Having had CarPlay installed last month, with the help of Alpine and in-car specialists, Huets and Celsus, I thought it would be good to create a regular article that wraps-up my experiences of using Apple’s CarPlay over the course of a week, month, three months etc. So to continue, here is my thoughts on using CarPlay over the last month.
Since my week with Apple CarPlay I’ve been back to my audio specialists, Huets, in search for a replacement module that helps to work better with my steering wheel controls. I wanted to press my telephone ‘call’ button and have Siri activate on my Alpine ILX-700. I had seen online that it was doable, and with the help of an installed SWI-CP5 programmable module unit, I could configure it to work.
All this work might have been unnecessary though, Because after the first week I reminded myself that you can trigger Siri with your voice by saying ‘Hey Siri’ whilst the iPhone is powered (the newer iPhone 6S doesn’t even need to be powered). With my iPhone already being powered by the unit, all I had to do was configure my iPhone to listen to my command.
So with the ‘Hey Siri’ command available, I am finding myself even less interacting with my phone. Granted, that dictation from Siri still needs a ton of work to be perfect, and that nothing works at all if you are driving through an area with no 3G/4G signal, but with all that said, using hey Siri feels more conventiant than reaching over and pressing buttons. This is more apprent if your CarPlay unit doesn’t have a dedicated Siri button, to which the Alpine does.
Having installed every CarPlay app currently available, I find my main suite of apps continue to be Apple Maps, Spotify and Messages. I rather listen to my own playlists on Spotify than use other apps that play radio from overseas. Some are very nitch and not to my tastes, but for the sake of reviewing them here on CarPlay Life soon, I still have them installed and can’t wait to be rid of them!
CarPlay Still Has it’s Bugs & Niggles
I still want to be able to switch between the current and last used apps much quicker than is currently available. Not having this option ruins the user experience for me. It would be great if the ‘now playing’ icon appeared in the side nav bar when using another app and reduce the need to navigate out to the menus and back into what app is playing.
Plugging in, to continue your device experience in the car, still fails for me. This happens more so when playing podcasts on the phone, jumping in the car, and then launching Spotify on the CarPlay dashboard. Most of the time CarPlay simply doesn’t know what to do. I found the best way to know what has taken over is to press the Now Playing icon. By doing this I found that the podcast app is trying to play alongside Spotify, cancelling each other out in the process. So I have to come out of the Podcast app and relaunch Spotify. The system should be able to detect and switch to another audio app source more seamlessly. Sometimes I am reconnecting my iPhone with Spotify running to tell CarPlay to stop acting dumb and that I want Spotify to play audio instead.
Some apps can take an age to display its content. These are mostly internet driven/streaming audio apps. But CarPlay needs something to tell you this is happening and not display an empty list page. Some apps do display some loading text, but these are in the minority of all the CarPlay apps available. Developers need to do better to enhance the experience in their apps.
The same can be said for radio apps that play just one station. Without nothing else to display you only have the now playing screen to display what is playing on CarPlay. The display should auto switch to the now playing screen if this is the case and avoid empty screens.
Third-Party Siri Support
This niggle carries over to iPhone generally too. Not being able to tell Siri to play or search for a music track in Spotify (or any other music app, other than Apple Music) tarnishes the CarPlay and hands-free experience. It can be done for Apple Music users, but if you don’t want to use Apple’s (inferior) music service, then you’re all out of luck.
My Love With Apple CarPlay Continues
Overall I am still enjoying my CarPlay experience. I couldn’t go back to my old stock headunit now. Niggles aside, having my iPhone apps on a large, readable, touchscreen display makes it far more convenient whilst in the car. Sure there are still some general performance and interface issues to address, and Siri has its limitations on how helpful it can be whilst driving in the car, but overall, this past month has been a positive experience over what I could have had with my stock receiver.
In three months time, when I’ll be back with more impressions, I hope we will see some more continued improvements made from Apple and its app developers.