What is Apple CarPlay?

Apple CarPlay is the smartphone’s approach to a multimedia head unit. Similar to Android Auto, it simplifies important information from your smartphone and is projected onto an in-dash receiver. It has the benefit of a hands-free approach. It’s Siri enabled, allowing you to utilize voice commands in your car. The dash menu is a condensed version of the home screen of your iPhone. The application icons are large, so minimal time is spent with the screen.

Apple CarPlay also has a large library of compatible apps. Phone calls and text messages can also be made or read out while driving. The menu is an accessible version of your home screen, minus gaming and social media applications. Navigation, music, phone calls and messaging can be activated with voice commands, a la Siri. The keyboard search function is only made available when the car is not in motion.

The Apple CarPlay aftermarket head unit is becoming popular for upgrading media features without investing in a new car. To open CarPlay, plug the iPhone into your vehicle with a USB cable into the head unit and unlock the phone for program access. With this, drivers can stay focused and let Apple CarPlay provide a safer driving experience without having to take your eyes off the road.

Apple CarPlay differs from Android Auto because it is not an app you can download on your phone. You’re unable to mount your phone and use it like a heads-up display. In order to use it you must have a compatible head unit either from the factory or from an aftermarket stereo.


Turn-by-turn GPS directions are displayed on the head unit screen via the Apple Maps app in either 2D or 3D. You can choose to display traffic conditions and estimated travel time. Ask Siri to find a destination or a broad search for somewhere to eat, if there are more than one option a scroll list will appear on the driver’s side of the screen to select from. 

Siri can also predict where you may want to go using addresses collected from email, texts, contacts and calendars. If you have a set day-to-day schedule, Apple Maps also offers you the choice to begin that navigation route immediately.

A “Nearby” feature makes finding gas, parking, restaurants, coffee and other things easier to find. You’ll be able to find new places to go with a touch of a button.

Phone Calls and Messages

You can use Siri to make calls, listen to voice mails and send and receive text messages from the Apple Carplay head unit. The moment you open either Text or Messages on the head unit, Siri is activated for you. This nice little feature encourages hands-free calling or texting.

You can tell Siri who you want to text or call and Siri will write the message or call the person. When sending a message, you can have Siri read the message back and make a change if needed. You can reply to the message without having to touch the screen or type on your iPhone. It is a safer and convenient way to stay in touch while on the road.


The Apple Carplay head unit will display your complete iTunes library onto the car stereo screen. It supports music apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and more. Many Apple CarPlay compatible head units also support high resolution WAV and FLAC audio files so you can enjoy high quality audio in your car.

Compatible Apps

Various apps are compatible with Apple CarPlay. Podcasts, Stitcher, Audiobooks, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and many more are available. More apps are bound to come out as Apple CarPlay becomes more popular and developers figure out new ways to integrate different apps.

Pioneer, Kenwood, Alpine and JBL are coming out with Apple CarPlay aftermarket head units that allow anyone to have this feature in their car.

Apple CarPlay compatible head units sold by Sonic Electronix.