Activating Siri is quick and straightforward. Just say, “Hey, Siri,” if this digital assistant is already set up on your phone. Alternatively, press and hold the CarPlay home button on the infotainment screen on your vehicle.

Try Using CarPlay Today

As you can see, there are many ways to take full advantage of Apple CarPlay in your vehicle, whether it is already set up for this software or you need to tinker with things beforehand. CarPlay will make driving and using your apps more accessible and safer than ever.

But what if you don’t have a stellar phone to load up apps and connect to your car? Navi might be able to help.

Our Phone Navigator service links you with dozens of high-quality phone deals to find the perfect mobile device based on your budget and other needs. Check it out today!

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