What is Apple Carplay?
In-car infotainment systems are always changing. Apple’s Carplay is the company’s answer to In-car infotainment system. According to Apple’s website, CarPlay is a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone in the car. CarPlay takes the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving and puts them right on your car’s built-in display. You can get directions, make calls, send and receive messages, and listen to music, all in a way that allows you to stay focused on the road. Just plug in your iPhone and go.
Carplay features Siri Voice control. The idea is that by using Voice controls you can keep your hands on the wheel and still take advantage of your virtual assistant. The iOS 9 Apps have been reimagined for the Car scenarios. It makes things simple. By tapping on the voice control button on your steering wheel, you can activate Siri. If you car is equipped with Carplay controls and a touch screen, you can use the controls on the touch screen.
By integrating Carplay, you can have Siri take dictation for your messages, call your contacts and have Siri read out your messages. The setup also integrates seamlessly with your other Apple Apps such as using GPS and directions. Have Audiobooks or podcasts on your iphone. Carplay can read them out to you. You can also use the overcast App to get the best out of your podcasts. Siri performs well in this use case. When you bring up Siri, the car audio and the HVAC system turn down automatically which provides a better experience.
Does Apple provide the Carplay Hardware?
It is important to note that Apple doesn’t provide the hardware for Carplay. The Auto manufacturer provides the hardware and Apple’s software provides the integration services. Apple’s hardware is usually very sturdy and well designed. In this instance, you are at the mercy of the auto manufacturer, which means that the Carplay experience in an Audi is probably going to be far different from than that of a Chevy Impala. Things will be different, if ever Apple launches its own electric car! You can still explore and invest in a decent off market Carplay hardware.
Carplay essentially uses your iPhone to provide the services. The interface on the car’s touchscreen has some similarities to that of your iOS devices. It is still icon centric and you can see the various icons on a 4 by 2 grid on the touch screen.
The challenge is that the Carplay feature is only available with newer vehicles from some of the vehicle manufacturers. If you drive an older model vehice and you still want to take advantage of Carplay, there are still options available to you. So you are driving a older Ford – 150 and want to explore the choices. Here you go yoU apple fAN! There are quite a few after market options out there for you to explore. We will point out the most talked about ones in this article.
Two of the best alternatives come from Pioneer. Yes the same Pioneer that helped you in the 80s with upgrading your car stereos to hi-fi CD players. The first of the models offered by Pioneer is the
Pioneer AppRadio 4 SPH-DA120 – 6-Inch Capacitive Touchscreen Receiver
This is one of the high end models available from Pioneer, priced at $450 – $470 dollars. The model comes with a 6-Inch high resolution touchsceen display, built in Bluetooth for hands free calling and audio streaming and is compatibe with iphone 5 or later. The unit supports AppRadio Mode functionality, has MirrorLink and Siri Eyes. The product comes with the GPS antenna and a wiring harness for Pioneer (this specific radio). You will want a wiring harness adapter that can plug directly into your OEM system without cutting any wires. The unit integrates very well with your steering wheel controls. The unit also supports Google Play and Amazon Prime music. So if you have a prime subscription, this is a great feature. You can also hookup a back camera with this unit and show off as a seasoned parallel parker! You can explore the Esky EC135-05 Waterproof High Definition Color Wide Viewing Angle backup camera that attaches to your rear license plate.
Pioneer SPH-DA120 Smartphone Receiver w/ 6.2″ Display Apple CarPlay
This is a slightly larger screen from Pioneer that supports Apple Carplay. Priced slightly lower than the previous model at $454, it has all the integration features of Apple Carplay with built in Bluetooth. It also has Siri Eyes Free, Android Music Support, Pandora, FLAC Audio Support and On Screen Access to Compatible Apps. The unit does not come with a Backup camera system.
If you are looking for an unit without Apple Carplay but with good integration for your iphones, you can take a look at the pioneer Pioneer AVH270BT Double DIN/BLUETOOTH/DVD/USB/AUX/BASIC WITH BLUETOOTH Car Receiver that is priced moderately at $187.
Pioneer also provides a larger 7 inch model with built Carplay that is priced at a whopping $750 dollars. The model comes with a WVGA resistive touch screen display. The model also supports features from Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, Mirror Link, Aha Radio and Dual zone.
The other usual suspects in the Car Infotainment Systems have their offerings as well, which leads us to KENWOOD.
The premier edition from KENWOOD offers two distinct models that support Apple Carplay. With a screen size of 6.95’’, the Kenwood DDX990S offers a premium choice starting at $749. Kenwood touts this as a full featured multimedia receiver that supports both Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The model includes Bluetooth, HD radio and is also Sirius XM ready. Where this unit differs from that of the pioneer models mentioned above is that it provides a HDMI input for full mirroring of Android phones. Now if you are a family with split loyalties between Android and Apple, this unit provides for both the camps. To change from an Android phone to an iphone all you need to do is simply plug in. No changes in settings are required. The unit comes with a resistive screen which is high quality glass on glass with pretty good contrast. The available HDMI port also can take input from an Apple TV unit. I have never felt the need to watch video on my car screen but hey there is always an option if I want to use it.
The other eXcelon option available from Kenwood is their DDX6902S model. This is a little smaller in size 6.2’’ inch screen but essentially has most of the features available on the DDX990S. This is priced at about $650.
Kenwood also makes available a mid range model that supports Apple Carplay. This is the Kenwood DDX6702S, the 6.2” priced at $391. This model comes with Bluetooth, HD Radio and Sirius XM. The unit also has a built in amplifier that is rated at 22 Watts RMS. Much like the high end Kenwood models, the screen is a touch screen and you can also integrate a backup camera system very easily.
Last but not the least are the offerings from Alpine. Their Alpine ILX-007 model, priced at $549 offers Apple Carplay integration features. This model sports a 7” LED WGVA Display and the unit works with iphone 5 and later models. The unit, however does not come built in with Satellite radio and you have to use the Aux input or use an app on your iphone to get this. Much like some of the other available units, you can integrate this with a rear camera system such as Rydeen CM1. Interestingly, the unit doesn’t have a built in Bluetooth.
What to expect in the future?
If Apple is serious about staying in the In-Car infotainment system business, it will need to do more in order to attract customers. In late 2014, Apple filed a patent 8868254, according to which Apple Carplay could unlock or start car as you approach the vehicle. The idea is not really new as other car manufacturers provide this feature via the new car remotes. The other patent that was filed showed a possible use of a 3D Camera with CarPlay. What is important is that Apple is looking at expanding the options around Carplay. As electronic integration between the Automobile and the handset become seamless in the future, it will also open questions around security of the system. How easy or hard is it to hack into one of these set-ups. My guess is that since the iOS is a pretty secure operating system, it will make it difficult for hackers to breach data on your setup and steal personal information.
As the auto industry moves into the direction of Autonomous vehicles, in-car integration platforms will become more and more important and will play an essential role in creating value for the customer that is not driven by cheap plastic mug holders and other accessories from the auto manufacturer.
Is it Worth spending the dollar?
It depends. The Carplay technology from Apple has been around for just a few years now. If you are used to using Siri for much of the phone work such as voice dialing, setting reminders, drafting messages etc, this is definitely a choice to consider. If you are looking for the technology primarily to just use as a GPS device to provide you driving directions and voice calling, you may want to re-think. Popular map applications such as Waze are still not supported via Carplay units. Furthermore the price of these units are pretty staggering to start with so if you are not an avid user of the iphone features and listen to regular local FM channels, you may want to wait till more cost effective solutions are available.
Some of the units are also priced high because they offer both Carplay and Android Audio. If your household primarily uses Apple phones, then the incremental value via the offering of Android is lost however if you decide to sell the vehicle it might be valuable to have both the Carplay and the Android option for the buyer to use.
How many times have you driven in the highway to see the person on the next lane texting or using the iphone while driving? Safety is one of the most important aspects that we sometimes tend to not put enough value into while shopping for an infotainment system.If you happen to be that person who is on the phone or communicating while driving, this is definitely something you should consider.