CarPlay, a month later

Now that I’ve been using CarPlay in my Subaru Impreza for about a month, here’s a mini review.

After waiting years to get a new car, the number one feature for me was a nice infotainment system, in particular CarPlay. Until using CarPlay, I didn’t realize how bad the interfaces for many car infotainment systems were. Apple’s minimalist design is exactly what is needed in a car; too much information and it is just a distraction.

While some may say that CarPlay is a gimmick, it has really become second nature to me to use it. When I get in the car, I plug in my phone and see Maps. This may seem like a minor thing as I usually know where I’m going, but it also shows traffic and ETA to my destination which are very convenient. I’m not a huge user of the phone or listening to my own music (I mostly just listen to the radio), but both of those can easily be controlled using the touchscreen or Siri. Sending and receiving text messages is virtually identical to other systems using Siri except that you can start a conversation from the touchscreen; I don’t find that this is helpful. CarPlay will not show you the text messages on the screen; it only reads them.

Pros

  • Seamless integration; I start the car and my next destination appears on the screen ready to navigate or at least just tell me the ETA.
  • Clean user interface; there is very little clutter to take my eyes off the road.
  • Everything you can do with Siri Eyes Free, you can do with CarPlay with visual feedback.

Cons

  • There are some quirks either with CarPlay or the Subaru integration. For example, I’ve had to factory reset the head unit twice to get it working again (it wouldn’t show up as an option).
  • Limited number of apps available for CarPlay. In particular, I’m looking for Navigon for the times when I don’t have cellular coverage or to reduce my data usage.
  • I have to remember to plug in my phone each time I get in the car. The car has all the components to do wireless CarPlay (Bluetooth and WiFi), but it hasn’t been implemented.

Summary

The infotainment system apparently is a gateway for car manufacturers to get people to buy more services. I’ve been reading a number of articles lately about companies not wanting Apple and Google to monopolize the system as they are losing revenue and are banding together on an alternative. While that may sound great to them, as long as CarPlay (and possibly Android Auto) is an option, I think it will win out over whatever is developed mainly due to the integration with the phone.

To me, CarPlay is not a game changer, but a really, really nice feature to have in a car. Going forward, my future cars will have tight integration with whatever phone I’m using. If I had to use some other infotainment system, I’m sure I’d be really disappointed. It is unfortunate that the rollout of CarPlay by car manufacturers is so slow; it should be an option on every car not only for convenience, but I believe that if people are accustomed to using Siri for communication, it may help with some distracted driving (yes, even Siri is a distraction).

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