Apple plans to release iOS 13 to iPhones, iPod touch & # 39; s and iPads this fall (under the guise of the new iPadOS). It has many improvements under the hood, but the most dramatic revision comes to Apple & # 39; s interface in the car, known as CarPlay.
CarPlay was first introduced four years ago and apart from the possibility of using third-party card apps last year, it has not really changed since then. But in iOS 13 it gets a major overhaul making it much more competitive with the similar Android Auto platform from Google. I tested the new CarPlay in beta form and am immediately impressed with the changes, although Apple still needs a little bit of work to do before it is publicly released later this year.
The biggest upgrade is the new multifunctional dashboard from CarPlay. This allows you to view a map, what is currently being played in the car's stereo and the next piece of guidance to your destination, all in one place. Believe it or not, prior to this, CarPlay requires bouncing between different screens to see a number while getting directions to a destination. This new design makes it much easier to see that information at a glance and then quickly focus your eyes on the road where they belong.
Currently, external audio apps, such as Spotify, Audible or Pocket Casts, can display what is currently being played in the new dashboard, but the map view is locked on Apple Maps. It is not clear whether third-party mapping apps can use it when iOS 13 is officially launched, but I hope it can.
For its part, Apple has extensively revised its own Maps app for iOS 13, and those improvements are also visible in CarPlay. The new Maps app makes it easier to access your favorite destinations and offers better lane guidance on multi-lane highways.
The new dark / light theme modes of iOS 13 are also available in CarPlay, although the default mode is the dark mode and the light theme is only available during the day, probably because the & # 39; is too disturbingly bright at night. The interface has also received updates such as rounded corners and a new status bar, although outside the new dashboard screen the grid of app icons remains the same.
Siri behaves as always in CarPlay of iOS 13, but the interface for when you speak with Siri and offers the answer is simplified and does not kick you to another screen. If you view a map and make a request to Siri, you can still see your map and directions while Siri is processing and providing an answer. Siri will also make suggestions in the new dashboard view for HomeKit-compatible devices such as garage door openers and be able to play music and other audio through third-party apps such as Spotify or Pandora. Unfortunately, I was unable to test one of these integrations at this time, but I look forward to them appearing later this year.
There is also a new Agenda app for CarPlay, with which you can see upcoming appointments and get directions or call attendees with one tap. Like the new dashboard, this feels like something that should have been in CarPlay since the first day, but I'm glad it finally arrived.
Car makers can develop microphones that can always listen to "Hey Siri" commands, so you don't have to keep a button on your steering wheel or long press the start button on the CarPlay screen to start Siri. It is not clear what exactly will be needed to make this work – in the 2018 Honda Pilot that I used to test the new CarPlay, Siri would respond to a "Hey Siri" command when it was quiet in the car , but it wouldn't do when music or media was playing. That means it is more likely that the microphones on my phone pick up the voice command, as opposed to the car's built-in microphones.
There are also many other CarPlay updates for car manufacturers, such as the ability to support screens of different sizes while simultaneously displaying information on two different screens in the vehicle.
Finally, CarPlay now offers the option of independently operating an app on the phone that is different from the one displayed on the car screens. Prior to this event, when you used the phone to do something, the screen in the car would close, making it frustrating for passengers to look up something or read something on the phone itself. Now you can use the phone for any app and the CarPlay session remains uninterrupted. Unfortunately, this will also make it easier for the driver to respond to a Slack message or email while waiting at a traffic light, which is probably not Apple's intention here.
Many of these updates have been going on for a long time and are largely taking CarPlay to where Google has been with Android Auto for years. And Apple still doesn't make it possible to use a car-friendly CarPlay interface on the phone itself without a compatible head unit like Google lets you do with Android Auto. But these upgrades provide a much better experience for drivers and passengers, and give car manufacturers more flexibility when designing the displays in their cars. If you want to try out the new CarPlay yourself, you can install the public beta of iOS 13 and connect your phone to a CarPlay-compatible car or head unit. Otherwise you have to wait until the full release of iOS 13 this fall.