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Going mobile with Apple's CarPlay (and a VW)

Alex Burinskiy | Nov. 9, 2015
When it comes to software like CarPlay and Android Auto, integration with on-board systems is key.

Apple CarPlay
Apple CarPlay.  Credit: Apple

It's no secret that when you buy a car, you get whatever already-out-of-date technology is built in. Not only that, but that technology -- likely developed two or three years earlier -- will become increasingly archaic as time passes. The result: In many cases, that overly expensive technology package is a waste of money. Knowing this, I recently bought a Volkswagen Tiguan R-line (before the recent emissions cheating scandal erupted). Despite that scam, the company still makes one hell of an SUV (and no, I did not buy diesel).

As of the 2016 model year, most car manufacturers offer vehicles that support Apple's CarPlay or Google's Android Auto, including Volkswagen. And as a longtime Apple user, I have to say, CarPlay is incredibly good. It's no wonder it's expected to gain popularity over the next few years.

Integration issues for VW

The Tiguan itself is great -- speedy, great handling, stylish in a low-key German way -- but with CarPlay, I find that it has an odd lack of features. One of the big upsides of having CarPlay is that when you plug your iPhone into the USB port on the car, you can hit a button on the steering wheel and activate Siri. Or rather, you should be able to do that. Sadly, for my VW, the only button on the steering wheel gives you any kind of feedback works only with the car's built-in software, not with CarPlay. And it only works over Bluetooth. And when you plug in your phone to access CarPlay, the Bluetooth connection is disrupted.

Can you see where I'm going here?

Possibly the most annoying issue is when you activate voice commands and the car asks you whether you want to make a call or a perform a variety of other tasks. You speak a command, the system pauses and thinks...and then it tells you: "You need to pair your phone for Bluetooth." So you pair your phone for Bluetooth...and the second you plug it into the car to get CarPlay going, it disconnects the Bluetooth. I tried this with Android Auto, as well. Shocker: the same problem occurs with it.

CarPlay itself is a gem

Apart from that, the CarPlay system works very well. I have all of the features that I need for driving on the built-in screen, and the system is very responsive. To access Siri functionality on the screen, you hold the home button in the bottom left corner, and it provides you with the same information that you would get on your phone, but without the visuals. So if you want to get to get the latest scores for your favorite team or find out what the weather is going to be like, Siri will tell you. Since the VW's steering wheel controls don't work, this can be a tad cumbersome.


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