Apple CarPlay integrates iPhone apps to your vehicle’s infotainment system, allowing you to access your phone’s functions safely and conveniently on the road. However, not all cars come standard with this nifty feature, nor does everyone use an iPhone. Fortunately, there are alternatives when it comes to in-vehicle smartphone integration.
Android Auto is a popular alternative to Apple CarPlay. However, the application only works with Android devices. MirrorLink, WebLink, ApowerMirror, Drivermode, CarOS, and InCar are other solutions that work with both iOS and Android.
Whether you have an Android device, are unhappy with the interface or features of your in-car app, or you’re just seeking ways to integrate your phone into your car head unit that doesn’t involve Apple CarPlay, this article has you covered.
Please note: While I outline other solutions in this article, if you are an iPhone user, I would strongly advise using CarPlay as it is the best all-round solution in my option, and best of all, CarPlay is free!
Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto lets you control essential apps on your phone through your vehicle’s infotainment controls and touchscreen. You can make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, access navigation apps, and listen to music.
The main difference between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as their names suggest, is that one works exclusively with Android devices while the other works only via iOS.
Which app is better is usually a matter of preference, but many reviewers claim Apple CarPlay has a more straightforward user interface. At the same time, Android supposedly has a better voice assistant.
Some users also complain about Android Auto’s sound quality, but there are ways to get around the problem. In fact, here are 9 hacks to improve audio on Android Auto.
MirrorLink is another app that connects your smartphone to your vehicle’s infotainment screen. It can effectively replace CarPlay for many users and is popular because it comes standard in many OEM and aftermarket head units.
Although MirrorLink primarily works with Android devices, you can download EasyConnection to pair your iPhone with your car screen.
The most significant difference between MirrorLink and other systems like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is that it is an open-source system.
Being open source means MirrorLink gives you access to more apps since any developer can develop and sell apps for the platform. So, aside from gaining access to popular apps like Spotify, Facebook, and Twitter, you can experience other apps not typically available through other smartphone car integration systems.
WebLink lets you project apps from either an Android (version 7.0 and above) or iOS (version 14.0 and above) device to any compatible head unit.
Car stereos from popular brands like Pioneer, Kenwood, Sony, and any car stereo with a certified WebLink logo will support this system.
Aside from being compatible with a variety of smartphones, the advantage of WebLink is that it gives you access to many apps that are excellent for driving, such as Music Player and navigational apps like Waze.
You can check which WebLink apps are compatible with your head unit by going to the Apps tab of the WebLink host application.
Note that the available apps will also depend on your specific head unit and that some apps that are not available at the moment may become available in the future.
See my comparison of CarPlay vs Weblink.
APowerMirror works with both Android and iOS devices. However, you will also need an Android Auto or Universal Wireless CarPlay adapter to make it work.
Unlike CarPlay or Android Auto, APowerMirror does not integrate only select apps with your car’s media system.
It works by mirroring your phone’s screen to your car’s screen. This allows you to use your phone from your car media unit to play music and videos, send messages, receive calls, and navigate maps.
If your primary concern is safety, and you want an easy way to navigate your phone while keeping your eyes on the road, Drivemode is the perfect solution.
To use Drivemode, your car also doesn’t need a touchscreen because Drivemode still uses your smartphone as the interface.
Aside from giving you a simplified interface each time you drive, Drivemode has automated voice functions to help you keep your eyes on the road. The app notifies you when you have a new message and allows you to listen to and reply to messages hands-free.
You can also use the voice function to state your destination, and Drivemode will open your desired navigation app to display your route.
Another app that simplifies your smartphone’s user interface to make it more suitable for driving is CarOS. The main advantage of this app is that you can use it in any car with either an iOS or Android device.
CarOS provides a customized dashboard of your favorite apps on your phone’s screen, which means you can easily access and use Spotify and Waze. You can display up to 8 icons on each page of your icon board.
Other nifty features of CarOS include the Live Sharing function that allows you to share your position with selected people and the embedded dashcam, which automatically records and stores footage from your camera.
InCar caters to Android users who prefer the user interface of Apple CarPlay, or iOS users who want access to more apps. The app simulates CarPlay on the phone’s screen, so it does not need a vehicle with an infotainment screen.
You can use this app to access Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps, and Waze. The control panel and all the apps are displayed in landscape mode, making it highly suitable for both driving and passenger entertainment.
Other Honorable Mentions for CarPlay Alternatives
While I have mentioned above are the main alternatives. There are plenty more!
For instance, most cars have their own system somewhat similar to CarPlay, such as the BMW Drive or UConnect system.
There is also Siri Eyes Free, which was the predecessor to CarPlay.