Sometimes we hear about connectivity features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But what is it exactly? Are there any advantages to using these functions over the ones your vehicle already offers? Here are some explanations.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are free mobile applications that have been designed precisely to better connect an Android or Apple phone to a vehicle’s multimedia system.
Beyond Bluetooth technology, these applications make it possible to reproduce – in part – the interface of your smartphone directly from the multimedia system, or if you prefer, the on-board computer which allows you to play music, display the navigation map or adjust certain vehicle settings. In other words, instead of relying on the functionality of your vehicle, this software allows you to find certain applications on your phone, provided that their use is legal while driving.
You will find, for example, your music applications (such as Spotify or Apple Music), your navigation software (Google Maps or Waze) and, even, certain weather, information or entertainment applications. These apps let you stay in a familiar digital environment that resembles your smartphone, even while driving. Almost every new vehicle on the market today offers these technologies as standard, but some models are still missing.
Operation and applications
For the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps to work, your vehicle must first be compatible with them. It is possible to consult the list of vehicles equipped with this technology by consulting the dedicated websites of Google and Apple.
If you are an Android user, just download the Android Auto app on your device. For Apple users, no download is necessary.
There are two ways to connect these apps to a vehicle: wired or wireless. The option that remains the most common in the industry is the corded function. Just plug your phone into one of the vehicle’s USB connections and the app will automatically activate. Be aware, however, that some vehicles will require you to plug your phone into a specific port. Rely on your owner’s manual for all the details.
It’s also important to mention that before you can sync these apps to certain vehicles, some phones must already be connected through Bluetooth technology.
When a phone is connected to a compatible vehicle, the multimedia system will then suggest you switch to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Once the steps are completed, you will see the interface of the multimedia system change to that of Google Android or Apple iOS.
For vehicles equipped with the wireless function, the telephone must first be connected to the vehicle using the Bluetooth function. The vehicle will then offer you to connect via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay without having to connect a wire. However, some models will require you to activate the Wifi function on your phone.
Advantages and disadvantages
The main advantage of these technologies is that they allow you to stay in the same digital environment as your smartphone. In a world where mobile devices have become essential tools for everyday life, the fact that it is possible to reproduce the telephone interface within the vehicle’s multimedia system thus facilitates the use of the system.
These apps can even be used to add functions to your vehicle. For example, if your car is not equipped with a navigation system, you can use a mobile application already installed on your mobile device to guide you. Because of this, an older car could install a terce audio system that will incorporate Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
In addition, some vehicles have complex multimedia systems that are not very intuitive to use. Using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can in some cases simplify a vehicle’s system. Finally, certain text messaging applications sometimes prove to be more user-friendly through these interfaces than those of the manufacturer. But these apps are not perfect. Some consumers have complained about their compatibility with certain vehicles. They also pull a lot of cellular data. For example, if you activate the Google Maps function through the Android Auto application, it will use your phone’s internet connection. So make sure you have a plan that is able to support the demand.
Also note that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have the reputation of collecting a lot of personal information. This is also why automobile manufacturers, such as BMW and Toyota, have long been reluctant to include them in certain models.
In addition, since the wireless feature was introduced, there have been several reports of phones disconnecting without notice. As of this writing, the wired functionality of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay remains the most reliable.