CarPlay is Apple’s official moniker for the integration of its iPhone into the dashboard. And it has been a long time coming since the iPhone was first launched back in 2007. But maybe the firm from Cupertino, California felt that in-car technology is only now catching up. Or, it could be argued that Apple had to act before Google snapped up every car manufacturer with its own new Android-based system.
So what is CarPlay, and what will it be like to use? Firstly, it will work with Lightning-enabled iPhones (iPhone 5, 5S and 5C) running the latest iOS 7 operating system and the processing power required for CarPlay will come from the iPhone itself. Plug in your iPhone via a USB connection and the car’s screen will mirror the functions of your handset, so you can enjoy it more safely and conveniently via the in-car controls. The iPhone’s Siri voice assistant will play a major role here, allowing access to contacts, calls or voicemails. If a text message is received on the move, Siri will read it out aloud and even allows the driver to compose a reply via speech-to-text recognition.
All good stuff, but nothing ground breaking, you might say. Where CarPlay will become far more interesting is through its integration of iOS applications into the driving experience. Apple Maps will provide navigation, along with traffic conditions, but also anticipate destinations based on the contacts, emails, texts on the phone, or recent trips. iTunes music, podcasts and audiobooks will all be accessed via the car’s steering-wheel mounted controls, or by using the Siri functionality.
While you may already have a recent iPhone in your pocket, what cars are compatible with CarPlay? Well, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo had CarPlay enabled vehicles on their show stands at the Geneva motor show, while BMW, MINI, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota have also signed up. One notable exception from this list is Audi, the premium German manufacturer, which has a long-standing relationship with Google, and used Geneva to show-off its latest Audi TT, complete with gloriously wide-screen Google Maps. In fact maps may be Google’s biggest advantage in the fight for your dashboard, as Apple’s own Maps application got off to a notoriously rocky start, badly damaging the company’s reputation.
As the time approaches when our smartphone is used to power our car’s infotainment system, an interesting question arises. Do we choose our phone first and our car second, or base our choice of mobile phone on the vehicle parked on our driveway? As a motoring enthusiast you may think this sounds preposterous, but for many people, the choice between the latest iPhone or Android device, could be more important than the badge on the nose of their car.