What is Apple CarPlay?

Want to stream music and use your iPhone apps on your car’s infotainment screen? Then you need Apple CarPlay.

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By Cazoo editorial team

Apple CarPlay is fast becoming a must-have feature on modern cars. In this article, we’ll tell you what it is, what it does, how to use it, and which cars are set up to use it.

What is Apple CarPlay?

In-car entertainment has come a long way over the years. The days of four-track recorders, tape players and CD multi-changers are behind us, and in the 2020s the vast majority of people stream music, podcasts and other content from their smartphones.

A simple Bluetooth connection to your phone will let you play music through your car’s sound system, but Apple’s CarPlay software makes things much easier – and safer. It essentially lets you mirror your phone’s screen on the car’s infotainment display, meaning you can play music or podcasts and use navigation apps or a range of other software without having to touch your phone.

You can use CarPlay to make and receive hands-free calls and to use the Siri voice assistant. Siri will read texts and WhatsApp messages to you while you drive, and you can reply to them by just speaking.

You can connect your phone with a cable, and some cars let you connect wirelessly

How does Apple CarPlay work?

CarPlay connects your phone with your car’s infotainment system and displays your apps on the car’s infotainment screen. You can then operate your apps in the same way as you would use your car’s in-built systems, using a touchscreen, a dial or the buttons on the steering wheel. On touchscreen systems, it’s almost exactly the same process as using your phone.

Although not every car has CarPlay compatibility, it’s becoming more common as a standard feature and most models made in the past few years will include it. You can use a cable to connect your phone to a USB socket or – on some cars – you can connect your phone wirelessly using both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

What do I need to use Apple CarPlay?

In addition to a compatible car, you’ll need an iPhone 5 or newer, running iOS 7 software or newer. An iPad or iPod won’t be compatible. If your car doesn’t support wireless Apple CarPlay, you’ll need a Lightning cable to connect your phone to the car’s USB socket.

If you have an Android phone, then CarPlay won’t work for you – you’ll need a car equipped with Android Auto, which is a similar system. Many cars that have CarPlay also have Android Auto.

CarPlay is available across many different makes of car

How do I set it up?

On most cars, setting up CarPlay is easy – just plug in your phone and follow the on-screen prompts on both the car and the phone. Cars that let you connect either via cable or wirelessly will ask you which method you want to use.

If you have a car that only works with wireless CarPlay, you’ll need to press and hold the voice command button on your steering wheel. Then on your iPhone go to Settings > General > CarPlay and select your car. If you have any problems, your car’s manual should explain any model-specific requirements.

Which cars have CarPlay included?

There was a time when we could list all the CarPlay-enabled cars, but as of early 2022, there were more than 600 models that include it.

The system started to become widespread in cars made from 2017 onwards. Some models still don’t include it, but that’s becoming rare. Still, if you think you want it, it’s best to check any car you’re considering to see if it’s a feature.

The car I want doesn’t have CarPlay fitted. Can I add it?

You could replace your car’s standard sound system with a non-manufacturer unit that has CarPlay functionality. Replacement units start at around £100, although you may want to pay extra for a professional installer to fit it for you.

Does every iPhone app work with CarPlay?

No, not all of them. They have to be designed for use with the software, but a lot of the most popular apps are compatible. These include Apple’s own apps, like Music and Podcasts, but also many third-party apps, including Spotify and Amazon Music, Audible, TuneIn radio and BBC Sounds.

Perhaps most usefully, various navigation apps work very well with CarPlay, including Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze. Many drivers prefer these over the car manufacturer’s own sat-nav systems.

You don’t need to worry about setting up individual apps for CarPlay – if they’re installed on your phone, they’ll show up on your car’s screen.

Can I rearrange the apps on my car’s screen?

Yes. By default, any compatible apps will show up in CarPlay, but you can put them in a different order on your car’s screen, or even remove them. On your phone, go to Settings > General > CarPlay, select your car and then Customise. This will show all the available apps with the options to delete them or add them if they’re not already included. You can also drag apps to reorder them on your phone screen and the new layout will show up in CarPlay.

Can I change the CarPlay background?

Yes. On your car’s CarPlay screen, open the Settings app, select Wallpaper, choose the background you want and then hit Set.

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