Apple CarPlay: Better than Bluetooth

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #373

When I bought my Subaru Legacy in 2016, Apple’s CarPlay wasn’t available for it, even as an option. My car has Bluetooth, which lets me listen to music or podcasts; hear turn-by-turn navigation instruction, and make and receive phone calls hands-free through the car stereo.

I was satisfied with Bluetooth and the convenience it provided until yesterday when my wife and I traded in her dying 2005 Jaguar on a 2018 Subaru Impreza. What can I say? She liked my Legacy a lot and decided her next car would be a Subaru, too.

By 2018 CarPlay had become standard equipment on most Subarus, so our new (to us) car has CarPlay. And, after only a few hours of using it, I’m totally jealous.

What is CarPlay, Anyway?

Before I get into why I like CarPlay better than Bluetooth, let me tell you what CarPlay is and what it does. Introduced by Apple in 2014, CarPlay enables your car’s touchscreen and audio system to act as a display and controller for your iPhone 5 or later running iOS 7.1 or later.

The first thing to note is that Bluetooth is wireless and CarPlay is not, at least not in most cars today. You have to connect your iPhone via USB-to-Lightning cable. Wireless CarPlay is coming, but it’s new and only available on a handful of high-end 2019 and 2020 car models so far.

Wired or wireless, CarPlay is fantastic. It uses the much bigger touchscreen in the Impreza’s dash to display a customized-for-the-car rendition of your iPhone screen. The icons are big and easy to tap; the text is large and easy-to-read, and everything responds to voice commands you can activate via a button on the steering wheel.

CarPlay doesn’t work with every app, only those designed for CarPlay. But that includes most of the apps I want while driving including Apple’s Maps, Music, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and others, as well as third-party apps such as Spotify, Audible, NPR One, Google Maps, Overcast, Sirius XM Radio, Tidal, MLB At Bat, and more.

The Best Part of CarPlay (to Me)

One thing I really love is having giant “fast-forward 30-seconds” and “rewind 30-seconds” buttons on the screen for podcasts and audiobooks.

The 30-second forward and back buttons made my day.
The 30-second forward and back buttons made my day.

Another thing I love is having the Maps app displayed on my dashboard screen four times the size of my iPhone.

CarPlay's Maps are where its at...
Maps with CarPlay are where it’s at…

Finally, CarPlay uses Siri to help you keep your eyes on the road. She’ll read your text messages aloud, and let you dictate your reply. She can inform you of missed calls, playback your voicemails, and much more.

There is one more thing: Third-party CarPlay system can be installed in many cars, but they aren’t cheap. Expect to pay at least $400 (wired) or $600 (wireless) to have a CarPlay system installed.

That being said, and having experienced CarPlay up close and personal, I’ll never buy another vehicle without it. I’m even considering an aftermarket system for my Legacy.

Yes, it’s that good.

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