72 hours with CarPlay: Test-driving Pioneer's new aftermarket system

Over at Macworld, Susie Ochs spent a few days using one of Pioneer's new after-market CarPlay systems with her iPhone. Her thoughts?

CarPlay is cool, and if I was buying a car that had it, I would be stoked to use it—but I'm not going to upgrade the stereo that's in my 2006 Subaru to this aftermarket Pioneer system.For starters, CarPlay can't do anything my iPhone doesn't do on its own, and obviously the iPhone has a lot more apps. I really missed using Waze for navigation—I could still set up a Waze route on my iPhone's screen and the directions would play over the car's speakers, but since it's not a CarPlay compatible app it can't show the map on the stereo's screen.Add in the high aftermarket cost, and the hit-and-miss results from using Siri for everything, and CarPlay doesn't seem worthwhile just yet. But navigation and hands-free communication work well, and it's nice to have an Apple-designed interface on a car stereo. Since it's so easy to update the software and apps on your phone, CarPlay should keep improving. It's already better than other infotainment systems I've tried—and a lot safer than trying to use my phone while I drive.

I haven't yet played around with CarPlay—dealer-installed or after-market—but Susie's experiences seem pretty much on the money. Limiting CarPlay systems to Apple's default apps makes it a tough use case for folks who prefer Waze or Google Maps to iOS's mapping program, and I have yet to meet a car touchscreen I've been impressed by.

So while I hope that the car manufacturers put some care into CarPlay integration, I'm skeptical. The CarPlay software is really nifty, but there's a reason Apple likes to build hardware and software together—it works a lot better that way.

In fact, when I got my new car, I intentionally went with a Bluetooth-capable model with no touchscreen (and lots of touch-friendly knobs and buttons). It may not have CarPlay, but it has my fake version, "CARDISPlay": a charger, mount, and "Hey Siri" on my iPhone 6.

It works pretty well, even with high road noise, and I find myself hardly ever needing to tap or swipe on the device. And when I do swipe—to pan around a map, for example—it responds quickly, as iOS devices are wont to do.

If you prefer having a big touchscreen in your car, the Pioneer (or a built-in system) may well be the way to go. On the other hand, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are practically tablet-screen-sized... Adding one of those devices together with Hey Siri and a good mount might be a decent alternative.

Source: Macworld

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

18 Comments
  • So if I played a song from hypem or soundcloud, or anything that plays audio, would it play the music while displaying track info, but keep the ability to scrub/use my iphone? That's how I use it with my Kenwood deck and it works well. I am just wondering if they kill the ability to use your iphone while its connected for 'safety' and force you to use the interface on the deck.
  • Which car mount did you go with? I'm looking for a couple for 2 iphone 6 and an iPhone 5s. Sent from the iMore App
  • I got a couple of proclip mounts for the 6 plus. Works great.
  • I also just installed a Proclip for my iPhone 6, very high quality, easy install, and is positioned perfectly on my dash.
  • I'm currently upgrading my mount to Scosche's MagicMount; I've heard great things about the Pro Clip, though!
  • About to put this new Alpine ilx007 in my car!!! :D
  • I totally agree. CarPlay seems a huge downgrade from simply mounting your iPhone.
  • strongly suggest checking out Tesla's touchscreen. Extremely impressed by it!
  • There are a bunch of problems with CarPlay, although I like it overall. (1) Standard functions of the radio aren't put into the Carplay interface. So, for example, if you have XM radio, you are switching into and out of the radio's interface to change music. It is very un-Apple like and almost like Windows switching into and out of Metro mode or something. Apple should have made additional "apps" available for these types of functions. (2) They aren't letting in others - e.g., Waze. My Pioneer has AppRadio, but that Waze only works off of Android in the AppRadio mode. (3) More advanced HU features are also out of the picture - e.g., my minivan has rear video screens, but I can't easily stream from the Carplay interface to them. Bottom line - Carplay is great if you use Apple Maps & iTunes/Spotify exclusively in the car. Otherwise it is a nice to have, but hardly essential. @Sunny - Tesla's screen is cool, but everything is on there - like lowering windows. Just too many gestures. I like buttons and knobs sometimes.
  • So I don't get it. What was the point of this post?
    All you did was say, "Hey someone at Macworld wrote an article and did all the work and I'm gonna give a quick opinion about something I have no experience with."
    This bullshit is the epitome of link bait and iMore should know better and is usually above this sort of crap.
  • Link bait is something which tries, typically unscrupulously, to get people to link to it. (It baits links.) This — totes obvs — isn't that. This is closer to link list, something very common in the Apple community — a way to share and help drive attention to the cool stuff other sites are doing. In other words, the opposite of link bait. Likewise, we offer our opinions because this is our beat. It's the stuff we write about day in, day out. Serenity's opinion on this, for example, is incredibly valuable to me. So, I get both the benefit of finding out about a great article I can read elsewhere, and some additional, expert thoughts on it to lend context when I do. And thanks for giving me an excuse to write that. Your tone might have been hostile, but love up for the results!
  • Thanks for the clarification. Now, do you not feel the title was a bit misleading? I read the article expecting that by the end of it she would have had an opinion on her individual CarPlay experiencce after all the title states it was being test driven and the author listed is not the one who actually used the product. So where is the line drawn?
    Link bait, link love, sausage links. Whatever it is or is not called the is an issue with this. I trust Serenity Caldwell's opinion as well. She was my go to for stylus reviews because she actually used them. I'm not bashing her or iMore. I'm bashing the practice of adding to the noise which is what this does. There is no substance in this post.
  • I have to agree with skrutzen on this one. The title implies the author (an Imore contributor) used Carplay for 72 hours. It does not say, here's a link to macworld about carplay and my opinion on what they report. Don't get me wrong, I really, really like imore. I am not a hater, and also not a fanboy of apple or all that other stuff or techie uberboy. I am just an average guy that comes to imore for the best information on the latest and greatest apple news that is reliable and helpful. But this article is really neither of those two things. It is Serenity's opinion on someone else's experiences. How does that help me? As mentioned Rene, imore gives opinions, which I do value. This may be an opinion, but it is based on a very limited amount of information that the expert has pulled from someone else. I come to imore for imore information, and imore opinion, which is based on imore expertise. If I wanted macworld's opinion, I would go to macworld. I also saw the post from Serenity that the point of the article was for us to macworld. Is that the point? I guess I could go to macworld instead of going to imore. I doubt that is what you want? Also, I question the use of ? in this article. The sentence before the macworld article, 'Her thoughts?'. Are we not sure if they are her thoughts or not? But as skrutzen states, I would appreciate less noise.
  • The point was to send people over to Macworld who might like reading about the Pioneer CarPlay system. You'll notice their story is linked in the first sentence.
  • Terrific advice, thanks Serenity! Sent from the iMore App
  • Well I said this over on the Macworld article but I'll repeat here. After reading that review, I'm glad I didn't do a spontaneous purchase. Her article pointed out the frustrations of the poor touch screen and for that much money, NUH UH... wouldn't put up with that. Too, my principle two car apps--TomTom and Overcast--are not there yet. TomTom was at one time a pretty big partner with Apple. (Car Kit demo, anyone?) Not sure why they aren't in the game for CarPlay. Marco Arment seemed to indicate on Twitter that the ball is in Apple's hand to allow apps on to CarPlay and he's looking in to it. Can't remember the other manufacturer's name who just came out with a unit. Starts with an A, I think? Anxious to see a review on that unit, but definitely sounds like Pioneer is not the way to go.
  • I'm pretty sure that's Alpine you're thinking of. We haven't seen it in our hands yet, but we'll let you know when we (or others) do! http://www.imore.com/alpine-announces-its-first-aftermarket-carplay-system
  • 6Plus works for me great. I will not buy my next car without CarPlay though as I think Apple will eventually allow Waze and make Siri local and get CarPlay work over bluetooth. One extra issue I would have today is with physical placement of most head units I am used for my phone to be very visible I can see it without taking the eyes off the road most head units are too low for my liking...