When I worried about CarPlay

Back in 2014 I was looking at new cars. I saw that Apple had just introduced CarPlay but it wasn’t available widely yet. Android Auto was also coming. I wasn’t sure if either was a good idea and so I wrote a quick article about my concerns. Like many speculative articles, it hasn’t aged very well, but it’s fun to take another look at this whole thing and see where it’s gone.

CarPlay (and Android Auto) are here.

More manufacturers seem to offer these solutions than not, now. I don’t blame them since customers demand a lot out of an “infotainment” system in their cars. It seems like, if you can just cheap out and use a pre-made solution, you’re better off. That’s especially true if the customer actually wants the pre-made system instead of your own.

Interestingly, one automaker who hasn’t bought into the whole CarPlay/Android Auto thing is Tesla. They’ve spent a lot on customizing their own experience which is generally excellent, but owners do complain about issues with Android, which may be why they haven’t done this.

You’re not locked out if you don’t have these solutions. Mostly.

Most systems that come with CarPlay or Android Auto also have at least some basic functionality without them. They still work as radios and some still even have GPS built in. It’s less of a problem than I thought. If you buy a car or a standalone radio with one of these systems, and you don’t want to use them, you don’t have to.

I was worried back then that if you had Windows Phone or Blackberry you wouldn’t be able to use these solutions. That’s a lot less of a concern now obviously. I also worried about people with flip phones. Technically you can still get a flip phone but again, this didn’t end up being something to worry about.

Most of the time, you’re not stuck if you switch platforms.

What you’re seeing more and more is that a car will come with both. You don’t have to decide at the factory or at the point of purchase. That was a big worry for me since I could see myself leaving iOS at some point and going to Android where nearly everyone else is.

Most systems today come with both and there is a way to switch from one to another. Obviously the data stored on your old phone doesn’t migrate but at least you don’t have a totally useless radio.

Chances are these systems won’t be obsolete like I worried about.

Cars can last a long time. Phones only last a short time. This seems like a recipe for disaster if you’re pairing them. Take it from me — my car plays “mp3-formatted CDs” and has a version of Bluetooth that’s largely incompatible with today’s phones. This kind of problem could still affect people with Android Auto or CarPlay but it’s looking less likely. Most Android Auto and CarPlay functionality starts at the phone and updates can go to the “head unit.” The only issue would be if, eventually, the older system didn’t have enough memory or processor to deal with upgrades to the phone-based systems. I do still see that being a problem but perhaps not as big a problems as I worried about.

Best of all third-party manufacturers are on board.

Most people today don’t tend to upgrade their car stereo systems. Manufacturer systems are a lot better than they used to be. However, if you aren’t seeing the functionality you want, you have options like this Planet Audio system that will drop into the space where your car’s system lives. It will work with most cars with a “Double DIN” sized opening. If you’re interested, check it out at Solid Signal!


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.