Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Preview of CarPlay Changes in iOS 13

John Voorhees, MacStories:

When my lease was up earlier this year, CarPlay support was at the top of the list of must-have features when we began looking for a new car. We wound up leasing a Nissan Altima, which has a faster entertainment system, larger touchscreen, and better hardware button support for navigating CarPlay’s UI. The hardware differences took a system I already loved to a new level by reducing past friction and frustrations even though the underlying software hadn’t changed.

Just a few weeks after we brought the Altima home though, Apple announced that it would update CarPlay with the release of iOS 13 this fall. In a jam-packed keynote, CarPlay got very little stage time, but I was immediately intrigued by the scope of the announcement. CarPlay hasn’t changed much since it was introduced in 2014, but with iOS 13, iPhone users can look forward to not only significant improvements in its design, but a new app and other features that make this the biggest leap forward for CarPlay to date.

Like Voorhees, CarPlay support was a primary deciding factor when we were shopping for a car last year. Once you have it, it’s hard to imagine a vehicle replacement without it.

I can testify to the mostly-wonderful updates to CarPlay after spending two months with iOS 13 and, in particular, after a lengthy road trip last week. The new Dashboard view is excellent.

One of the more frustrating aspects of CarPlay was how it would directly mirror whichever app was frontmost on the connected iPhone. If the driver was relying on Maps directions, for example, and the passenger wanted to change the playlist, opening the Music app on the iPhone would switch to the Music app in CarPlay, too. That’s solved in iOS 13; CarPlay runs more independently of the iPhone, which is a boon on a road trip.

One limitation that still exists is that turn-by-turn directions still take over the Maps app in both CarPlay and on the connected phone. When we wanted to find a gas station or restaurant in the next town, the passenger would have to end turn-by-turn directions before being able to search Maps. I kind of understand the technical limitation here and, on a highway, it’s not a big deal to keep driving in a straight line, but it still feels like something that should be possible.

Also in Maps, I’ve found that its ability to recognize a likely next destination is spotty at best. I added motel bookings as calendar events with addresses, but Maps never once suggested these as destinations, even though CarPlay now includes a Calendar app.

Siri still has problems. I have cellular data disabled in Music because I only want to use my local library with my metered plan. Asking Siri to play a particular album or artist within my local library would always fail with the same message of needing to connect to WiFi first, suggesting that it was only searching Apple Music. It’s frustrating if you want to safely change your playlist.

Otherwise, I think that iOS 13 presents plenty of improvements to CarPlay. If you have a car and it supports CarPlay, you’re going to love these changes when the update ships next month.