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What is Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay loaded on the screen on the dashboard of a car driving along a motorway

Our smartphones travel with us everywhere we go nowadays, and that includes our cars. But how can we access all the entertainment and features of our phones safely while we’re driving? Enter Apple CarPlay.

While CarPlay has been available for several years now, if you haven’t been in the market for a new car you might have missed it. Read our guide to find out whether it’s something to add to the wish list for your next vehicle.

Whether at home or out on the open road, having the best insurance for your mobile phone in place will help cover you against accidents, breakdowns, loss and theft of your device. Why not get a quick quote from Gadget Cover today?


What is Apple CarPlay?

Called the ‘ultimate co-pilot’ by Apple, CarPlay enables you to link up your iPhone to your car’s touchscreen dashboard display.

Many newer cars now have these large pop-up infotainment screens to control sat nav, music, radio and so on. Rather than using the car manufacturer’s own software you can use Apple’s instead.

Through CarPlay’s intelligent and intuitive operating system you can get the features and performance of your iPhone while driving.

It manages this by ‘mirroring’ your iPhone to the car’s display. From there you can use the car’s touchscreen, steering wheel controls or voice recognition to control the iPhone’s features.


Which phones are compatible with Apple CarPlay?

You might not be surprised to hear that if you want Apple’s operating system in your dashboard you’ll need an iPhone to do so. That said, it is available on all iPhone models beginning with iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1 or later.

If you have an Android phone, you’ll need to use Google’s rival software Android Auto. But don’t despair the basic features of the two rival systems are broadly similar.

The key difference being that CarPlay focuses on simple and intuitive functionality while the Android Auto strength is a more open platform for third-party apps and content.

A person holding an iPhone facing backwards above a clean desk

Which cars come with Apple CarPlay?

According to Apple’s website, all major car manufacturers now offer vehicles with CarPlay. As perhaps expected from Apple’s marketing and design department, the first car to use CarPlay was a Ferrari!

Fortunately, other car makers soon followed suit. Volvo, Honda, Chevrolet, BMW, Ford and Porsche are just some of the manufacturers to offer CarPlay compatibility.

Interestingly enough, Tesla is one of the few manufacturers that supports neither CarPlay nor Android Auto.

If CarPlay is something you decide to look for in a new car, keep in mind that some makers ask buyers to pay extra to unlock the feature.

But if you're not looking for a new car just yet, you can find third-party sat-nav or stereo units pre-loaded with CarPlay.

Well-known manufacturers such as Alpine, Sony, JVC, Pioneer and Kenwood all offer such units. These enable you to bring the world of cutting-edge smartphone integration even to a classic car – what a combination!

If you do decide to install the latest tech in your car make sure you have mobile phone insurance to complement your car cover.


What can Apple CarPlay do?

By accessing Apple CarPlay , tech savvy motorists can perform many of their iPhone’s functions while on the move.

As well as making calls, messaging and looking up contacts, you can also listen to music, catch up on the latest podcast series and get directions. All on your car’s large, easy-to-use infotainment screen.

If you’re an Apple enthusiast already the intuitive build and instantly recognizable icons will make you feel right at home.

Whether exploring your Apple Music and Spotify playlists, or navigating via Apple’s mapping system you’ll find it easy with CarPlay. All of these apps have been redesigned to feature simplified interfaces, less text and fewer icons. This makes them less likely to distract you while you’re behind the wheel.

Indeed, despite the fantastic graphic capabilities of infotainment screens you shouldn’t be surprised to hear there aren’t any games or video apps for you to use. Even while parked. After all, safety should still be the number one priority of any driver.

A great selling point is that the bulk of CarPlay’s features can be accessed using Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. As not all cars come with voice control this is a really user-friendly feature.

It works alongside messaging apps to let you listen to and send messages to contacts. It even lets you navigate through your music and podcast playlists so your full attention is kept on the road ahead.

As iPhone users have moved towards using their device for navigation, CarPlay really adds to that offering. Apple Maps is installed as standard on all iPhones and devices.

You can also now use Google Maps and Waze with CarPlay. From suggesting landmarks, showing live traffic information and displaying turn-by-turn directions you have all the functionality of a conventional sat-nav system.

With online maps being constantly updated you’ll always have the most accurate information. Remember though, maps accessed through your iPhone rely on network coverage and data, or Wi-Fi to keep you on course. If you lose signal, you’ll have to find it again before your map updates.


How to connect Apple CarPlay

It’s easy and straightforward to connect CarPlay to whatever model iPhone you have. If your car doesn’t have wireless connection then plug your iPhone into the USB socket using a certified lightning-to-USB cable.

Then follow the simple on-screen instructions. And you’ll only need to do this once. Your iPhone will remember the connection you’ve made to CarPlay. So, the next time you connect it will start working automatically.

Once you’re connected, your vehicle’s infotainment screen will display the CarPlay compatible apps from your iPhone. You can then use the screen, steering wheel or voice control to use the CarPlay apps.

A coupe driving with the girl on her mobile phone

Best Apple CarPlay apps to download

While CarPlay won’t have access to the number of apps available for your iPhone there are still plenty you’ll find useful. The vast majority of them fall into one of three categories: audio, navigation, or messaging.

As a result, you probably won't end up installing too many of these apps, since they overlap a lot. Here are some of the most essential.

  • While we love Apple Music it’s always good to have an alternative music app for those long trips. As well as playing some of your playlist favourites, get Spotify to suggest some new music. You never know, you might hear the next big thing while waiting in traffic.
  • BBC Sounds. With over 80,000 hours of incredible BBC audio available there’s sure to be something to tickle your ear drums. From music and current affairs to comedy and science, dive into the extensive BBC catalogue. If science is your thing try the latest episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox. Or if you’re a history buff brush up on your knowledge with A History of the World in 100 Objects presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. Truly a wealth of fascinating and entertaining programmes.
  • CarPlay obviously has its own messaging system through your iPhone but it’s also good to add WhatsApp. Just as with all other messaging apps it uses Siri to read and dictate messages. Hopefully you haven’t been sent anything that might embarrass you or your passengers!
  • Google Maps. Complete with live traffic information and automatic rerouting, Google Maps is a familiar way to navigate unfamiliar roads.
  • Whether catching up on the latest blockbuster or something a bit more highbrow, Audible from Amazon will help keep your literary credentials up to date. Playback controls are designed to be simple and take up the whole screen so you don’t get distracted while driving.
  • Pocket Casts. If catching up on the latest episode of your favourite podcast is your guilty pleasure then this well-regarded app could be the answer. Pocket Casts is the world's most powerful podcast platform with excellent search and discovery tools. You might even find your next obsession with its human-curated podcast recommendations.

As we carry our phones with us 24/7, you might be tempted to continue listening even when you’ve reached your destination. Just make sure you’ve got mobile phone insurance in place in case of accident or theft.


Updates in iOS14

In the latest operating system, iOS14, Apple have given CarPlay users even more options. To start with, you’ll get a choice of five cool new background wallpapers.

If you’re driving an electric car, you’ll get notified of the nearest charging stations or car parks. Plus Siri will also be able to send voice messages, so you can tell your friends and family your ETA without having to touch a thing.

An iPhone placed on a white desk

Mobile phone safety on the road

We all know driving while using a handheld mobile phone is dangerous and illegal in the UK and throughout the EU.

Hands free calling is permitted when used safely through technology such as Bluetooth or in-car voice activation.

Connecting your iPhone to your infotainment system through CarPlay is a sensible way to ensure safe use of your iPhone while you’re on the move.

To make sure you’re driving safely with your mobile here are some top tips to follow.

  • Never use your iPhone as a hand-held device. We know how tempting it is but don’t fiddle with your iPhone while driving. And even if you use a hands-free device it doesn’t mean it’s safe to make or receive a call.
  • Never send messages, emails, look up contacts or use the internet while you’re driving. Using Siri to do this is the only way to go.
  • Plan your trip in advance. If you’re using your iPhone for navigation then pre-set your destination into your phone and make use of turn-by-turn voice guidance. If you need to change your route then pull over when it’s safe to do so.
  • Do not call in heavy traffic, poor road conditions or bad weather. Even when using CarPlay you might become distracted and make a costly mistake. Driving in such conditions requires all your concentration.
  • Do not take part in complex or emotional conversations. Both business and personal calls can sometimes get difficult. If this happens then you must suspend the call and take up the conversation later.
  • Use message services to answer calls. Do you really need to be contactable? Why not take a short break from the rat race? Set calls to divert to a voicemail or answering service if necessary. You can always pick them up at your next stop.
  • Pull over safely when stopping to use your phone. If you stop to answer a call or use your phone then make sure you choose a safe, convenient and legal place. Be aware you could cause a dangerous hazard to other road users and pedestrians.
  • Use CarPlay features to reduce effort. Really get to know the features of the CarPlay system and apps before setting off. You don’t want to get frustrated or confused while driving.
  • Tell callers you are driving. Always let the person you are speaking to know you are driving. They might decide it’s safer to call back later.

Wherever your journey takes you, make sure you’ve got mobile phone insurance in place before setting off to protect your device.


Mobile phone insurance from Gadget Cover

Gadget Cover’s team of insurance specialists will always find you a mobile phone insurance policy that gives you the best cover at the right price.

Relying on our smartphones for so much more than just calls and texts means life can get tricky without them!

That’s why policies arranged through Gadget Cover can include protection for your devices from accidental damage, liquid damage, theft, breakdown and unauthorised usage. Policyholders can also choose to protect against loss for an extra premium.

But it’s not just the hardware we cover. If your gadget is accidentally lost or stolen, we will refund the cost of unauthorised transactions made using your e-Wallet facility up to a maximum of £500.

If you’re taking your phone abroad, cover is also automatically extended to include use of your phone anywhere in the world, up to 180 days in any one year.

Get a quick quote for mobile phone insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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