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CarPlay Features

CarPlay in-dash display

Apple recently debuted their new CarPlay technology at the Geneva Motor Show. With Siri onboard, Apple’s new automotive technology makes for safer driving with hands-free operation.

Formerly known as “iOS in the Car”, Apple’s CarPlay exposes a subset of iOS features to the driver. With Siri integration, one can play music, get driving directions, and even send text messages all while keeping an eye on the road. Let’s take a look at CarPlay features, system requirements and manufacturers that will support the technology.

CarPlay Features

Powered by the iPhone, CarPlay offers select iOS features. Don’t expect to play Infinity Blade while driving. The apps supported by CarPlay make sense and offer the essentials to a driver — maps, entertainment and communications. Specifically, the first demo version of CarPlay features Maps, Phone, Messages, Music, Podcasts, Beats Music, iHeart Radio, Spotify and Stitcher. Apple is allowing third-party developers to be a part of CarPlay, however their presence is tightly managed. This makes sense — allowing any app on a in-dash display is a huge liability.

Hands-free operation is central to CarPlay. Virtually every feature is controlled by the user’s voice. Some functionality is simply not available, due to safety concerns. For example, when you dictate and send a text message, you are unable to read it on the screen. Siri can read it aloud, however. While some may cry foul that Apple is controlling the user experience, safety is always a concern. They can’t enable technology that encourages distracted driving.

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Siri is just one way to interact with CarPlay. Depending on the car and technology package, users can use steering wheel controls, dashboard buttons and even a touch screen.

CarPlay can do some pretty amazing things. For example, you can ask Siri to find the nearest Italian restaurant and it will present choices and give you directions. The ability to dictate and send text messages is useful and innovative. Perhaps emails could be dealt with in the same manner, however, they tend to be more involved and can lead to distracted driving. It’s not a technical limitation.

There’s also everything you would expect. Users can tell Siri to play music from a variety of sources, not just the iTunes ecosystem. With an iPhone connected to an LTE network, CarPlay users can enjoy iTunes Radio and other streaming services.

System Requirements

CarPlay works with the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C. The new technology takes advantage of the lightning connector, as well as specific features of the A6 and A7 chips.

Manufacturers Offering CarPlay

CarPlay will be initially offered by Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo in 2014. Future partners include BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Jaguar, KIA, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. Partnering with manufacturers is something Apple does surprisingly well for a corporation that some complain is “closed” and “limited”. I also expect some after-market solutions capable of integrating CarPlay into virtually any automobile.

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CarPlay with Siri can send receive and read text messages

Why Use CarPlay?

After the debut of CarPlay, some have commented that it’s not anything new. After all, automobile manufacturers have been integrating technology for some time. The advantage of CarPlay is that it is an extension of your iPhone. It will play music that’s stored on your iPhone. If you send a text message, the message is sent from your iPhone, preserving its history. You may have driving directions pre-configured on your iPhone, which are ready to go when you get in your car. Many people have their lives on their iPhone. It only makes sense to integrate this into the car, rather than have two autonomous systems.

People already know how to use CarPlay. That’s a huge advantage. There is nothing new to learn. If you are familiar with Siri and iOS, CarPlay is an extension of these technologies.

CarPlay is also upgradable. I own a car with a in-dash computer and, apart from mapping data, it can’t really be upgraded. It’s technically possible, but the controls are bound to physical buttons on the steering wheel and dash. Furthermore, there’s only so much the built-in computer can do. Improvements would require upgrading the hardware, which is built into the car. That’s not a great idea.

One major advantage of CarPlay is that the in-car component is really just a screen and conduit. The iPhone is the brain. You can upgrade the software on your iPhone, and even get a new iPhone. CarPlay will improve with each upgrade. It’s a brilliant system design. After all, people will often keep a car for 5-10 years. In that time, they may upgrade their iPhone several times. The technology in my car is only a few years old, but it is already obsolete. I have to buy a new car to upgrade it, or pursue some after-market solution. Even if your in-car computer is software-upgradable, the hardware limits upgradability. When new wireless networking standards emerge, a built-in computer can’t be upgraded. That’s the brilliance of CarPlay. The iPhone does the heavy lifting. It can be replaced. That’s far easier than upgrading built-in hardware.

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Apple’s CarPlay has catapulted the Cupertino tech giant into the lead of automotive computing. The next step may likely be your home and livingroom. With improvements in Apple TV on the horizon and hints at home automation, Apple is destined to become an even larger part of many people’s lives. Let’s face it — the iPhone’s sales have plateaued. Apple is overdue for defining new categories of products. 2014 is going to be an exciting year for those who use Apple technology.


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