Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto: Which is Better for Cars?




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Our cars have transformed into more than just vehicles to get from point A to B. They’ve become an extension of our digital lives, thanks to the evolution of car infotainment systems and applications like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Both systems are giants of in-car technology, but which one offers a better day-to-day experience? Let’s find out below.

Key Takeaways
User Interface & Customization: Android Auto offers more flexibility with its customizable interface and split-screen functions. On the other hand, Apple CarPlay provides a streamlined experience, showcasing navigation, music, and Siri suggestions on a unified screen.
Apps & Navigation: Android Auto’s default navigation via Google Maps is often deemed superior. While Apple CarPlay uses Apple Maps, it does offer the option to switch to other navigation apps, including Google Maps.
Voice Assistants: Both platforms have their respective AI voice assistants. Google Assistant, part of Android Auto, is often viewed as more powerful due to its superior natural language processing and broader third-party app integration.

Before investing in an upgrade for your car’s audio system, make sure you’re familiar with the various car stereo features. Check out our guide for a complete rundown.

What is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Let’s start simple. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are in-car assistant systems that let you access certain phone features directly from the car’s dashboard.

choosing between apple carplay or android auto

These systems provide drivers and passengers with hands-free driving experiences. They bring the power of your smartphone’s user interface to the dashboard, letting you stay connected without ever touching your phone.

Apple CarPlay

A product of Apple, this system seamlessly integrates your iPhone with your car’s built-in display. It’s all about simplicity and elegance in typical Apple fashion.

Think of it as having an iPhone built into your dashboard. With it, you can use Apple CarPlay apps such as navigation, music streaming, calling, messaging, and even third-party apps, all while driving.

Android Auto

Designed by Google, Android Auto is for those who swear by their Android phones. Offering a similar suite of features, Android Auto provides better room to communicate when driving with a less invasive interface. 

Best Android Auto apps range from podcasting to to-do lists, and it’s notably the friendlier system for third-party app users.

How Do Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Work?

To those who aren’t tech wizards, these systems might seem like magic. But at their core, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto function by projecting your phone’s apps onto your car’s screen.

#1. Connection: Usually, you’d connect your smartphone to your car using a USB cable. However, advancements are moving towards wireless connectivity. Once connected, your car’s display will show a familiar interface similar to your phone’s.

#2. Voice Control: One of my favorite features is voice control. Both systems use their respective voice assistants (Siri for Apple and Google Assistant for Android). This means hands-free calling, messaging, and more. Imagine, “Hey Siri, play my favorite podcast,” and off you go.

#3. Customization and Compatibility: Both systems allow for customization. You can rearrange apps for easier access or even choose between different themes. However, always ensure compatibility. Most modern cars support both systems, but it’s best to double-check.

Here are some of the customization options available on both platforms:

  • Home screen icons: You can add, remove, and rearrange the icons on the home screen to make it easier to access your favorite apps.
  • App layout: You can choose a different layout for the apps on the home screen, such as a list view or a grid view.
  • Theme: You can choose a different theme for the CarPlay or Android Auto interface, such as a light or dark theme.
  • Do Not Disturb: You can enable Do Not Disturb mode to prevent notifications from appearing on the screen.
  • Siri: You can customize how Siri behaves in CarPlay or Android Auto, such as changing the voice or the language.

Additional customization options that are available on Apple CarPlay:

  • Widgets: You can add widgets to the home screen to quickly access information such as the weather, calendar, or music library.
  • Split-screen view: You can split the screen into two sections to view two apps at the same time.
  • Now Playing: The Now Playing app gives you full control over the music that is playing on your phone, including the ability to skip tracks, change the volume, and see lyrics.

Additional customization options that are available on Android Auto:

  • Google Assistant: You can use Google Assistant to control the application with your voice, such as getting directions, playing music, or sending messages.
  • Media controls: You can customize the media controls on the screen to make it easier to control music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  • Navigation: You can choose a different navigation apps, such as Google Maps or Waze.

Regarding the most common question: “Can I use Apple CarPlay with an Android phone?” The answer is no. Apple CarPlay is exclusively for iPhones, and Android Auto is for Android phones.

#4. User Experience: Both provide a seamless user experience, with voice control at the forefront, promoting safe, hands-free driving. While Apple CarPlay is perceived as more intrusive than Android Auto, the latter is hailed for being similar to Apple CarPlay but with a gentler learning curve.

#5. Third-party Apps: As someone who loves trying out new apps, I appreciate that Android Auto is the friendlier system for third-party app users. This doesn’t mean Apple CarPlay lacks in this department; it’s just that Android offers a bit more freedom.

#6. Pros and Cons: The debate around Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto’s pros and cons is ever-evolving. Android Auto offers a more customizable experience, whereas Apple CarPlay offers a more uniform, polished look.

Android Auto vs Apple CarPlay Comparison

In the realm of car infotainment systems, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the go-to choices. These in-car technology platforms promise enhanced driving experiences by integrating the best smartphone features into your car’s dashboard.

As a car enthusiast and tech lover, I’ve often been asked about which system provides a superior user experience. Let’s delve deeper into their specific features, comparing them side-by-side.

Interface and Usability

A system’s interface is its first impression, and usability determines if it’s love at first sight or a relationship, we’d rather not pursue.

#1. Apple CarPlay: If you’re familiar with Apple’s ecosystem, CarPlay will feel like a breeze. It provides a clean, minimalist user interface with large icons and a familiar layout. Apple’s mantra of “it just works” is evident here.

However, some critics argue that Apple CarPlay can feel more intrusive, especially with its persistent notification banners.

#2. Android Auto: Android Auto offers a bit more flexibility. Its interface is adaptable, displaying tiles based on your usage patterns. For instance, if you usually navigate with Google Maps and listen to Spotify during your morning drive, these apps will be prominently displayed.

As someone who adores customization, I appreciate that Android Auto provides better room to communicate when driving with a less invasive interface.

Android Auto vs CarPlay Audio Quality

Music lovers, podcast enthusiasts, or anyone who likes a background tune on a drive – this one’s for you.

Supported Music and Podcast Platforms

#1. Apple CarPlay: Apple CarPlay primarily pushes Apple Music, but it doesn’t lock out competitors. It supports third-party apps like Spotify, Tidal and even popular podcasting platforms like Stitcher. This is a relief as not everyone is aboard the Apple Music train.

I’ve had personal instances where I’ve smoothly transitioned from my iPhone’s Spotify playlist to CarPlay’s interface.

#2. Android Auto: In the spirit of inclusivity, Android Auto supports various music streaming and podcasting platforms.

From Google Play Music to third-party apps like Audible for audiobooks, the choices are vast. As a serial podcast listener, I love that Android Auto is the friendlier system for third-party app users.

Voice Assistant Capabilities: Siri vs Google Assistant

Voice assistants are an essential feature for hands-free driving.

#1. Siri (Apple CarPlay): Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, is integrated into CarPlay. While Siri has come a long way in understanding and processing requests, it’s still primarily designed around Apple’s ecosystem.

So, while you can ask Siri to play a song on Apple Music seamlessly, it might fumble a bit with third-party apps.

#2. Google Assistant (Android Auto): Google Assistant shines when it comes to knowledge retrieval and compatibility with third-party apps. Ask it anything, from weather forecasts to trivia, and you’ll likely get a satisfactory answer.

From my experience, Google Assistant has a slight edge in understanding diverse accents and commands.

Navigation and Mapping Features

Being lost is so last decade. With advanced navigation tools in both these systems, the open road feels a lot friendlier.

#1. Apple CarPlay: Apple Maps is the default navigation system here. Over the years, it’s improved its accuracy and interface, providing real-time traffic updates and detailed directions.

And for those of us who prefer Google Maps or Waze, CarPlay now supports these third-party apps, making it a more versatile navigation companion.

#2. Android Auto: Google Maps is naturally the cornerstone of Android Auto’s navigation. The detailed maps, coupled with real-time updates and lane suggestions, make it a reliable guide.

I recall many trips where Google Maps promptly rerouted me due to an unforeseen roadblock, saving me precious travel time.

Pros and Cons Breakdown

Android Auto

  • Requires only Android 8.0 or newer for compatibility.
  • Offers wireless functionality from Android 11.0 onwards.
  • A customizable display layout provides flexibility.
  • Uses Google Assistant, known for wider third-party app integration and better natural language processing.
  • Employs Google Maps by default, which is generally preferred for navigation.
  • Greater support for third-party apps, including one from Apple: Apple Music.
  • Exclusive to Android phones.
  • Might have limited availability in some car models compared to Apple CarPlay.

Apple CarPlay

  • Compatible with iPhone 5 or newer running iOS 7.1 or newer.
  • Wireless functionality is available from iOS 9 onwards.
  • Clean, well-organized home screen for easy access.
  • Incorporates Siri for voice controls.
  • Despite using Apple Maps by default, it provides compatibility with a range of Google apps, including Google Maps, Music, Podcasts, and Calendar.
  • Only for iPhone users.
  • Navigation adjustments can be more challenging compared to Android Auto.

Having tried both systems, I can affirm they both enhance the driving experience remarkably. It’s not about one being universally better, but which aligns with your personal needs and phone choice.

Safety First: Driving with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

In an era where our phones beep, buzz, and light up almost incessantly, driving safely requires technologies that keep those distractions at bay. 

As someone who spends a significant amount of time behind the wheel, I hold safety in the highest regard. So, let’s explore how these in-car technology platforms prioritize your safety.

Designed for Distraction-Free Use

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aim to minimize on-screen time, allowing drivers to focus on the road.

#1. Large Icons and Simplified Menus: Whether it’s Apple’s intuitive user interface or Android Auto’s adaptable display, both systems prioritize clarity and ease of use.

The large icons ensure you can quickly identify and access essential features without squinting or second-guessing.

#2. Limited App Access: Not every app on your phone will be available on these car systems. Only selected apps, often those essential for driving like navigation, music streaming, or calling, make the cut.

This ensures drivers aren’t scrolling through irrelevant apps while driving.

#3. Notification Management: Both systems curate the notifications you receive, ensuring only essential ones pop up.

For instance, while using Apple CarPlay on a road trip, I noticed it didn’t bombard me with every social media notification, keeping distractions minimal.

Voice Commands and Hands-Free Operation

A significant safety feature of these platforms is their focus on hands-free driving. Voice control is paramount here.

#1. Reading Out Messages and Notifications: Instead of having to read a text or email, both systems can read them out for you. So, if your boss sends an urgent email or your partner messages you, you can hear it without ever taking your eyes off the road.

#2. Voice-Controlled Messaging and Calling: Need to send a quick message or make a call? Just speak your command. Whether it’s “Call Alex” or “Text Jamie I’m on my way,” voice control has got your back. During my drives, I’ve found this especially useful when navigating heavy traffic.

#3. Voice-Controlled Navigation and Music: Whether you’re searching for a café or your favorite podcasting episode, all you need to do is ask. It eliminates the need to manually type or scroll, ensuring hands stay on the wheel.

Siri vs. Google Assistant in Driver Safety

When it comes to ensuring driver safety through voice commands, Siri and Google Assistant are at the forefront. But how do they stack up against each other?

#1. Siri (Apple CarPlay): Siri has a straightforward approach. You activate it, ask your question or give a command, and Siri does the rest. I’ve found it quite reliable when making calls or setting up navigation routes on Apple Maps.

#2. Google Assistant (Android Auto): Google Assistant offers a more conversational approach, often asking follow-up questions to refine your request.

For instance, if you say, “Navigate to Starbucks,” it might ask, “Which one?” providing a list of nearby options. I appreciate this precision as it often saves me from navigating to the wrong location.

Compatibility and Hardware Insights

For many, the battle between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is not just about features or user interface; it’s about compatibility and the seamless integration of these car infotainment systems into their vehicles.

As we delve deeper into the world of in-car technology, let’s address a common concern: How well do these systems gel with our existing cars and smartphones?

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Head Unit

The heart of both systems is the head unit, the central hub installed in your car’s dashboard. This is where your phone connects, and its features come alive on the screen.

#1. Touchscreen Controls: Both systems use a touch-responsive interface, allowing users to interact similarly as they would with their phones.

#2. Physical Buttons and Knobs: Some head units integrate physical buttons and knobs. These are particularly useful for volume control or switching between apps, such as shifting from navigation to music streaming.

Bridging Gaps with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Dongle

Not every car has a built-in system for these platforms, and this is where dongles come in. These external devices plug into your car, turning it into a smart vehicle, ready for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

When I first heard about them, I was skeptical. But having seen them in action, I’m convinced of their utility. They’re a cost-effective solution, especially if you’re not keen on replacing your entire head unit.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

In the world of car infotainment systems, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have integrated cutting-edge in-car technology into our everyday driving experiences.

Unfortunately, as seamless as these systems aim to be, they aren’t devoid of occasional hitches. 

Connectivity and Pairing Problems

When it comes to using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the first step is getting your smartphone connected to the car. But sometimes, this can be easier said than done.

#1. USB Cable Issues: A simple yet frequent problem. Not all cables are made equal. Swapping out a flimsy cable for a quality one can often resolve connectivity issues. I remember using a non-branded wire once and struggling to connect; switching to the cable that came with my phone did the trick.

#2. Software Update Required: Always ensure your phone and your car’s infotainment system are up-to-date. An outdated system may not recognize newer devices or vice versa.

#3. Reboot and Retry: When in doubt, turning off both your smartphone and car, then restarting can reset the connection and solve many minor glitches.

App Crashes and Restarting Issues

While both Apple and Android have worked tirelessly to ensure their in-car assistant systems are stable, app crashes can still happen.

#1. Outdated Apps: Ensure all your third-party apps, like navigation, music streaming, or podcasting, are updated to their latest versions. I’ve noticed that my Best Android Auto apps tend to run smoother when they’re updated.

#2. Limited Phone Resources: If multiple apps are open on your phone, it might strain the system when you connect it to CarPlay or Android Auto. Closing unnecessary apps can free up resources.

#3. Full Reset: Sometimes, the old “turn it off and on again” trick works wonders. Resetting your infotainment system or phone might clear minor bugs causing the apps to crash.

#4. Check for Known Issues: It’s worth noting that both Apple and Android have dedicated forums and support pages where users discuss common issues. If a particular app keeps crashing, it could be a widespread problem that’s being addressed.

Investment in Infotainment: Understanding Costs

Modern in-car technology has drastically altered our driving experience. From simple AM/FM radios, we’ve transitioned to dynamic car infotainment systems with complex capabilities.

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto stand at the forefront of this revolution. But understanding their price structure can be a bit daunting. Here’s a deeper dive.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Price

When it comes to cost, many people often ask, “Is there a subscription fee for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?” Both these in-car assistant systems aim to provide seamless integration without a hefty price tag.

#1. Apple CarPlay: Traditionally, once you purchase a car with Apple CarPlay enabled or retrofit your vehicle with a compatible head unit, there’s no additional fee from Apple for using CarPlay. Retrofitting costs can vary depending on the car and the head unit you choose, but they typically range from $200 to $1,000 depending on the exact radio model.

#2. Android Auto: Just like its Apple counterpart, Android Auto doesn’t charge users a recurring fee post the initial setup, either through a new car purchase or retrofit.

The no-subscription aspect of both systems indeed emphasizes their commitment to safer, hands-free driving without monthly financial strings attached.

Subscription Costs vs One-Time Purchases

Some third-party apps on both platforms may have their own subscription costs. For example, premium music streaming services or advanced navigation apps might charge monthly or yearly. Always review the Best Android Auto apps or Apple CarPlay apps to understand any associated costs.

While the basic software is free post-installation, costs can arise from purchasing compatible hardware or paying for professional installation services.

Potential Additional Costs (Hardware, Retrofitting)

To harness the full power of these in-car technology giants, specific additional costs might sneak up on you:

#1. Hardware: Not all cars come with infotainment systems that support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

You may need to invest in a compatible head unit. Brands vary in price, with some high-end options offering enhanced user interface and customization.

#2. Retrofitting: If you own an older vehicle, retrofitting becomes crucial. This process can sometimes cost a significant amount depending on the car’s make and complexity. It’s like giving your old car a tech facelift.

#3. Data Charges: Remember, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto use your phone’s data for various services such as navigation, music streaming, and more. Depending on your mobile plan, excessive data usage might incur additional charges.

Keeping Up with Tech: Updates and Longevity

When choosing between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, understanding their update frequency and long-term support is essential.

How Often Do They Update?

Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto are prime examples of technology that doesn’t remain static. Both these in-car assistant systems regularly release updates to enhance user experience:

#1. Apple CarPlay: Apple typically releases major updates for CarPlay alongside its annual iOS updates. This usually occurs once a year, introducing new features, design tweaks, and enhancements for Apple CarPlay apps.

#2. Android Auto: Google’s approach is a tad different. While major updates might not be as annual as Apple’s, they roll out incremental updates throughout the year, refining the user interface, compatibility, and Best Android Auto apps.

Long-Term Support and Vehicle Lifespan

It’s one thing to introduce an update and another to ensure that older car infotainment systems can handle it:

#1. Apple CarPlay: Known for its long-term software support on various devices, Apple ensures that older vehicles aren’t left out when newer updates roll in, offering a blend of compatibility and new features.

#2. Android Auto: Google, too, ensures that older vehicles and head units can support newer updates. However, the diverse range of manufacturers sometimes can lead to slight delays in update rollouts.

Addressing Bugs and User Feedback

With every update, bugs and glitches can sneak in. But here’s how these giants handle them:

#1. Active Developer Community: Both Apple and Google have dedicated developer communities working tirelessly to ensure smooth in-car technology experiences. They address bugs, enhance voice control features, and even refine navigation capabilities based on user feedback.

#2. Feedback Systems: Users can report issues directly via feedback options available on both platforms. This not only helps in identifying bugs but also in understanding what features users desire.

#3. Dedicated Support Forums: Both Apple and Google maintain forums where common issues are discussed. It’s a treasure trove for those who want to troubleshoot issues or learn about new features.

While the allure of hands-free driving, seamless music streaming, and intuitive messaging is enticing, it’s the consistent updates and long-term support that truly define the success of such platforms. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto excel in these aspects, ensuring your investment remains future-proof.

Voices from the Road: What Users are Saying

In the age of in-car technology, understanding real user feedback is pivotal. Before diving into the pros and cons of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, let’s consider the experiences of everyday drivers. After all, they’re the ones spending hours navigating the features, music streaming options, and third-party apps on these platforms.

Benefits and Praises from Users

For many, car infotainment systems have become indispensable, offering a suite of features that elevate the driving experience:

#1. Intuitive User Interface: Both CarPlay and Android Auto shine in their UI designs. Drivers appreciate the clear, easy-to-read icons and straightforward navigation.

#2. Hands-Free Driving: Voice control is a game-changer. Both systems provide efficient voice command features, with users particularly praising Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant for their accuracy and speed.

#3. Streamlined Access to Essential Apps: From messaging to podcasting, and calling to music streaming, drivers love how both systems integrate essential apps into their in-car experience.

#4. Third-Party App Support: Android Auto is often touted as the friendlier system for third-party app users. The flexibility and variety it offers are commendable. Meanwhile, some of the Best Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps are those from third-party developers that enhance the driving experience.

#5. Customization: A huge win for users is the ability to customize their screens, ensuring the most used apps are always within easy reach.

Beyond the Duopoly: Other Players in Car Infotainment

While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are undoubtedly the most prominent players in the car infotainment domain, they’re not the only options out there.

It’s always enriching to look beyond the duopoly and dive into other in-car technology players that are making waves and offering alternatives.

MirrorLink and Other Systems

MirrorLink, for one, is a noteworthy contender. Its objective mirrors (pun intended!) that of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: seamless integration of your phone’s capabilities into your car’s dashboard.

Key features of MirrorLink:

#1. Universal compatibility: MirrorLink is compatible with a wide range of smartphones and cars. This means that you can use MirrorLink even if you have an older phone or car.

#2. Customizable user interface: MirrorLink allows you to customize the user interface to your liking. You can choose which apps are displayed on the home screen, and you can even change the theme to match your car’s interior.

#3. Voice control: MirrorLink supports voice control, so you can control your phone and car without taking your hands off the wheel. This is a great feature for safety, and it can also be convenient when you’re driving.

#4. App selection: MirrorLink offers a variety of third-party apps dedicated to driving. This includes apps for navigation, music, podcasts, and more. Many of these apps are not available on CarPlay or Android Auto, so MirrorLink is a great option if you’re looking for more app choices.

Overall, MirrorLink is a great option for in-car connectivity. It is compatible with a wide range of devices and cars, it offers a variety of features, and it is constantly being updated with new features and improvements.

Beyond MirrorLink, there are several other applications worth looking at:

  • Amazon Alexa Auto: This platform allows drivers to use voice commands to control their car’s features, including navigation, music, and smart home devices.
  • MirrorLink: This platform allows drivers to connect their smartphones to their car’s infotainment system, providing access to apps and features directly on the car’s display.
  • Baidu CarLife: This platform is popular in China and offers similar features to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, including navigation, music, and voice commands.
  • SmartDeviceLink: This platform is open-source software that enables drivers to control their car’s features using their smartphone. It is used by several car manufacturers, including Ford and Toyota.
  • Open Automotive Alliance: This is a collaboration between several car manufacturers and technology companies to develop a common platform for in-car entertainment and communication systems.

The Future of Car Infotainment: What’s Next?

The world of in-car technology is always in the fast lane. As we ponder upon the Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto debate, there are larger transformations brewing:

#1. Augmented Reality (AR) Dashboards: Imagine your dashboard overlaying navigation guidance on your windshield, integrating real-time surroundings with virtual directions. This could redefine hands-free driving.

#2. Intelligent Personal Assistants: Beyond voice control, in-car systems might soon predict your needs. Leaving work? Your car could warm up in advance during winters or map out the least congested route home.

#3. Enhanced Third-Party App Ecosystem: Both CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as other players, will continue to expand their third-party app libraries. The goal? Offering users a more holistic driving experience.

#4. Deeper Integration with Home Systems: Your car infotainment system could soon communicate with your home, preparing it for your arrival by adjusting the thermostat, turning on lights, or even preheating the oven.

I’m waiting for the day when I can ask my car where I left my keys, and it actually knows the answer!

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Navigating the bustling world of car infotainment systems, one is left with the realization that in-car technology isn’t just about convenience; it’s about revolutionizing the driving experience.

From hands-free driving enhancements to personalized podcasting, the race between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has opened up a world of possibilities for consumers.

When weighing Apple CarPlay vs Android Auto, the best system for you may not be about who wins the debate on paper but what resonates with your personal needs and preferences.

Factors to Ponder

#1. User Interface & Customization: Do you prefer a system that looks and feels like your iPhone, or are you searching for an interface that offers more freedom for customization?

#2. Compatibility: Ensure the system you choose works seamlessly with your device. 

#3 Third-Party Apps: If you rely heavily on certain third-party apps while driving – be it for navigation, music streaming, or messaging – delve into which platform offers the best Android Auto apps or Apple CarPlay apps for your needs.

#4. Price Point: While many modern vehicles come with these systems built-in, there might be subscription costs or potential upgrades down the line.

While Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto are leading the charge today, the domain of car infotainment is vast and ever-evolving. No matter where your allegiance lies now – be it CarPlay, Android Auto, or another system – stay curious. The journey ahead in the world of in-car technology promises to be an exhilarating one.