Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto: Choosing the Ultimate In-Car Companion

February 29, 2024
Natalie Thorburn

 

In today's connected world, smart in-car infotainment systems like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow drivers to stay safely connected on the road. These platforms bring key apps and functionality from a user's smartphone directly onto the car's display, providing familiar interfaces and easy access to navigation, media, messaging, and more.

This article will compare and contrast these two leading in-car companion platforms, exploring their different features and capabilities.

What Is Apple CarPlay?

According to BOSS Audio Systems, Apple CarPlay allows drivers to use their iPhones seamlessly with their vehicle's built-in display and controls. Through CarPlay, users can make phone calls, access music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more while keeping their eyes on the road.

Apple first announced CarPlay at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo were some of the first automakers to integrate the technology into their vehicles.

The Ferrari FF was one of the earliest models available with full CarPlay support when it hit roads later that year. Since then, CarPlay has expanded to more mainstream brands like Hyundai, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Honda, and Ford in their newer vehicle models.

For those with older cars not equipped for an Apple CarPlay stereo or people shopping for a new vehicle, upgrading doesn't need to cost much. This list highlights some of the most affordable new car models for 2023 that include Apple CarPlay standard, with prices starting around $23,000. At such entry-level costs, drivers can enjoy the convenience and safety benefits of seamlessly connecting their iPhones.

What Is Android Auto?

Android Auto allows drivers to integrate their Android phone's apps and functions into the vehicle's infotainment system for a more seamless driving experience. The technology mirrors apps to display inside the car while on the road. This is intended to keep drivers focused on the road with less distraction compared to handheld phone use.

While automakers have improved in-car tech over time, partnerships with companies like Google have helped further develop more user-friendly infotainment systems. With Android Auto, familiar phone apps can be accessed via touchscreen or voice commands. This allows users to benefit from services like Google Assistant that they already use regularly.

Android Auto was first demonstrated at Google I/O in 2014. The following year, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata became one of the earliest models to support the platform. Since those early days, Android Auto has expanded significantly in terms of vehicle compatibility, country availability, and ongoing feature improvements through software updates. It is now widely available across most new car models and continues to enhance the connected driving experience.

Comparing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

User interface

Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aim to safely integrate smartphones into vehicles. While CarPlay initially had a cleaner interface, Android Auto has improved over time.

Android Auto allows users to choose which apps appear on the screen. It also offers a split-screen view, letting drivers see two or three apps simultaneously. This level of customization gives Android Auto an advantage.

Meanwhile, CarPlay presents navigation, music, and suggestions elegantly on one screen without split views. Past versions of Android Auto only showed one app at a time, lacking this consolidated approach. However, recent updates have modernized Android Auto's interface.

Google updated Android Auto to always display shortcuts for recently used music, maps, and call functions along the bottom for quick access. The media card also intelligently surfaces the driver's preferred music services. While still not fully customizable, this improved interface provides a smoother experience.

Navigation

When using navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze with Android Auto, drivers can pan and zoom the map just like on a phone. This allows for exploring alternate routes visually while driving.

In comparison, the navigation experience on CarPlay can be less intuitive. Users must tap arrow keys to move Apple Maps instead of swiping naturally. Selecting alternate routes highlighted in apps also works differently between the platforms.

Android Auto makes map interaction more similar to smartphones, prioritizing safe usability. Drivers can glance at potential detours without distractions. In contrast, CarPlay's static map sometimes requires extra taps through menus.

Upcoming iOS 17.4 updates may improve the CarPlay experience for certain drivers. A dual-screen mode is being added, enabling the selection of separate map views for the main touch display and digital instruments. This has the potential to streamline route guidance in supported vehicles.

Voice Assistant

Using voice commands is one of the safest ways to interact with smartphone platforms in vehicles. Both CarPlay and Android Auto support voice control through Siri and Google Assistant, respectively.

Many consider Google Assistant to have better natural language understanding and support for third-party services. The latest Android Auto update aims to improve the experience further. Drivers can now quickly message or call their favorite contacts with a single tap. Contextual suggestions are also designed to streamline responses.

In the past, Android Auto's voice integration marginally edged out CarPlay. However, the new Assistant features have widened this lead.

Transcribing voice inputs can help avoid frustrations when sending messages via Assistant. A brief transcription preview allows proofing before sending while minimizing visual distraction. Unlike stationary settings, the text disappears swiftly in cars to reinforce road focus.

Both platforms continue enhancing how drivers can safely access key functions through voice. As intelligent assistants progress, balancing usability and safety will remain important for in-vehicle experiences. Ongoing innovation aims to minimize cognitive burden and manual interactions behind the wheel.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have revolutionized car-smartphone integration, with an overwhelming majority of new vehicles now supporting one of the two systems. Nearly every new car buyer expects these features, as reflected by the 98% auto manufacturer adoption rate and importance rated by 80% of consumers. Both platforms provide seamless access to key phone services like maps, music, and communication from inside the vehicle dashboard.

Among automakers, Tesla and BMW are particularly praised for their advanced infotainment experiences - Tesla received 86% owner satisfaction and BMW's iDrive system earned an 80% approval rating. As Apple and Android continue pouring resources into enhancing CarPlay and Android Auto, these leading in-car platforms are sure to become even more central to the driving experience in the coming years.

 

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