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September 15, 2022  |  Automotive

How to add Apple CarPlay to your car (and why you should)

Listening to music during your morning commute is an excellent way to start your day on a high note. Still, using your phone to open a streaming app and find a song can be dangerous, as it forces you to take your eyes off the road for longer than you should. Apple CarPlay promises a safer way to use your phone while driving. We sat down with our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez, to learn what CarPlay is and how to use it.

In this article: OttoCast Wireless CarPlay Adapter, Pioneer AVH-2400NEX Touchscreen Car Stereo Receiver and TecMad iPhone Charging Cable.

What is Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay is a built-in iOS app that lets you display Apple’s operating system on your car’s dash screen. It gives you an iPhone experience but pairs down the interface to minimize distractions. CarPlay limits notifications from the apps you don’t need while making it easier to navigate the apps you do need. For example, it integrates perfectly with native apps like Apple Maps, making it easier to see the directions without looking down at your phone.

How to use CarPlay

If your vehicle supports CarPlay via USB, you’ll need to plug your iPhone into the vehicle’s USB port. It should work automatically. However, if it doesn’t work automatically, you’ll want to ensure your phone is on the latest version of iOS.

If your vehicle supports wireless CarPlay, you can set it up by pressing and holding your steering wheel’s voice command button. Ensure your stereo is in Bluetooth mode, then select your car on the CarPlay menu in your phone’s settings.

If your vehicle supports CarPlay via USB or wireless, you’ll need to connect it using a USB cable the first time. An alert will appear on your phone, allowing you to enable wireless CarPlay the next time you drive.

Why you should use CarPlay

Safety is the number one reason you should consider CarPlay. It streamlines the operating system to keep your eyes on the road. "You can set it up to work with Siri. When your car is connected to CarPlay, you can use Siri to get directions to specific places without looking at your phone," Vazquez said. "This feature is handy because you can even say, ‘I need directions to this contact’s house,’ and it can tell you where to go.”

Convenience is another reason you should consider CarPlay. It automatically drops a pin when you turn your car off. The location tracking is precise and can get you within a few feet of your vehicle.

FAQ

Q. Are there any CarPlay features people often overlook?

A. When you take a screenshot with your phone, it will screenshot both the phone and CarPlay interface. If you receive a text message while driving, you can have Siri read it to you and respond using voice commands. You can also integrate it with your iPhone’s “do not disturb” feature.

“You’ll also want to see which of your existing apps already have CarPlay compatibility," Vazquez said. "For example, Zoom has CarPlay integrations that let you take audio-based Zoom calls easily.”

Q. Are there any CarPlay alternatives?

A. Android phones have an Android Auto feature nearly identical to CarPlay. If your car doesn’t support CarPlay, you may want to consider a Bluetooth transmitter. Although a transmitter won’t give you the same functionality, it can be an excellent temporary solution that makes it easier and safer to use your phone on the road.

Q. Are there any products that can enhance CarPlay?

A. If your car only supports CarPlay via USB, you can use an adapter to enable Bluetooth CarPlay functionality. Additionally, if your vehicle doesn’t currently support CarPlay, you’ll need to replace your in-dash stereo receiver to use it.

Apple CarPlay products our expert recommends

Best Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

This features a top-notch 12-megapixel camera. The bright OLED display and polished steel frame look excellent.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best OttoCast Wireless CarPlay Adapter

OttoCast Wireless CarPlay Adapter

This unit is a great choice if you want to use CarPlay wirelessly. It’s compact and easy to set up. Some models support Android Auto as well.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Pioneer AVH-2400NEX Touchscreen Car Stereo Receiver

Pioneer AVH-2400NEX Touchscreen Car Stereo Receiver

Pioneer is a trusted brand known for making great products. This features a 7-inch touchscreen display. It’s compatible with CarPlay and Android Auto.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best TecMad iPhone Charging Cable

TecMad iPhone Charging Cable

This cable is short, so it won’t get in your way while you drive. It's affordable and durable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Nulaxy Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter

Nulaxy Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter

This is an ideal solution for those with vehicles that don’t support CarPlay. It’s available in six colors.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Best Anker Soundsync A3352 Bluetooth Receiver

Anker Soundsync A3352 Bluetooth Receiver

This lasts around 12 hours on a single charge, and many users were impressed with the sound quality and how easy it is to use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.