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Lead image

What is Apple CarPlay®?

iPhone® app control through your car stereo

Apple CarPlay technology is a convenient way to access your iPhone® through your car stereo. You can use certain phone functions as you drive, but in a manner that'll let you stay focused on the road.

Apple iOS 13 CarPlay update: With the release of iOS 13 in September 2019, Apple made significant upgrades to CarPlay for the first time since its introduction. Read all about the changes below.

A CarPlay stereo gives you access to your iPhone's calling, music, mapping, and message applications with a simple one-cord connection to your iPhone using the phone's Lightning-to-USB cable, or – in some cases – wirelessly.

iOS 13 upgrades made CarPlay even more driver-friendly

We're getting right to the updates, but if you're new to Apple CarPlay, make sure you read the rest of the article, too. First, the good news: Apple CarPlay lives on your iPhone, so you don't need to update any car stereo with existing CarPlay compatibility, just your iPhone. But you will need to have an iPhone current enough to run iOS 13 (anything newer than a 6S should work) and update your phone's software accordingly to take advantage of these new features.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the new features, which were 5 years in the making....

Tiled Dashboard

There's a new Dashboard screen, which offers a split-screen view with the map on the left and multiple tiles on the right. You'll see the audio you're playing, smart Siri® suggestions, info about incoming texts and calls, and other common tasks. This drastically improves CarPlay's functionality as you don't have to flip between different app screens to get all the key info while you're driving.

Apple CarPlay Dashboard screen

Siri to the rescue

Siri's a lot easier to use, too. When you trigger it with your voice or a button, the new CarPlay shows a mic icon in the lower corner of the display rather than taking over the whole screen. And going forward with iOS 13, non-Apple app developers will be able to add direct Siri functionality, giving you voice control over CarPlay-compatible apps like Spotify, Audible, and Waze.

A new Calendar app

Want to plan your day ahead as soon as you get into your car? Now you can pull up the brand-new Calendar app in CarPlay and see every reminder and appointment that's in your iPhone.

Dark and Light Modes

CarPlay has always featured a sort of Dark Mode that shows white text against black backgrounds. Now you can add Light Mode, which exhibits black text against white backgrounds that should be easier to decipher in direct sunlight. Users can choose Dark Mode all the time or have CarPlay automatically shift from Light to Dark when the ambient light in the car changes.

Apple CarPlay Light Mode

Light Mode

Apple CarPlay Dark Mode

Dark Mode

Album artwork: yay or nay? You can choose!

There are a couple of changes for album artwork, too. The Now Playing and Apple Music app interfaces now put an even bigger emphasis on album artwork. But you can also select to have album artwork never displayed on the stereo's screen in Now Playing.

Apple CarPlay Now Playing screen

Don't want to be disturbed? CarPlay lets you drive without notifications

You can now turn on your phone's "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature through CarPlay's Settings app, so you won't see phone or text notifications on your car stereo. Those trying to get in touch with you will get a text back letting them know you're driving.

Keep using your iPhone

Finally, one key change is that your iPhone is now able to retain its functionality while connected to your stereo in CarPlay. In the past, your iPhone would be basically locked while in CarPlay mode, but this is no longer the case. Your passengers can check out your iPhone to choose new tunes, see your latest photos, fire off a text with plenty of emojis, or whatever — your iPhone works normally even while your stereo's running CarPlay.

So those are the major changes to Apple CarPlay in the iOS 13 update. Continue reading and watching below to learn more about CarPlay basics and how you can more safely use your favorite iPhone functions from the driver's seat.

See CarPlay in action

Watch this video demonstration for a real-world glimpse at an Apple CarPlay stereo in action.

How does Apple CarPlay work?

When you connect your iPhone to car stereo that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay, large, familiar iOS app icons appear on the stereo's touchscreen, along with the time and a Dashboard button you can press to activate the Siri voice assistant. You'll be able to operate some apps with fingertip touches, while many functions can be initiated via Siri using the "Hey Siri" voice command. You won't even have to take your hands off the wheel once you've started.

iOS apps that work with CarPlay include:

  • Phone — Make calls, return calls you missed, and check your voicemail, all with Siri's help. You'll be able to see your caller information right on the receiver's screen.
  • Music — Pull up your iPhone's artists, songs, playlists, and more through your stereo's controls, or tell Siri what you want to hear. The display will mirror your iPhone's Music screen, so you'll be able to see what's playing and choose tracks easily, whether you’re streaming from your Apple Music account or playing downloaded files from iTunes.
  • Maps— View your Apple Maps screen on the receiver's display, complete with turn-by-turn directions, traffic conditions, and estimated travel time. Use Siri and your voice to enter a destination or search for nearby points of interest.
  • Messages — You already know that texting and driving is a bad idea. With Apple CarPlay, you can have Siri send, read, and reply to your text messages for you, so you won't have to look at or touch your phone while you're behind the wheel.
  • Podcasts — Pull up your favorite podcast to help pass the time…
  • Audiobooks — …or listen to a story without touching your phone.
  • Now Playing — One touch will show you instantly what's providing the soundtrack to your travels.
  • Calendar — See all of your upcoming appointments and reminders in one place.

Navigation apps that work with CarPlay

CarPlay already includes Apple Maps. But users like to have options, so Apple listened and added two other popular navigation apps.

  • Waze — The popular navigation app is available on Apple CarPlay. Not only does Waze provide turn-by-turn directions, but its users count on crowd-sourced info for up-to-the minute details about congestion, accidents, speed traps, and more.
  • Google Maps — Apple listened to their customers who wanted more navigation options and joined forces with their smartphone competitors to bring Google Maps to the CarPlay platform. You can use your voice to enter a destination or search for a nearby stopping point.

Audio apps that work in CarPlay

Naturally, since we're talking about a car stereo, there are plenty of listening options for music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Here is a sampling of the most popular apps that are available in CarPlay – but these aren't all of them!

  • Spotify
  • Tidal
  • Pandora
  • Amazon Music
  • Google Play Music
  • iHeartRadio
  • Stitcher
  • SiriusXM Radio (subscription required)
  • Audible
  • Slacker Radio

Most other non-audio and non-navigation apps will not be accessible through Apple CarPlay. Non-audio apps that do work include WhatsApp for messaging. Apple may approve more apps for CarPlay in the future, but they'll likely only be apps that can be used safely while driving and with Siri.

Apple CarPlay apps screen

What about wireless Apple CarPlay?

Wireless Apple CarPlay first made it into the dashes of some high-end factory stereos but now it has moved into the aftermarket realm. Compatible stereos employ a built-in Wi-Fi network in combination with Bluetooth to communicate with your iPhone. After the initial setup and pairing with your phone, you'll be able to launch CarPlay on the stereo without touching your phone as soon as you get into your vehicle.

Not only does wireless CarPlay save you the hassle of having to plug in your phone whenever you get into the vehicle, it also works great for fans of wireless charging in the vehicle, as they can set their phone down and leave it alone to charge as they travel.

Where can I find Apple CarPlay?

You can find Apple CarPlay compatiblilty as a factory option in select 2014 and newer vehicles, and in many aftermarket stereos. CarPlay requires a diagonal screen size of at least 6" to work, but it’s not just limited to large stereos – there are now receivers with fold-out screens that can fit in most smaller (2") dash openings that will still work with CarPlay.

Check out our full selection of car stereos that are compatible with Apple CarPlay. There are a lot fewer aftermarket stereos with wireless Apple CarPlay, but they’re definitely worth a look and their numbers are growing. Some of the stereos we offer are also compatible with Android Auto™ making them ideal for shared vehicles driven by owners of different types of phones.

Do you have questions about Apple CarPlay?

If you want to add CarPlay to your vehicle, we can help. Check in with a knowledgeable Crutchfield Advisor via phone or chat. There’s likely a solution that fits your ride and we’ll help you get on the road with CarPlay bringing your favorite phone functionality within reach.

  • John A Knight from Wellsville

    Posted on 8/2/2021

    When using Carplay and Android auto for that matter as well thru USB, are you using your devices dac or the car stereo /units dac?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 8/2/2021

    Hi John - thanks for reading. You're using the DAC in the car stereo when listening through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
  • Rafael Alfaro from Philadelphia Pennsyl

    Posted on 6/3/2021

    I have Mazda CX-5 2015 how can get the CarPlay to fits in my car and how much cost.

    Commenter image

    Crutchfield Writing Team from Crutchfield

    on 6/4/2021

    Rafael, When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you can see which CarPlay-ready stereos fit your car. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • Jim from Toms River

    Posted on 7/8/2020

    Do manufacturers make wireless CarPlay upgrade kits yet? I see 3rd parties are now selling wireless CarPlay dongles but I'd rather get one from the manufacturer. With future iPhones possibly coming portless, I'm worried that I should try to get a wireless option.

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 7/9/2020

    Hi Jim - thanks for your question. At this time, I'm not aware of any kits that upgrade a wired CarPlay system to a wireless one that are made by either Apple or any car manufacturers or any major aftermarket receiver brands (Sony, Pioneer, Alpine, JVC/Kenwood, etc.). The key player for any CarPlay equipment is Apple, as they control the licensing that ultimately determines what is compatible and what isn't. None of the upgrade kits that are out there now are officially licensed by Apple so their effectiveness is doubtful, especially whenever Apple updates their iOS.
  • Charles Lyou from CENTREVILLE

    Posted on 6/10/2020

    Thank you for your detailed explanation. I have one question for you. I'm looking for a wireless carplay adapter to use the map, is your company selling it?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 6/11/2020

    Hi Charles - thanks for reading. We aren't currently selling any adapters that can convert a receiver's wired Apple CarPlay functionality into a wireless operation. They're out there and easy enough to find, but at this point none of them are officially licensed by Apple so their effectiveness is always a question mark, especially whenever Apple updates their iOS.
  • Linda from Lincoln

    Posted on 4/8/2020

    This would be great, but the last time I tried to use it, the entire dashboard on my 2019 Honda went black. I will never use it again.

  • Raoul Diggle from Luton

    Posted on 9/8/2019

    I have a Honda Jazz 2005 model. I want to upgrade to Apple Carplay for my iPhone. What would you recommend

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 9/9/2019

    Sorry Raoul, but we don't have any info about the Jazz, since it's not sold in the United States. The closest thing we have is the Honda Fit, but there's no guarantee that the stereo fitment or wiring will be the same. Wish we could do more.
  • Amar Jha from placentia

    Posted on 8/26/2019

    Hi Alexander, I am looking to replace my entertainment /GPS for my Acura MDX 2006 Navigation. What aftermarket system car play system you would recommend who can work with my Acura MDX 2006 Navigation.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 8/26/2019

    Amar, we actually don't recommend radio replacement for that vehicle, but if you'd like to talk about other ways to upgrade your audio, give us a call.
  • Randy Kato from New York

    Posted on 5/22/2019

    Is there any type of adapter/receiver out there that you can plug into the car's USB port to enable CarPlay wirelessly? I've got a new Toyota with Qi wireless charging, but CarPlay still requires plugging in, so it's kind of useless.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 5/23/2019

    Randy, no, to get wireless CarPlay, you'll have to replace your current radio with one equipped with wireless CarPlay.
  • Shayne Troxler from Perth, W. Australia

    Posted on 10/25/2018

    Great article. While I keep up with general IT, I don't keep up with this segment. Thanks for the info!

  • Isaac from Mosinee WI

    Posted on 10/15/2018

    The release of Google Maps and Waze is a huge thing. Thank goodness Apple didn't just limit it to Apple Maps forever.

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 10/15/2018

    Hey Isaac - We couldn't agree more. Our customers were clamoring for Waze and Google Maps to go with CarPlay for ages and we're glad Apple users (like myself) now have some choices for navigation.