The Rise of In-Car Entertainment Technology
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto represent nothing less than a revolution in ICE (In-Car Entertainment) technology. Aside from the advent of the touchscreen, there have been few major, game-changing advances in car audio over the last 20-30 years. That’s why Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are such a big deal.
So which platform should you get in your next SUV or crossover? This article takes a look at both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and tells you everything you need to know to decide.
What is Apple CarPlay?
Essentially the Apple CarPlay technology makes your car’s screen an extension of your iPhone. It lets you play music from your iPhone using your vehicle’s head unit, text hands-free as you drive, and use Apple Maps navigation on your car’s screen. More than 800 vehicle models offer Apple CarPlay now. You can also buy an aftermarket device to use Apple CarPlay if your vehicle’s head unit isn’t compatible.
What Else Can Apple CarPlay Do?
Beginning in 2021 Apple added the ability to remote start your vehicle with CarPlay. It also integrates with other native iPhone apps, like Calendar and many third-party apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal and even Audible audiobooks. This is one instance where Apple beat Google’s Android platform to the punch. Apple CarPlay was released on March 10, 2014. Launched for the iPhone 5 and later models running iOS 7.1 or newer, about a year ahead of Google’s Android Auto.
Advantages of Apple CarPlay include:
- Total compatibility with iPhone
- Well-integrated with Apple’s ecosystem
- Simple, clear, concise interface
- Works with many native iOS apps (Android Auto only works with Apple Music)
What is Android Auto? What Makes It Different?
Android Auto is similar to Apple CarPlay. You might call it “Google’s answer to CarPlay”. Android Auto launched on March 19, 2015, about 1 year after Apple CarPlay. The current version requires a device running Android 8.0 (Oreo) or later. Android Auto does essentially everything CarPlay does in terms of allowing you to access music streaming apps, navigation and other apps. Some people prefer the way Android Auto handles notifications as they are easier to dismiss than with Apple CarPlay. Chances are if you have been using an Android phone for long, Android Auto’s interface will be more familiar to you.
What Else Can Android Auto Do?
By virtue of Google’s more open attitude toward third-party software, Android Auto works with more third-party applications than Apple CarPlay does. It’s the same paradigm that applies to the phone platforms themselves. Apple offers a bit of a tidier, more consistent user experience and better integration with native apps – but you pay for that with less compatibility with apps made by third-party developers. Will this matter to you or not? It depends. Before committing to Apple CarPlay, you should check to confirm that the third-party apps you want to use with your SUV’s screen interface are compatible with CarPlay.
Advantages of Android Auto include:
- Compatibility with most Android phones (many more devices than CarPlay)
- Works with Google Assistant, which is considered more capable than Siri.
- Works with a wider range of third-party applications than Apple CarPlay
- Allows you to use other navigation apps more easily (CarPlay only allows Apple Maps)
Should I Get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?
Should you buy a BMW or an Audi? Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. There’s no clear winner here. But the decision between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto might not be that hard. Simply choose the standard that matches your smartphone of choice.
That said, many newer vehicles support both of these standards. Ideally, this will become the norm since it gives us all more freedom to choose. Many people are diehard Apple or Android users, but with all of the things that seem to conspire to keep you locked into one smartphone OS or the other, wouldn’t it be nice if your vehicle wasn’t one of them?
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