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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: How Useful Are They?

Apple CarPlay Review

With CarPlay and Android auto apps, both Apple and Google are trying to make it easier to use our phones in our cars and to avoid the distractions that they bring. Each of these apps brings some of the phone’s capabilities to the car’s display. Be forewarned that neither app displays all your phone apps in the car. Instead they only offer a small subset of the phone's functionality. And for each to work, the manufacturer needs to support it; with few exceptions, it can't be added to existing cars.

The benefit of both apps is to let you use your phone’s cellular connectivity and some of its basic functions, while eliminating the need to fiddle with your phone while driving. They also allow you to use the Siri and Google Now speech recognition. How useful they are depends on the car you buy and the options on the car. I ran my tests on a 2017 Chevy Volt using an iPhone 6 and a Samsung Android Note 5.

How the apps interface with your car and how useful they are may differ, depending on the car’s design. For example, in the Volt, neither product’s maps functions were as good as the car’s built-in navigation, but they would be useful if you chose not to buy navigation and the car came with a large display.

Apple’s CarPlay for iPhone is available on many new models of cars from Honda, GM, Hyundai, Audi, Kia, Ford, Mercedes and Acura. A complete list is here

Google’s Android Auto is for Android phones, and is available on many of the cars listed above. Often cars that come with one, come with the other. The full list is here.

After downloading the free app from the respective app store, you need to plug your phone into the car’s USB connector. The products do not work with Bluetooth.