(Pocket-lint) - Apple CarPlay connects a supported vehicle to a compatible iPhone, enabling access and interaction with Apple's ecosystem directly through a car's dashboard touchscreen.

First premiered in 2014, CarPlay has developed significantly over the years, while also becoming more accessible with support in more and more car models across numerous manufacturers.

Simply put, Apple CarPlay provides iPhone users with a streamlined way to connect their device to their car's infotainment system. In turn, this provides access to certain smartphone functions such as Apple Music or Spotify, sending and receiving messages, making and receiving calls and navigation through Apple Maps, Google Maps or Waze, whilst keeping a focus on driving.

Which cars support CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay support is either standard or available as an option on many 2016 cars and later, with some manufacturers offering software updates for earlier models.

There are currently over 600 CarPlay-compatible car models from the following manufacturers: Arbath, Acura, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Borgward, Buick, Cadillac, Chery, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Cowin Auto, Datsun, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, Genesis, GMC, HA/MA, Haval, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lexus, Lifan, The Lincoln Motor Company, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Mini, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Qoros, RAM, Renault, Roewe, Seat, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Tata, Toyota, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Volvo.

The full list of compatible models is available on Apple's CarPlay website here.

Which iPhones are compatible with CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay works with iPhones running iOS 7 or later that have a Lightning connector.

The following iPhones are compatible:

  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5C
  • iPhone 5S
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple CarPlay settings can be accessed on these iPhones via Settings > General > CarPlay.

How does Apple CarPlay work?

Vehicles equipped with Apple CarPlay sync with your compatible iPhone via the Lightning Connector plugged into a USB port in the car. Apple introduced wireless support for CarPlay in 2015 with iOS 9, but you'll need a compatible car that also offers the functionality.

Apple

Once connected, Apple CarPlay pulls data directly from your iPhone, simultaneously charging it, and allows you to control and interact with specific functions on your iPhone through your vehicle's infotainment system.

Apple CarPlay-enabled vehicles feature a dedicated voice-control button on the steering wheel, which when pressed will launch Apple's voice assistant Siri, allowing you to send a message, make a call or ask for directions.

Apple

CarPlay's main appeal-factor shines through the infotainment system and touchscreen interface mounted in your dashboard though. You can use your CarPlay-compatible car's buttons and dials to interact with CarPlay, as well as touch and voice controls.

What can CarPlay do?

We have an entire feature diving into more detail on all the features offered by Apple CarPlay, but here is a summary of its key features.

Siri

Siri is the heart of Apple CarPlay, allowing for hands-free and eye-free access to numerous functions on your iPhone.

The voice assistant will help you access your contacts, make calls, return missed calls, listen to voicemails, read incoming messages, allow you to dictate and send a new message, ask for directions and ask for your favourite track to be played.

Apple

Music

Apple CarPlay will stream music from Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music, along with podcasts and audiobooks from your iPhone through your car's stereo system.

You can browse tracks manually through the dedicated CarPlay Apple Music, Spotify or other compatible music streaming app using touch, built-in controls or via Siri with a related voice command.

Apple

Navigation

CarPlay supports Apple Maps, Google Maps and Waze for navigation, all offering a familiar experience to the equivalent iPhone app. Apple Maps has a couple of extra features, like the ability to share your ETA with contacts which can be done through Siri too, but for all three, you can see destinations based on recent trips, view traffic conditions and see your estimated time of arrival.

You'll also get turn-by-turn directions, which will appear on your car's dashboard screen, as well as on the driver dash on some models. Siri can be used to plan routes and get directions via voice commands, and it will talk back to you and provide audible turn-by-turn directions.

Phone

Apple CarPlay will allow you to make calls, return missed calls and listen to voicemails. You can ask Siri to help you do any of this or you can tap on the phone icon in the main CarPlay menu and search your contacts.

Messages

With Apple CarPlay, Siri will read, reply and send messages for you so there is no need to look at your phone. It is also able to play audio messages through the car's speakers.

Apple CarPlay explained: Taking iOS on the road

Apple

Calendar

Apple CarPlay has its own dedicated Calendar app that will show you your events for that day on your car's display. If any of the events listed have an address, you can tap on the address to launch Apple Maps and get directions.

What apps are supported by CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay supports Phone, Messages, Apple Music, Calendar, Podcasts and Audiobooks in terms of Apple apps, but it also offers some third party app integration.

Other apps supported are:  WhatsApp, Amazon Music, Tidal, Spotify, At Bat, Stitcher, Overcast, Audiobooks.com, Audible, Vox, NPR One, Zoom, Pandora, Clammr, Downcast, Google Maps, Waze, News+, iHeartRadio, BBC Sounds.

What new features are coming to CarPlay?

Apple's iOS 14 introduced a couple of new features for CarPlay at the end of 2020. These new features include new backgrounds and new app types that include parking, electric vehicle charging and quick food ordering.

Starting with selected 2021 car models, you will also be able to unlock and start your car with iPhone, as well as share keys with friends and family and create restricted profiles. You can read all about Apple Car Keys in our separate feature.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.