While Apple continues to toy with the idea of creating its own car, Cupertino's finest has actually already found a way onto four wheels, courtesy of Apple CarPlay...

So what is Apple CarPlay? Think of it as a way of mirroring some of the key features and functions of your iPhone on an in-car display.

In theory it's a marriage of convenience and safety: you can tuck the device away, but still use a decent selection of key apps from it, including Messages, Phone, Music and Maps.

So how can you get it? And which car manufacturers are supporting CarPlay? Read on for all the details...

What do you need for Apple CarPlay?

CarPlay diem: seize the Lightning cable

An iPhone, for starters. You'll also need access to an in-car system that supports CarPlay. Both the system and your phone need to handshake before you can start using all the various elements of CarPlay.

Siri, Apple's voice-controlled assistant, is another piece of the jigsaw - you can't access CarPlay unless Siri is activated on your phone. This is because voice-control has a big part to play when it comes to making calls and sending messages.

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Which car brands support Apple CarPlay?

Pioneer's SPH-DA120 CarPlay-toting head unit

Currently, there are 40 manufacturers with CarPlay compatible cars, with the system available on over 100 models. Cars with CarPlay are available from Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, Seat, Volkswagen and Volvo.

CarPlay tends to be an optional extra, so you'll need to factor in additional funds. Remember, car manufacturers still want to push their own in-car operating systems, so offering an Apple-friendly solution is a double-edged sword for them.

If you're going down the second-hand route, you may be able to retrofit Apple CarPlay for a fee if it's not in the spec of the car. Again, it really depends on the car manufacturer and model.

Another route for adding CarPlay to an older car is to go for an aftermarket installation - manufacturers such as PioneerJBL, Kenwood and Alpine all offer their own CarPlay head units.

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More after the break

How do you connect Apple CarPlay?

CarPlay works through a wired USB connection to any iPhone with a Lightning socket, so from the iPhone 5 all the way to the current iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Even if it the upcoming iPhone 7 does lose the 3.5mm headphone socket, it's virtually guaranteed to still feature a Lightning port.

There are rumours Apple has been trialling a wireless version of CarPlay but as yet, it hasn't been implemented.

If the only Apple device you own is one of its tablets, then we're afraid you're out of luck - CarPlay isn't compatible with any iterations of the original iPad, iPad mini or iPad Air.

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How does CarPlay work?

Spotify's app isn't quite as intuitive as Apple Music

All the action happens through the main in-car display. Once you've plugged your iOS device into the car's relevant USB socket all the compatible apps stored on your device are mirrored on the car's display in landscape.

The basic layout remains the same across car manufacturers. The main Apple apps dominate the first page, swipe across and you'll see all the third-party apps that are available on your device.

You can't customise your home screen like you can on an actual iPhone by dragging and dropping - for now, the icon arrangement is already predetermined.

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Many (but not all) of your iOS apps are now at your disposal. Apple Music, Podcasts, Maps, Messages, Phone and even Calendar are only the press of a touchscreen away.

There aren't a huge number of compatible third-party apps, but a couple of the most popular that have made the leap are Spotify and Radioplayer.

Besides the app icons, you can also see the time, an indication of the network signal available and there's even an icon that mirrors the 'home' button found at the bottom of iDevices. This stays visible irrespective of the app you're using, so you can quickly jump back to the home screen if you need to.

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Which apps work with CarPlay?

Here's a list of some of the key apps compatible with Carplay, and how they feature in the system...


Siri can draw up a route for you in Apple Maps. Unsurprisingly, Google Maps is a no-no, so to use this, you need to exit CarPlay and open the app on your phone instead.

You can either dictate a postcode or road name and hope Siri can translate, or you can stick with the virtual keyboard and type the information directly into Apple Maps.


Siri can also read out your text messages and you can reply via dictation. Siri works with the buttons and mics placed in your car, just like you're making a normal hands-free call. Shout 'Hey Siri' or press the 'talk' button on your steering wheel and Siri will spring into life. You can't actually see messages on your car's display while using the CarPlay version of the app. This is a deliberate safety measure to stop you getting distracted.


The Phone app is mirrored in CarPlay just as you'd expect. The icons are familiar and you can make calls, see missed calls, recent callers and also access your voicemail. You can punch in numbers through the car's touchscreen, just as you would do on an iPhone or you can ask Siri to call people using voice commands.


CarPlay can tap straight into your Apple Music collection. Although the layout isn't a spitting image of what you're used to seeing on an iPhone, many of the icons are copied straight across and you can navigate through different elements, from basic track selection, to speed scrolling through an alphabetised list of artists.

You can even stream Apple's Beats 1 online radio station over a wi-fi or mobile network (rmember, data charges may apply).


One of the main third party apps avilable through CarPlay is of course, Spotify. As with Apple Music, all the functions and features don't make the full transition from the dedicated iPhone app, but there's just enough to get you up and running on playlists either stored on your device or through Spotify online.


So there you have it. What do you think? Will your next car have CarPlay installed, or will you be sticking to more traditional methods such as Bluetooth streaming and Google Maps? Let us know with a comment below.

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