Apple’s built-in system to bring iPhone apps to a screen on a car’s dashboard remains in its infancy. A few years ago we made a decision on a specific model car vs. another manufacturer’s car purely based on CarPlay. You can read all about details of such a product from a hundred sources online, but there’s nothing like getting behind the wheel to try it out.
Not all CarPlay cars are created equal, of course, but improvements show up each year in new car models, and most cars within the class where we shop have both CarPlay and Android Auto. My first experience with CarPlay was not a good one.
First, CarPlay requires a Lightning connector with USB-A. That means your iPhone must come out of your pocket or bag. Then you’ll need to anchor it somewhere near or on the dashboard so it doesn’t fly around while you drive. Plug it in and select CarPlay and a few basic applications show up on the car’s dashboard screen. None of this works via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It’s a Lightning cable or nothing.
Second, Siri is pitiable, too, and only delivers the basics. Phone, Maps, Messages, and a few other controls. Apps? The selection is pitiable. The basics. Phone, Maps, Messages, Music, Podcasts, Audiobooks. Most new cars also have steering wheel controls to answer incoming calls, read messages, control Music, and so on.
Just as with iPhone, iPad, and Mac, Siri listens to any voice, so inadvertent Siri requests by others in the same vehicle can make changes happen without consent.
To be fair, Siri is improving on macOS and iOS, and some of those changes will show up on CarPlay because Apple recently allowed third party applications in iOS 12. Already, Google Maps, Facebook’s WhatsApp, Google Waze, and a few others are available with CarPlay support.
Also new in iOS 12 are Siri Shortcuts? Do you see a good opportunity for Siri Shortcuts in CarPlay. Unfortunately, Shortcuts for apps that work in CarPlay will only work for applications that make it to CarPlay
That’s the bad. Few apps, not much Siri, and no Wi-Fi.
CarPlay and Siri make it straightforward to listen to and respond to text messages in Messages. Siri’s voice powers Maps. The voice controls that work in the few apps available generally work without too many problems but so far CarPlay isn’t exactly a gold mine of artificial intelligence and user friendly usability.