Apple's CarPlay will drive the future of car dashboards

Apple is taking over your dash, integrating iOS with big in-car nav screens via partnerships with a ton of carmakers and a new feature called CarPlay.

Apple is finally taking over your dash, integrating iOS with big in-car nav screens via partnerships with a boatload of carmakers and a new feature called CarPlay.

Ferrari CarPlay
 Credit Ferrari

Introduced this week at the Geneva International Motor Show, CarPlay (née iOS in the Car) is the culmination of Apple’s plans to fully integrate the iPhone into every car.

"What if you could get iOS on the screen that's built into your car?" asked Apple SVP (and Ferrari board member) Eddy Cue during the WWDC keynote last year when iOS in the Car was first introduced. Apple, which saw huge success pushing iPod compatibility onto automakers last decade, is now in prime position to put its thus-far one-of-a-kind phone/dash integration into millions of cars.

Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo all introduced CarPlay-compatible rides in Geneva, with Honda, Hyundai and Jaguar promising compatible models later in 2014. Apple has partnership commitments from a dozen other marques including BMW, Ford, GM, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota, too.

Notably missing from that list is VW/Audi, which earlier this year partnered with Google and several other automakers to promote Android as an in-car entertainment platform -- though GM, Honda and Hyundai were also involved in that project and all are on board with Apple's initiative.

Apple's Siri digital assistant is heavily integrated with CarPlay, acting as the main point-of-contact for drivers, though it works with the knobs, buttons, or touchscreen in the car as well. It supports a number of native iPhone apps (Maps, Phone, Messages, Music) plus a bunch more off the App Store including Apple's Podcasts, Spotify, Beats Music, iHeartRadio and Stitcher, with more options to come. Notably missing is Pandora, a direct competitor to Apple's iTunes Radio, though that company is clearly hoping to be involved in the future.

Mercedes CarPlay
 Credit: Mercedes

Mercedes -- shown in the C-Class above -- uses both voice input and the control-knob, while both Volvo and Ferrari combine voice control with an in-dash touchscreen. Engadget tried the Ferrari implementation in Geneva and said CarPlay was responsive and easy-to-use.

The first thing we noticed is how speedy everything is. Apps load quickly, and Siri's contextual algorithms hastily recognized our voice commands and responded appropriately. Apple has also implemented safety features to ensure services do not draw your attention away from the road and push forward its "hands-free" theme. For example, when we sent or received a message from a contact, Siri would only read the message back to us and we never once got the chance to see its contents.

Currently, CarPlay only works with iPhones that use the Lightning Cable -- the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s -- and the phone must be physically plugged in, though Volvo said wireless support is in the works.

When iOS in the Car was revealed nine months ago, it was the first major move by a consumer electronics company to put the features of your phone directly into your vehicle. The list of partner carmakers is impressive, and, if CarPlay lives up to the billing, this is a impressive first salvo in the next automotive tech war.


Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.


The fact you need to attach a phone in any way is quite frankly limiting. So we have a screen extension in effect and some buttons to expand the usability.  Is that really what users want?  I doubt it.   I'm happy having NONE of that going on.and just working via the phone in my pocket (My iPhone or Blackberry).  Just how much of the cars functionality would be lost without using an iPhone.  Can I still use my 16Gb usd card, synched to my iTunes media folder?  (that's all I use iTunes for; repository structure)  I'd assume there was still access to music etc but we all know where assuming gets us.

I'm sure it'll be good but do we really want more ties to Apples closed systems, and locked in?  I personally don't think so!

I expected an adaptation of IOS, locked into the car, and integrating with whatever is fixed in the car and whatever is dynamic.  I want a sat nav in the car, I want my music in the car.  I'm not interested in something I need to take with me every time.  Early days, and a prototype by the sound of things. 


I hope it is not a kind of  tool for NSA ;) Though it looks cool. Apple always come up with some thing remarkable

Nkahebwa Norris
Nkahebwa Norris

It's fine however, that would go on to spy on the car mov'ts since most apps are developed with such features nowadays:


Apple will be just one of the providers for the OS which sits on top of the manufacturers' in-car technology.  Thus,those vehicles will be able to support iOS smartphones,  and Blackberry smartphones,and WP smartphones, and Android smartphones.  Automakers understand that, whatever smartphone a person has, needs to be supported with the in-car connectivity technology.  

I have MyFord Touch in my Ford Escape, and, after 4 months of using it, I haven't had any problems with it.  And it does everything that iOS and Android are supposed to be able to do for those car makers, and perhaps more.

BTW, MyFord Touch works with my wife's Android LG G2 smartphone, and my Nokia 928, and my daughters iPhone 5; they all connect easily.  The one thing I found surprising, was that, while on the road with my phone in my pocket, and my daughter also also carrying her iPhone in her purse and in her car and 3 car lengths in front of me, both my phone and hers, were available for use through the MySync system.  I could have used her phone to make calls or for texting, but, that would have scared her to death, so, I decided against it.

Anyhow,,I'm liking my MySync Touch system, and if Ford decides to drop Microsoft from their vehicles, I'll be looking to trade in my vehicle within a year.  After all, the MyFord Touch system was one of the major reasons that I bought my SUV from them. 


@adornoe  If your MyFord Touch can communicate with a phone in another car does this not open a path for criminals to take advantage? I am happy to say that I am too old to have this problem as my current car without these enhancements is probably my last. I would be particularly unhappy to have Apple involved as they are bullying me to get iTunes on my Win 7 PC and I dislike their tie in tactics.


@alfred @adornoeNot a problem.  My daughter's iPhone had to first be allowed to connect to MyFord Touch, and she had to enable it, and it wouldn't be accessible to another car until she enabled connection.  I can't see any other smartphones until I enable bluetooth connections to use them.  When my daughter is in my Ford vehicle, she can make hands-free calls, just like my wife and I can with our respective smartphones.  I can't access other people's smartphones from my car unless access to them has been authorized by the their owners and I allowed them to enter their smartphone info into my Sync system. 

Editor's Picks