What is Apple Carplay: A Comprehensive Guide

what is apple carplay - featured image

CarPlay is an innovative feature that enables seamless integration between an iPhone and a car’s built-in infotainment system. 

It allows accessing various useful apps, such as Maps for navigation, Messages for communication, CarPlay music apps, or even podcasts for entertainment.

One of the aspects I appreciate about CarPlay is its use of Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, which enables hands-free control while driving.

This means I can give commands, make calls, and even listen to messages without taking my eyes off the road.

With an ever-growing list of compatible CarPlay apps, the driving experience has become more personalized and enjoyable.

Understanding What is Apple CarPlay

wired carplay connection for comparison vs wireless carplay

Definition and Functionality

Apple CarPlay is a feature that allows the connection of an iPhone to a car and displays a simplified iOS-like interface on the car’s infotainment system. Sort of like an iPad as a head unit!

By utilizing Siri, you can issue commands and listen to media without taking your eyes off the road.

In simple terms, CarPlay beams the apps on your phone onto the car’s infotainment display, providing hands-free control and a driving-friendly interface.

iPhone and iOS Compatibility

Apple CarPlay is compatible with a range of iPhone models, including the SE (1st and 2nd generation), iPhone 5s, and newer models running iOS 7.1 or later. However, certain advanced features, such as the CarPlay Dashboard, are only available on iPhones running iOS 13 and later.

iOS - CarPlay - Apple iPhone compatibility
iOS – CarPlay – Apple iPhone compatibility

Note: Even though CarPlay is compatible with iPhones 5, 6, 7 & 8, it may run very slow on these models.

To use CarPlay, you also need a car or stereo unit that supports the feature, which can be found in select new car models from an increasing number of manufacturers.

Alternatively, aftermarket CarPlay head units are available, allowing you to install the head unit.

CarPlay Features and Apps

As an iPhone user, I tremendously appreciate the convenience offered by Apple’s CarPlay.

It is a remarkable system that allows seamless integration between my iPhone and my car’s infotainment system.

Primarily, CarPlay revolves around a few major apps to ensure a safer and more enjoyable driving experience.

Messages and Phone Calls

whatsapp carplay audio call

With the help of Siri, you can easily make and receive phone calls and text messages while keeping your eyes on the road.

Apple’s intelligent assistant enables me to manage my contacts through voice commands, taking hands-free communication to the next level.

Additionally, you can check voicemails, get calendar reminders, and be certain that “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode is activated, so I do not receive unwanted notifications while I am driving.

Apple’s messaging, calling and FaceTime platform is not the only one available. Third-party apps such as WhatsApp are also available with CarPlay and will work via Siri.

Navigation and Maps

google maps carplay satellite view

One of the essential aspects of CarPlay is its navigation capabilities. 

The following navigation apps are compatible with CarPlay, in my partially favourite order:

  1. Google Maps
  2. Waze
  3. Apple Maps
  4. TomTom Go


This becomes incredibly useful, especially when commuting to a meeting or travelling to an unfamiliar place. No more awkwardly placed phone mounts and small screens to view your maps!

Music and Entertainment

spotify carplay app playing song
spotify carplay app playing song

For a more enjoyable driving experience, Apple CarPlay features an extensive array of audio and entertainment options.

From your car’s touchscreen or infotainment display, you can easily access and control your music library, radio stations, podcasts, and even audiobooks with platforms like Audible.

All the major audio streaming services are available through CarPlay apart from SoundCloud. But in summary, are:


Setting Up CarPlay

Connecting via USB Port

iPhone Cable Connected to CarPlay
iPhone Cable Connected to CarPlay
  1. To set up CarPlay using a USB port, your first need to make sure your car is compatible and that Siri is enabled on your iPhone.
  2. Then, connect your iPhone to the car using an Apple CarPlay Lightning to USB cable.
  3. Once plugged in, the car’s infotainment system allows you to access CarPlays features. Simply swipe across to view all of the apps available that are on your iPhone.


Wireless CarPlay Configuration

Wireless CarPlay - Phone
Wireless CarPlay – Phone

For a wireless CarPlay configuration, first double-checked if your car supported wireless CarPlay.

  1. Then, turn on your car and navigated to the infotainment settings to enable CarPlay. On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > CarPlay, and there you will find your car’s name.
  2. Tap the name, and a prompt to connect wirelessly appeared on your iPhone.
  3. Once confirmed the connection, the CarPlay interface appeared on your car’s infotainment display.


It’s important to note that not all cars support wireless CarPlay, so in some cases, using a Lightning cable with the USB port may be the only option. 

However, you can also purchase a wireless CarPlay adapter which will allow you to patch a connection to CarPlay wirelessly.

If you can’t decide which method is right for you, see my article on wired vs wireless CarPlay.

CarPlay Compatibility with Car Models

Compatible Car Brands and Models

As an avid CarPlay user, I’ve noticed that nearly every major car manufacturer currently offers models that support Apple CarPlay or is planning to introduce them.

A comprehensive list of compatible car models and their respective years is available on Apple’s official CarPlay available models page.

A few primary examples of compatible brands include Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, and Hyundai.

While most major brands support CarPlay, some still do not support this technology fully, like Tesla, Toyota, and Lexus. However, Toyota has started introducing CarPlay in some of its newer models.

Incompatible Cars

So far, Tesla has not offered any consistency in supporting Apple CarPlay across its car models. This may be because Tesla’s in-house infotainment system competes directly with CarPlay features. Apart from Tesla, few Lexus and Toyota models may not be compatible, but the situation has been improving with newer models being launched.

Aftermarket Solutions

To bridge the gap of incompatibility, some aftermarket solutions exist for owners of vehicles not supporting CarPlay out of the box. Several aftermarket systems and head units allow you to retrofit CarPlay in your existing vehicle. Brands like Alpine, Blaupunkt, Clarion, JVC, and Kenwood offer aftermarket head units that are compatible with a wide range of car models and makes.

What is Apple CarPlay – Frequently Asked Questions

Which cars support wireless CarPlay?

Many car manufacturers now support wireless CarPlay. The list of cars supporting wireless CarPlay continues to grow, but it’s important to check the specifics for your vehicle.

You can refer to your car’s manual or visit the manufacturer’s website for the most up-to-date information. A helpful resource to find compatible cars is Apple’s official CarPlay website.

Is CarPlay free or paid?

Good news! CarPlay is a free feature that comes with your iPhone.

There are no additional costs to use CarPlay as it uses the built-in apps and features of your iPhone.

However, certain third-party apps may have subscription fees or in-app purchases. Keep in mind that CarPlay relies on your iPhone’s data connection, so you might incur charges from your cellular provider for CarPlay data usage.

How to install CarPlay?

Installing CarPlay is quite simple. Make sure you have the latest CarPlay update on your phone by installing the latest IOS update.

Then to set up CarPlay, connect your iPhone to your car’s USB port using an Apple-certified Lightning cable. Or via wireless CarPlay. Once connected, the CarPlay interface should appear on your car’s infotainment screen.

If it doesn’t, consult your car’s manual, visit Apple’s CarPlay support page or view my CarPlay not working article for detailed instructions.


Picture of Alex
I loved my car but was frustrated with my media system. So I upgraded my stereo, making silly wires and precarious phone mounts a thing of the past. The Apple Car Play stereo was so good I wanted to show more people how this could be done and truly upgrade their cars multimedia system! Founder StereoUpgrade.com
Recent Posts