When you buy a new car you’ll need to see if it supports Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. These are two competing services that connect and take over the touch screen in many cars to deliver a smooth and slick way to control your phone while you are driving.
Apple and Google take a different approach to this and you will need a phone that runs Android 5.0 or iOS 8 for this to work. You will also need a new car or a new head unit for your old car. We are starting to hear from companies that plan to support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the same car so you don’t need to stick with a specific phone just because you invested in a car that supports one of these standards.
Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto Video
In early 2015 we went hands on with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto at CES 2015 with the Hyundai Blue Link to see how the system works. We also explored a standalone system from Pioneer that lets users upgrade their current car to a touch screen system that supports both Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
Watch the Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto video above to see how the two systems compare on a touch screen. Both let you use many of the same functions, but there are differences in the overall design and currently there are a different apps that will work on the systems.
As you can see in the video above, many of these cars support both CarPlay and Android Auto and all the magic happens by plugging the iPhone or Android phone in. Here are important parts of the two systems.
Android Auto looks like Google Now on your car dash, with notification cards to see information and details while Apple CarPlay looks more like an iPhone home screen with icons that you need to tap to open up an app and see information.
Both include messaging, phone, music and mapping software and access to other apps. When possible the services default to voice control that users will start by tapping the screen or a voice button on the steering wheel.
On Apple CarPlay for example, text messages are all voice and audio, but you can tap on playlists in Spotify. There is a large microphone icon to activate Google search to carry out common in-car tasks like messages, directions and more.
CarPlay includes Siri voice control, so you can speak your commands, which is handy, but also means Siri’s current limitations are in play including what Siri can do and the frequency of misunderstanding what you want. Android Auto is similar, with voice control quite like Google Now to control your phone while driving, including the quirks and misunderstandings that come from Google’s voice control.
In many cars Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will live alongside a dedicated manufacturer specific OS like Blue Link or Sync 3 that is available when you don’t have a phone plugged in.
When you try to decide if you should buy the iPhone or an Android smartphone, this is another factor to consider.
Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto Cars
Many big car companies plan to support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but not every car will deliver the option to work with whatever phone you own. Based on announced vehicles, here are the manufacturers with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
CarPlay & Android Auto Support
The following companies plan to make cars that support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
- Alfa Romeo
- Land Rover
Android Auto Only
The third-party options to add to your current car include head units from Pioneer and Alpine.
CarPlay vs Android Auto Phones
You will need a recent smartphone to run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but you likely don’t need to go buy a new device if you upgraded in the last year.
Apple CarPlay is compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus when the phone is running iOS 8 or higher. There is no added charge to unlock this feature as it is built-in to iOS 8.
Android Auto requires Android 5.0 Lollipop to work. This is a free update for many Android smartphones, but the roll out is quite slow. We expect to see Android Lollipop on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy S5 and the upcoming Galaxy S6. Many other devices like the HTC One M8 and Motorola phones also run the Android 5.0 update and it is on the way to more devices in 2015.
CarPlay vs Android Auto Apps
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay perform many of the same basic functions in terms of messages, phone calls and updates, but you can also use a variety of apps with the two systems.
An app can work with both Android Auto and Apple Car Play, but there are some exclusives. Here is a breakdown of the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps listed at the start of 2015.
Apple CarPlay Apps
- Beats Music
- MLB at Bat
- CBS Radio
Android Auto Apps
- Joyride Podcast
- kik messenger
- MLB at Bat
- NPR One
- Pocket Casts
- Text Me!
- TuneIn Radio
- WhatsApp Messenger
As vehicles hit the road with these services, you can expect the app listings to grow. Developers are likely waiting to see what demand is for this type of connectivity in their apps before working to add support.