CarPlay: Everything you need to know!

CarPlay (Image credit: iMore)

There are many, many options when it comes to buying a car, but if you own an iPhone, you might want to add one more to the list: whether your new vehicle supports CarPlay, Apple's voice-activated assistant.

What's new in CarPlay?

June 4, 2018: Apple announces support for third-party navigation apps

At WWDC 2018, Apple announced it will bring support for third-party navigation apps to CarPlay in iOS 12. We'll update you when we get more details!

What is CarPlay?

CarPlay is Apple's voice-activated system for the car: The goal is to keep you connected to your digital life without having to constantly look at a screen or interact with buttons. It uses Siri and your iPhone to showcase a simplified home screen on your car's touch display; you can also interact with CarPlay by pressing the Voice button on your steering wheel.

How is CarPlay different from Siri Eyes Free?

Siri Eyes Free is more of an extension of Siri than a full interface with added functionality. CarPlay lets you use some of the apps from your phone in your car, like the music players, messaging, phone and map app. Siri Eyes Free lets you speak in natural language to control basic functions but doesn't do as much as CarPlay currently.

Is CarPlay currently available?

Yes, but there are some restrictions. CarPlay is not currently available in all cars just yet. Apple notes that more than 100 vehicles currently support it, with more being added regularly. There are also a number of aftermarket head units that you can install in your current vehicle to bring support, but that can get expensive quickly.

What iPhone do I need to own to make it work?

To be able to use CarPlay, you will need an iPhone 5 or newer to get started. That currently includes:

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 5

What cars support CarPlay?

There are more than 100 vehicles that support CarPlay. CarPlay is generally an upgrade option, so if you are looking at new vehicles, be sure to ask which package you need to get the functionality. If you are content with your current vehicle, you can check out Pioneer, Kenwood, and Alpine for head units that will add functionality to your current car.

Here are all the cars that currently support Apple's CarPlay

How do you know if the car you want to buy has CarPlay?

You will need to check the options on your car. Odds are that if you are driving an older car, it doesn't have CarPlay built-in, but many 2016 and newer models come with it. Most of them offer it as an upgraded package over the base model car; often, you're looking for a "media screen" or "navigation" package. While car-shopping, you can double-check by plugging your phone into the USB port (if the car has one) and seeing if any CarPlay messages pop up.

What if your car doesn't support CarPlay?

Depending on the radio configuration in your current vehicle you may be able to install an aftermarket unit in your car. Pioneer, Kenwood, and Alpine are all making head units that you can purchase and add to your current car to gain CarPlay support. You will need to have a double din slot available in order to get this done. Below are some of the models that you can add, and you may want to consult with an installation professional to be able to order the correct wiring harness and other accessories.

What countries is CarPlay available?

CarPlay will be available in a number of countries for drivers to take advantage of. As with most Apple products and services, we will likely see this list expand over time, but the current countries include:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Korea
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • UAE
  • UK
  • U.S.A.

How do I use CarPlay?

Using CarPlay is actually quite simple: The interface is very similar to iOS, with large icons on the screen, similar menus, and the like. You just tap on the app you want to use, navigate through the menu, and find what you are looking for. There is also a Home button in the lower corner that lets you return to the main screen.

You can additionally press and hold the on-screen Home button (or a button on your car's steering wheel) in order to access Siri for voice commands. This makes messaging and calling contacts even easier, as well as finding just the right song to complete your driving experience.

CarPlay can also be controlled in certain ways right from your phone — but only if you're a passenger. You can use the connected phone to select contacts to call, change the music that's playing, and more.

How do I add third-party apps to CarPlay?

You don't actually install any apps to your car or CarPlay: They live inside your iPhone. When you connect to CarPlay, your car will show you any installed apps that you can use. Most compatible apps are ones that stream music, podcasts, or sports, including Spotify, MLB at Bat, Pandora, Overcast, NPR One, and more.

Any other questions?

Have any other burning queries about CarPlay? Let us know in the comments.

Jared DiPane

Jared started off writing about mobile phones back when BlackBerry ruled the market, and Windows Mobile was kinda cool. Now, with a family, mortgage and other responsibilities he has no choice but to look for the best deals, and he's here to share them with you.