Apple CarPlay & Android Auto: Why You Want Them in Your Vehicle

First, we had radios. Then tape decks. Then tape-deck adaptors for your Discman…fast forward to today, past Bluetooth connectivity, and we have cellphone mirroring, the ability to project your phone’s screen onto your car’s touchscreen. Apple and Google are the two main tech companies who’ve developed it. We’ll talk about the difference between Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, explain why you want each feature in your next new vehicle, and let you know how you can make that happen.

Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay is for people who use an Apple smartphone. It projects a simplified version of your phone’s screen on to the in-dash touchscreen. iPhone users should find it easy to navigate menus, because they mirror ones displayed on their phone. This means you can call someone, send a message, use navigation, and more.

You can also use Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, to do the same for you, all hands free. Apple CarPlay is compatible with iPhone 5 or newer. It also offers support for some third-party apps, such as Waze and Spotify, through CarPlay. Apple CarPlay is available now on over 600 models.

Android Auto

Android Auto is for people who use a smartphone that runs on the Android platform. Like Apple CarPlay, it projects a simplified version of your phone’s screen on to the in-dash touchscreen. With icons identical to the phone, Android users can listen to podcasts, check the weather, navigate to their destination, or text their kids from the touchscreen in their vehicle. Just like Apple, Google offers Google Assistant, which can recognize voice commands to do all those things, too.

Google also offers third-party apps like Waze and Spotify. Android users running version 10 or higher will have Android Auto ready to go when plugged in to an equipped car, whereas users with version 9 or lower will have to download the Android Auto app. Android Auto is compatible with over 500 vehicles.

How to Make Sure Your Next Vehicle Is Equipped

The mainstream introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only really started in 2017. With technology like in-dash touchscreens, a car manufacturer must redesign or significantly refresh a vehicle to change the touchscreens enough to incorporate the apps. In addition, the advertised numbers above show that more vehicles carry only Apple CarPlay.

However, far more manufacturers have been including phone mirroring in their vehicles since 2018. If a model you are interested in buying is not equipped with the phone mirroring system you need, ask your dealer anyway. They might be able to tell you if one is in the works and when the manufacturer plans to launch the new vehicle. It might be worth it to wait.

Buying Used? Here’s What to Look For

If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in your next used vehicle, you won’t find it in too many older vehicles yet. The technology is simply too new. It will have to be 2018 or newer, depending on the manufacturer and the model. Double-check with your salesperson that the vehicle is equipped with it, because some manufacturers only offer the apps on higher trim levels of vehicles. These features will help you by streamlining the call process, with navigating your way with your phone, as well as bring hands-free features with well-known digital assistance into the car.