Apple CarPlay: This is how the iPhone becomes a passenger

Apple CarPlay: This is how the iPhone becomes a passenger

Driving a car and paddling on the iPhone at the same time is not compatible. Under the name CarPlay, Apple has its own standard with which you can safely use your iPhone as a driver. But that only works if you have a compatible car. We'll show you the features of CarPlay, how you can retrofit it and which advantages and disadvantages you should know.

If you are behind the wheel, you should definitely keep your hands off your cell phone, because distraction is the cause of many accidents. But smartphones offer lots of useful functions for drivers. The solution are standards such as Apple CarPlay. This means that the iPhone can be used much more safely in the car.

Technically speaking, CarPlay is an Apple system that consists of two components. Car manufacturers have to integrate one of them into the vehicle; the main component is brought along by the iOS software on the iPhone. In a vehicle equipped with Apple CarPlay, you can then conveniently operate your iPhone using the car's infotainment system .

You can navigate with Apple Maps or Google Maps, make hands-free calls or listen to music via Apple Music.

iPhone as a passenger

Apple markets CarPlay as a technology to make the iPhone the perfect passenger in the car. For this to work, you have to connect your iPhone to the car's infotainment system. This can be done either by cable or, more recently, "wirelessly" . But that and also the CarPlay support in general depends on the equipment of the vehicle.

The first models with built-in Apple CarPlay were occasionally available in 2016, from 2017 you can realistically hope for support. Older vehicles definitely don't have CarPlay.

Apple CarPlay compatibility cars

The big competition for Apple CarPlay is called Android Auto and, unsurprisingly, comes from Google. The idea is the same, with Android Auto you can use Android smartphones in the car. There is no comprehensive system with which both Android cell phones and iPhones can be connected. So automakers have to incorporate both, which many do.

On an Apple status website you can see the current status of the car models supported by CarPlay, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW; there are currently over 600 models . Important: CarPlay is often not part of the basic equipment, but is an extra that is subject to a surcharge. So checks carefully whether a vehicle really has CarPlay in the equipment list.

Apple CarPlay compatibility iPhones

Most iPhone users should be on the safe side, because CarPlay has been around for a few years and users usually change their smartphones more often than their cars. Starting with the iPhone 5 , which received iOS 7.1 in 2015, you are provided with basic CarPlay support. Support is of course on board with all iPhones currently sold, after all, iOS has also developed significantly.

Set up CarPlay

Apple CarPlay is not only interesting if you are or want to become a car owner. It's also practical in rental cars or car sharing, because then you can use CarPlay quickly and easily. An explicit setup is not necessary. CarPlay in cars is usually only possible via a cable connection. So you need a USB cable with a Lightning connector to connect your iPhone to the car. It's best to plug in the original charging cable that came with the iPhone.

Turns on the infotainment system in the car and connects the iPhone with a USB cable. A CarPlay screen should then appear very quickly. In order to use CarPlay, however, you have to explicitly unlock your iPhone once and consent to its use. CarPlay apps then pop up on the car's touchscreen and you're good to go.

Apple CarPlay apps and features

The idea of ​​Apple CarPlay is convincing: Instead of installing any infotainment systems permanently in the car, which are quickly outdated anyway, you just build an interface to the iPhone. You can then use the iPhone apps on the car's touchscreen.

But there is an important restriction here : The use in the car does not work for all apps by a long way; rather, the apps have to be specially made ready for CarPlay by their developers and Apple has to give permission for this.

And the OK from Apple is only available for selected apps. In the beginning, Apple strictly limited the apps allowed for CarPlay, but there are now various areas from which CarPlay apps can come, such as audio apps, messengers, navigation systems, car manufacturer apps or apps for special services such as finding parking spaces or eating deliver.

In addition to some apps from Apple itself, such as maps, music, telephone or messages, classics such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Maps, WhatsApp, Waze or ntv are now also supported.

Compatible apps for CarPlay


You can see which of your apps are compatible with CarPlay in the settings under "CarPlay". Select the car and then "Customize". All apps that work with CarPlay are in the list and you can bring them to the CarPlay home screen by selecting them.

You cannot set many details in CarPlay, which is probably typical for Apple. A switch in the CarPlay settings on the iPhone allows the connection that has been set up to be used even when the iPhone is locked. This is useful because you don't always have to unlock the smartphone. It is then sufficient either to plug in the USB cable or, with CarPlay Wireless, to get within range with an installed iPhone.

Retrofitting CarPlay: costs and accessories

Buying a new car just for Apple CarPlay, very few people are likely to have that much enthusiasm and money on the high edge. You can get cheaper accessories for retrofitting to Apple CarPlay . Manufacturers such as Alpine, Blaupunkt, JVC or Pioneer have suitable car radios on offer.

You just swap the radio or have it done in a car repair shop. What can be installed depends on the space in the console. Most retrofit systems for Apple CarPlay require a double DIN slot. Compatible devices bear the "Works with CarPlay" logo and are available from around 300 euros.

Operate CarPlay

There are two ways to operate Apple CarPlay, manually or by voice . The compatible apps from the iPhone appear on the car's touchscreen, for example. You can control the functions there with a tap of your finger. But be careful, it's not as dangerous as holding an iPhone in your hand, but typing on the touchscreen can also distract you from traffic.

Some manufacturers therefore install their own controllers or control buttons for CarPlay on the steering wheel. The second way is particularly interesting for drivers, controlling CarPlay via Siri . You can then control GPS and music with simple voice commands.

Apple CarPlay at Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW

The German car manufacturers did not hesitate long to join CarPlay. BMW was even involved in a previous project with Apple when they developed a solution that made it particularly easy to integrate the iPod into vehicles. Mercedes was also among the first to partner when CarPlay was first shown to the public in 2014.

The German manufacturers have all been represented with their models at CarPlay Support since 2016 . Often you had to order it as an extra for an extra charge. Meanwhile, more and more models from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW have CarPlay as standard equipment.

Apple CarPlay not in the Tesla

The support for CarPlay is currently quite good. Most manufacturers offer it at least as an option. But there are exceptions. What may be surprising at first glance, Tesla does not offer any support for Apple CarPlay. The electric car pioneer uses its own system and keeps third-party providers outside.

Apple CarPlay Wireless

Wireless is cooler with the iPhone anyway, just think of WLAN, Bluetooth, Apple Pay or induction charging. It's similar with CarPlay, although most vehicles actually still require a USB cable to connect to the iPhone. But CarPlay Wireless has been around since iOS 9 , which first makes contact via Bluetooth and then works via WLAN. To configure, you have to hold down the voice control button on the steering wheel and pair it with the iPhone.

If you only have Apple CarPlay in your car with a cable, you can retrofit CarPlay Wireless using an adapter. They are seen again and again for offers below 100 euros, but often you have to shell out a hefty 150 euros for the fun.

Apple CarPlay Android

Apple CarPlay only works with iPhones. If you have an Android device, CarPlay won't do you any good. However, Google is implementing the same idea with Android Auto and many car manufacturers are now ready to integrate both systems. So it doesn't matter if you switch from an iPhone to Android or vice versa, you can still use your smartphone in the car.

Apple CarPlay benefits

The car has to be prepared for Apple CarPlay so that the iPhone can be integrated into the infotainment system, but the main burden is borne by the smartphone. The frequent updates that Apple and the app providers deliver ensure that the system is always up-to-date. It is also good that there are now a lot of accessories to retrofit CarPlay in older cars. Car manufacturers' support for CarPlay is also quite good.

Apple CarPlay disadvantages

CarPlay is not yet part of the basic equipment of many car manufacturers. Sometimes heavy surcharges are required and the CarPlay function is linked to expensive infotainment systems. Another disadvantage: Apple is no longer as restrictive when it comes to CarPlay apps, but the range is still manageable.

A little more diversity wouldn't hurt here. There is also room for improvement in terms of hardware support. CarPlay usually ends up on the main screen in the car. Second or head-up displays are left out. Especially when it comes to Apple cards, it is annoying that Apple has some cool features at the start, but it feels like it won't bring them to Germany for a long time.

iPhone as a car key

CarPlay is just the beginning, the iPhone is also trying to position itself in other areas around the car, including car keys. Instead of carrying around a real key, the car key is completely digitized and displayed on the iPhone via an app.

It actually has nothing to do with CarPlay, but many CarPlay users shouldn't be averse to the idea of ​​always having their car key with their iPhone with them in the future. The wallet app, in which car keys can be stored, works as a digital key board.

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