No matter how you analyze it, using your smartphone while driving is never a good idea. Since driver distraction is responsible for more vehicle collisions than any other factor, it stands to reason that you and your passengers, as well as other drivers and pedestrians, would all be safer if you would choose driving as your primary focus whenever you are behind the wheel. Nevertheless, your smartphone with all of its entertainment, communication, connectivity, and navigation functions is really hard to ignore while driving (without putting it in the trunk). Even if you switch it off it is almost impossible to leave it in your pocket or purse because it is (after all) the center of your universe.
Good news smartphone loving drivers – Apple and Google are making it safer to use your smartphone while driving. Both Apple CarPlay and Google Auto allow your smartphone to interact with your vehicle’s infotainment system when you climb aboard the vehicle. Either of these systems will eventually provide instant access to communication, navigation, music, text and internet messaging, and more without requiring the driver to look at their smartphone. Currently the Apple CarPlay requires the use of a Lightning Cable but they promise that in the near future connection will be wireless and automatic.
Since Chevrolet is one of the first automakers to offer Apple CarPlay as a factory option, I took the opportunity to test it out (with my new iPhone 6s) in a hot 2016 Corvette Stingray. I took the Google Android Auto for a test drive earlier this fall and found it to be easy to initiate, very compatible, and simple to use in a similar production car.
Allow me to address the most obvious questions first. The Apple CarPlay will only work with iPhone models. The compatible iPhone models are the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s, and the iPhone 6, 6 plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. If you own an Android personal communication device, it will not be compatible with the Apple CarPlay. You will need the Google Android Auto. Will these two systems eventually offer overlapping compatibility? Possibly, but beyond what is on the market right now, your guess is as good as mine.
Apple CarPlay is actually an app that is supported by your vehicle’s primary infotainment system. Once you plug your iPhone into the car (using the Lightning Cable), the CarPlay icon will appear on the LCD screen in your dash; after that a familiar (whatever you have on your iPhone) set of IOS-style app selections will appear on the screen. The app icons will function in much the same manner as they do on your iPhone with the home key located in the lower left corner. The home key will return the user back to the app grid and holding the button will launch Siri, a popular voice activated informational app that can enlighten you about everything from artichokes to astronauts. One thing that I found particularly appealing about the CarPlay system is that it exhibited none of the overheating issues that I experienced when using an Android with its dedicated interface. Also, the iPhone battery charges when connected to the vehicle and remains functional so that a passenger may use it while the driver is relying on the vehicle interface. In Android Auto, the Android is disabled when it is connected to the vehicle.
With the CarPlay system app availability is limited by design. Entertainment apps that could draw the attention of the driver are not supported by CarPlay for obvious safety reasons. Navigation, communication, and limited messaging apps are supported by CarPlay along with a handful of music options.
Overall, Apple CarPlay is worlds better than factory apps of the past and present.