Apple and Google’s are fighting to become drivers’ favourite auto platform. In this post, we’ll explain what these systems do and which of them may be the best option for you.
What are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and what are they for?
Until relatively recently, driving with a good ‘co-pilot’ was key to your trip running smoothly. Having someone in charge of maps, orientation, and communications could mean the difference between a fun road trip or the car journey from hell.
In the digital age, it’s now possible to hand over this role to technology, thanks to new systems designed to help users when they get behind the wheel. We’re of course talking about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, owned by the two main smartphone operating system providers, Google and Apple, respectively.
These products allow you to adapt your smartphone for driving by projecting a simplified version of a phone interface onto the vehicle’s instrument panel and giving you the ability to operate certain basic vehicle functions hands-free.
In addition to making driving with a phone safer by preventing distractions at the wheel, both systems offer high functionality and a wide variety of applications to vehicles that otherwise wouldn’t have such options, such as navigation systems and streaming music.
Which are the main apps you can use?
Google hasn’t made things complicated with the Android Auto. The most outstanding feature is its compatibility with Google Maps and music apps. Plus, it gives you the option to use your phone for what it was originally designed for, making calls. To sum up, Android Auto will be your GPS, radio and hands-free.
Google gives preference to its own applications, so Maps, Play Music and Hangouts are the three main apps you’ll find. Still, Android Auto also supports Spotify and WhatsApp.
Apple CarPlay has similar features, although not all apps are compatible with Apple’s driving mode. Most of the apps are company-owned and seamlessly integrate with calls, GPS navigation and music.
You can use Apple Music to access music on iTunes stored on your iPhone, although it also supports Spotify. As a default navigation system CarPlay uses Apple Maps, which is included as standard on the iPhone, although the latest versions now support Google Maps. Lastly, in addition to being able to send iMessages and texts, CarPlay fully supports WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business. What’s more, you can send and receive messages with Siri using simple voice commands.
How do you use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?
Both CarPlay and Android Auto are becoming more popular in the auto industry and there are few new vehicle models that don’t come with at least one of these systems pre-installed.
CarPlay starts off with a slight advantage when it comes to the initial connection to the vehicle as the system comes pre-installed from iOS 7.1 on all 5th-generation iPhones and upwards. All you have to do is make sure Siri is activated and voice assistance has been set up.
Android Auto, on the other hand, needs to be downloaded and installed from Google Play Store. When you connect your device for the first time, you’ll have to sit through a short presentation of its features plus give all the routine location and access-contacts authorisations.
The connections work in much the same way. The most basic versions require the phone to have a direct USB connection to the vehicle, although newer cars will let you pair it wirelessly via Bluetooth on both systems.
Once connected, the screen of your phone will lock, although you’ll still be able to see some notifications and exit the app. Your car screen will completely change to the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay environment, as if it were your phone’s screen. From that point you can start using the different compatible apps through said screen, voice commands and/or steering wheel buttons.
What mobile devices support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay?
All mobile devices currently sold with both operating systems are compatible with their corresponding in-car app.
For older models, you can only use Android Auto if your phone runs with at least Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google recommends that the device have Android 6.0, although this isn’t essential.
CarPlay, on the other hand, only works with the iPhone 5 and newer models, as long as they use the latest software versions (7.1 or higher) and have a Lightning port. Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, now works with third-party apps in CarPlay on iOS 13 or higher.
It’s been pretty tough deciding which one of these two systems takes the cake. Even though they share a good part of the same features, both are very different.
CarPlay is more straightforward and easier to use, while Android Auto gives users the option to enjoy more apps from other developers. Although, as we’ve seen, both systems come with the most popular ones, the freedom provided by Android Auto to install and choose between several apps for the same function is an attractive feature.
On the other hand, the Android platform clearly shines in the quality of its navigation system. The years of experience of Google Maps are evident when using the app; although Apple Maps puts up a good fight, at least in terms of its streamlined performance.
Then again, it is Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, who offers a superior experience compared to Google’s counterpart. While not necessarily less accurate, you still get the feeling that the Google Assistant is somewhat less evolved.
In any case, we’re sorry to tell you that not many will have the luxury of choosing between the two. The phone you have and the system your car uses (assuming it doesn’t include both), will limit your choice.