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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.

The overall look and feel of the CarPlay system is nearly identical to the icons you'd see an an iPhone, so the learning curve is nearly non-existent, which is a major positive for iPhone users.

The Phone app is simple, although fishing through the various menus and sub-menus should only be done when the car is stopped (unless you have a strong desire to get pulled over). If you tap on the CarPlay app on the phone, Siri will ask if you want to call someone. If you have any voicemails, Siri will tell you they're in your inbox, and can distinguish whether they've been listened to yet. Overall, the CarPlay app on the phone is robust enough to handle most phone calling needs, unless you are dislike using Siri.

CarPlay music
Apple's Music app in CarPlay. Credit: Apple

CarPlay apps are a mixed bag

The Music and Podcast apps are great ways to avoid using Volkswagen's outdated built-in software. CarPlay takes the great look and feel of the Music app and shows it on the car's built-in screen. There are minor annoyances, though. I'm a huge fan of the shuffle feature, but no matter what song I start from in shuffle, the second song is nearly always the first song alphabetically in my library. (This happens to be Ed Sheeran's The A Team.) Although it's a good song, I only want to hear it now and then.

I have also come across a slightly different annoyance; if I ask CarPlay to shuffle an artist, it sometimes does so via Apple Music. With Verizon service in my area being significantly worse than both AT&T and T-Mobile, this is not an option I want to use while driving. That said, it is nice that everything I want to hear is available at a touch of button via CarPlay.

Using the Maps app has been something a loaded topic ever since Apple's map technology debacle. Admittedly, it is a lot better now than when Apple first switched from Google Maps, but it has a way to go to match its chief rival. Neither Google Maps nor Waze -- which says it has no plans for a CarPlay app -- is available for navigation, meaning Apple pretty much has the monopoly. That's not really a surprise, since we are talking about CarPlay here. Still, there are limits to the usefulness of Apple's walled-garden approach.

Carplay Maps 
Apple's Maps app in CarPlay. Credit: Apple

The result: I'm forced to get around Massachusetts' sub-par traffic conditions using Maps. Sure, it's getting smarter; it now knows when I am going to work and when I am on my way home. But it needs work.


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