First Look at Apple Car Play

I rented a Buick recently, and when I plugged my phone into the USB port to charge, I was surprised to see the CarPlay icon come on. At first I was a little confused, using my phone to navigate to a hotel, but when I could only see written directions, and not a map, I suspected the CarPlay integration had taken over.

At first I was a bit annoyed, after all, I could see the radio on the car screen, but no map on my phone and navigating was tricky. However once I realized how to change to CarPlay on the car screen, I could access the map there, which was much easier to see than my phone.

Over a couple days, I experimented with CarPlay, getting and sending texts in the car with Siri, which was much easier than accessing it on my phone, especially for having messages read. Accessing music (native or Spotify) worked well, though there were some limitations with Spotify, such as not being able to easily pick a particular song in a playlist.

Very few apps were integrated, mostly the native ones with Spotify and Pandora for me. I wish Google Maps were integrated as I like that one better than Apple Maps, but it wasn’t a big issue for me. I suspect that will change over time, especially as more companies put CarPlay in vehicles and developers incorporate the APIs.

The ergonomics are good, overall, however having to reach and access a touch screen on the dash is a bit cumbersome when you’re driving. Especially when there isn’t tactile feedback. It’s too easy on a touch screen to hit the wrong icon and then have your attention leave the road. I really think that CarPlay will need some hard button integration to really be useful for drivers. The voice access is OK, but I’ve found with road noise and sometimes needing a stiff pronunciation from me, it’s not a great system.

Overall I’m impressed. I didn’t think much of the idea when it was announced, but having used it, I like what I see. There’s work to be done, but this is one of the best car/phone integrations I’ve seen in terms of working well and also removing temptations for the driver to focus on their phone. I’m hoping that Android Auto works just as well and we find ways to remove some phone distractions in the car.

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