Whether you just purchased a CarPlay compatible vehicle or you have just installed an aftermarket CarPlay stereo, or perhaps you are curious and would like to know more about Apple’s in-car platform, this guide is for you.
In this guide we will go through how Apple CarPlay works, what you need, and how to get around using the various functions of Apple CarPlay.
1. Check your iPhone iOS version
CarPlay works with iPhones running iOS 10 or higher. If you can upgrade to the latest version of the iOS 10 operating system you can continue onto the next step.
If you don’t know what iOS you’re running. Go into the Settings App > General > About > Version.
Also more simpler, if your iPhone has a Lightning cable port. It will work with Apple CarPlay.
2. You’ll need a CarPlay compatible stereo
Although Apple uses your iPhone to run Apple CarPlay, you still require a CarPlay compatible stereo system to view Apple CarPlay on an in-car display. This can be achieved on either of the types listed below:
A) an existing manufacture in-car stereo with CarPlay support.
B) an aftermarket car stereo with CarPlay support.
C) an Android stereo (or tablet) with an Android CarPlay dongle.
3. You’ll need a USB port that’s connected to your CarPlay stereo
If your CarPlay system is stock from a manufacture, you’ll likely have a USB port located somewhere on the dashboard or in a compartment or in the glove box.
If your CarPlay system is aftermarket, either you or the installer would have installed the female USB port in your centre console, running out from the back of your dashboard, or possibly in your glove box.
If you are using an Android CarPlay dongle, you simply plug your Lightning cable into the USB socket of the Android dongle.
You’ll need this USB port to plug in your iPhone’s Lightning cable for Apple CarPlay to work – wired. Plugging your iPhone into a connected 12v USB adapter will not work – the USB socket has to be connected to the stereo that will be displaying CarPlay.
4. Plug in the Lightning cable
For a wired CarPlay connection, you’ll need to insert your iPhone’s Lightning cable into the vehicle’s USB port. If you have more than one USB port on a stock vehicle, you may have a USB port that’s dedicated for Apple CarPlay, or it may be titled USB AUX. The other USB port may only be used for charging. So check your vehicle manual if you are not sure which USB port to use.
You don’t have to use the official white Apple Lightning cable. You could buy a black Apple Lightning cable if you like to be a little more discrete with your in-car cabling.
There are also coiled expanding Lightning cables available, which helps compact the cable back into a compartment where the USB port is located, so you don’t have any wires hanging around when the cable is not connected.
5. Wait for your stereo to detect CarPlay – give permission if asked
Once you’ve plugged in your iPhone, give it a few seconds and you should see your iPhone go into CarPlay mode, displaying the logo on its screen.
If it’s your first time connecting to your vehicle’s CarPlay enabled stereo, you may have to grant permission on your iPhone. Make sure you accept this, otherwise Apple CarPlay will not display on your system until you do. If you need to go back to enable this go to: Settings App > General > CarPlay and under My Cars, you can enable the CarPlay device.
6. Press the CarPlay icon
Locate the CarPlay icon on your stereo display. This is usually located on your stereo’s native home screen. So navigate to this screen and look for the Apple CarPlay system logo.
Each vehicle and aftermarket stereo displays the Apple CarPlay launch icon differently. So consult the vehicle/stereo manual for further help on locating this button.
You may also have an ‘Audio’ or ‘Source’ toggle function button on the side of the screen. Try cycling through the audio/source modes until you get to the CarPlay home screen on your display.
7. Apple CarPlay Home Screen/Dashboard
At first launch of Apple CarPlay you’ll notice a selection of App icons for Apps that are CarPlay compatible. The side dock, located on the left or right side of the display will show the iPhone’s time, mobile data signal or WiFi signal, a Home button and up to three recently used app icons to quick launch into.
8. Launch an app
Launching an app is as simple as selecting the icon on the CarPlay launch screen.
You can also launch the app by selecting it on your iPhone display.
If the application is CarPlay compatible it will launch full-screen on the CarPlay display, whilst the app will also launch on your iPhone screen.
9. Going home
To go back to the home screen, at any time, press the white Home button that’s located on the bottom corner of the side dock that persists across all CarPlay apps.
10. Scrolling pages of app icons
Just like an iPhone Home Screen, CarPlay has the ability to display two rows of app icons per screen.
If you have more apps that can display on one Home Screen you will notice some page navigation ‘dots’ at the bottom of the Home Screen. You can tap either side of these navigation dots to go forward and backwards between screens of apps, or you can simply swipe left or right on your CarPlay touchscreen display, as you would on your iPhone display.
Tip: Pressing the Home button whilst on Screen 2 or more will automatically move you back to the first Home Screen
11. Changing side dock left or right position
Most CarPlay systems have the ability to swap the position of the CarPlay side dock, but the location of toggling left or right side can vary greatly between manufacture in-car systems and aftermarket stereos.
Look in your stereo’s manual for the option to toggle driver position left or right. It is this option that CarPlay looks for to position its side dock. Simply select the option you want and relaunch CarPlay to see the change. Sometimes you vehicle might need to be completely switched off and then turn the ignition to see the changes.
12. Switching apps with the side dock
Similar to the bottom dock on your iPhone screen, the side dock can contain up to three recently used apps.
Up until iOS 12, CarPlay has always reserved two of the three shortcuts to app for messaging and navigation apps. With iOS 12 the maps app can now switch to an alternative navigation app, such as Google Maps or Waze. Whilst the messaging app icon can switch to the last used messages app, which can be apps such as iMessage or WhatsApp. The third app icon will display the last used app or app that is currently last accessed. Podcast and music apps usually fill this third slot in the side dock.
13. Now playing Option
The Now Playing option on the CarPlay hope screen is not necessarily an app, its more of a large shortcut to jump into the app that is currently playing audio within CarPlay. Tapping this icon will likely take you back anything that’s playing audio, be it Apple Music, Spotify, or any of your favourite podcast app.
CarPlay allows certain applications to send notifications directly to your CarPlay screen. These can be WhatsApp messages, navigation events/commands from Apple Maps, Google Maps or Waze, through to Calendar events and incoming calls.
Tapping this notification will launch the application it is notifying, just as long as it is CarPlay compatible. Messages will be read out via Siri, whilst navigation commands will bring you straight back into your navigation app, should you be previously looking at an audio app.
15. Leaving CarPlay via app icon
Leaving Apple CarPlay, and back to your in-car system can be done by either:
A) Pulling out the Lightning cable from your iPhone
B) Pressing the Automaker/Aftermarket app icon on the CarPlay Home Screen.
The Automaker/Aftermarket app icon is styled to suit the vehicle. It could display a VW logo in Volkswagen vehicles, or an Alpine logo to return to an Alpine aftermarket system home screen.
C) Pressing a Menu function hardware button on the stereo
Pressing the function button will toggle between CarPlay and the system’s menu interface.
16. CarPlay volume
Some vehicles have the ability to alter how loud CarPlay can sound over other functions found on the in-car system. Usually this can be found in the system’s audio menus and look for CarPlay as an option. It is here that some systems such as Alpine’s X907-D have options to control Siri and general CarPlay video independently.
Navigation apps also have the ability to toggle audio alerts only, as well as having audio directions on and off.