What is Apple Carplay?

November 30, 2022 by

Apple CarPlay is a technology system that connects an Apple iPhone to a car’s infotainment screen, mirroring the phone and allowing you to use and control many core smartphone apps through the car’s interface rather than the phone.

This article will talk you through the ins and outs of Apple CarPlay, talking about topics such as how to use Apple CarPlay, what apps you can use with it, whether you can add Apple CarPlay to an older car, and more besides.

If you have an Android phone, meanwhile, you’ll want to head over to our guide on Android Auto.

How does Apple CarPlay work?

As highlighted above, Apple CarPlay connects an iPhone to your car’s infotainment screen, which essentially becomes an extension of your phone. The phone’s screen will be non-functional when CarPlay is connected.

You can also use the voice assistant Siri when your phone is connected via CarPlay, allowing you to use the system hands-free. This is done by pressing the car’s voice recognition button (typically found on the steering wheel) when CarPlay is active, and speaking when the voice prompt tells you to.

You can also use the car’s touchscreen to control CarPlay, meaning there is no need to touch your phone at all, allowing you to stay on the right side of the law – although normal rules about driving with due care and attention apply, obviously.

In some cars you may be able to or need to use the car’s rotary controller or similar input device to operate CarPlay, while the steering wheel buttons can also be used in some models.

How do you use Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay comes in wired and wireless forms. Wired is by far the most common, and requires you to plug one end of a phone cable into a USB socket in the car, and the other end into your iPhone. Note that in some cars with multiple USB ports only one will be configured for CarPlay, and plugging into a different one will not work.

Some (though not many) cars also have wireless CarPlay, which requires no plugging in of leads, and sees the phone connect to the infotainment screen and CarPlay via Bluetooth. Cars with wireless CarPlay will also typically have a wireless charging pad for your phone, allowing you to keep its battery topped up as you use it.

What apps are compatible with Apple CarPlay?

Not all apps work with CarPlay, but ones you are likely to want to use when driving do.

These include:

The phone app
This allows you to make and receive calls

Google and Apple Maps, plus Waze
These provide route guidance

Apple Music, Podcasts, music streaming such as Spotify
For all your in-car entertainment needs

Messages and WhatsApp
While you can’t tap out messages for safety reasons, CarPlay will read them out and allow you to dictate them via voice recognition. You can also send voice messages.

Does my car have Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay was first released in 2014 (the Ferrari FF was the first car to feature it), but it wasn’t until around 2017/18 that it started to become commonplace.

First, Apple CarPlay will only work if your car has a relatively modern colour infotainment screen (though one or two cars show CarPlay via digital dashboard dials), so if your car doesn’t have this you know from the off it won’t have CarPlay.

CarPlay is now a standard feature on a huge number of cars, and Apple has a list of compatible vehicles.

Can I add Apple CarPlay to an older car?

In some cars CarPlay is an optional extra, and if you buy a second-hand car with a compatible infotainment screen but without CarPlay specified, it may be possible for an approved dealer to activate the system – though this is by no means a given.

In some instances it may be possible for a third party company to install a new operating system together with CarPlay onto an infotainment system, though this would likely void any remaining manufacturer warranty, and we would also not be able to vouch for any such company nor their work, so would advise proceeding with caution here.

It is also possible to buy a new aftermarket infotainment system with CarPlay that can be installed in your car in place of its original infotainment system or stereo, although this may not be possible if your infotainment system controls some of your car’s functions (EG driving mode or suspension settings, ambient lighting etc).

Apple CarPlay FAQs

What are Apple CarPlay’s newest features?

Apple CarPlay sometimes changes when a new operating system is released for iPhones, with subtle improvements made to app functionality and on-screen appearance.

Is Apple CarPlay safe to use?

Anything that takes your attention from the road increases risk, and any in-car functions should only be used sparingly, and when it is safe to do so.

What iPhone models are compatible with Apple CarPlay?

The earliest model of iPhone that is compatible with CarPlay is the iPhone 5, with all subsequent models having the functionality. Your iPhone will also need to be running the iOS 7.1 operating system or later.

Can I use an Android phone with Apple CarPlay?

No. Apple CarPlay is only compatible with iPhones. If you have an Android phone the car will need to have Android Auto, but the good news is that most cars that have CarPlay also feature Auto.

Can I watch TV on Apple CarPlay?

No. For obvious safety reasons, you cannot watch television in your car via Apple CarPlay.

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