You're probably curious about what CarPlay is exactly and how it works, but it's important to know why it was developed in the first place.
Cars take much longer to develop than personal tech products. By the time you can purchase a given car, the infotainment system is already severely outdated. Unlike smartphones, which have short product cycles of a year or two at most, a car product cycle is typically longer.
The average car cycle is a mid-cycle refresh every 2-3 years and a completely new model every 4-6 years, for mainstream vehicles. Luxury vehicles operate on a longer product cycle that can span up to 10 years, albeit with major updates introduced halfway through.
The gap has narrowed dramatically over the last five years, but automakers still can't update maps, software and app support as quickly as Apple and Google can. CarPlay is Apple's solution to this lapse in the car and smartphone development cycles.
Apple CarPlay offers automakers the ability to swap out the complicated and often clunky infotainment systems for a display that interfaces with the iPhone that few can live without.
CarPlay is not an in-car system that runs iOS or iOS apps. It's a connectivity solution that casts a familiar iOS interface to the car's infotainment system display, allowing you to control select apps and your device either with said infotainment screen or your voice.
Once you plug an iPhone into your car via a Lightning cable, it instantly casts the user interface you know and love on the in-car screen. You can then use some functionality of your iPhone without having to fumble around with it and take your eyes off the road. It's safer, easier and more convenient – or that's the idea, anyway.
Apple CarPlay aftermarket solutions?
Just bought a car or not in a rush to replace yours? Fret not. Apple CarPlay aftermarket solutions are available from companies like Alpine, JBL, JVC, Kenwood and Pioneer to launch that CD player into 2016.
The JBL Legend CP100 is the most affordable way to add CarPlay to your car, with an MSRP of $399. Alpine, JVC, Kenwood and Pioneer offer a variety of CarPlay compatible products with more audio output options, rear seat entertainment support and even built-in navigation capabilities, but prepare to pay significantly more money for extra features.
Is my iPhone compatible with CarPlay?
Apple CarPlay requires a certain amount of oomph and a Lightning connector, so older iPhones with a 30-pin dock connection are simply not capable of running it.
Only iPhone 5 and newer devices can run CarPlay, including the latest iPhone SE,iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. If you're hoping to keep an iPad always plugged in for CarPlay functions, it will not work, unfortunately.
On June 13, 2016, during Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, it announced that CarPlay would be enhanced by Siri's newfound integration with third-party apps. In the car, this will allow you to trigger Siri and ask it to use apps that aren't made by Apple. Case in point: you can trigger Siri using your steering wheel and ask it to call your dad using Skype, and that Skype call will be piped through your vehicle's audio system.
What does CarPlay look like?
The idea of CarPlay is it allows you to have the familiar iOS user interface on the infotainment display, and control it using all available in-car controls. So that includes playing your music, navigating to your destination, taking phone calls, as well as reading and sending text messages.
From the start, you'll be able to use your iPhone's phone and messaging functionality, play your iTunes music, listen to podcasts and navigate using Apple Maps. Third party apps are available through CarPlay, too, like Pandora, NPR and iHeartRadio, to name a few.