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To use your Apple CarPlay infotainment system, you’ll need to connect your iPhone 5 or newer to your car’s display using a USB cable. Once connected, you’ll be able to control your iPhone from the CarPlay screen. The easiest way to navigate CarPlay is with Siri, which will allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
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Understand the limitations of CarPlay – CarPlay only interfaces with your iPhone. You can think of CarPlay as a second screen for certain features of your iPhone. Your iPhone will still do all of the lifting. This means that CarPlay uses your iPhone’s GPS for Maps, not your car’s built-in GPS. CarPlay also does not connect with any of your car’s settings, such as the interior lights. CarPlay is instead designed to give you easy and hands-free access to iPhone functions you’ll use most while driving, such as Maps, Music, Phone, Podcasts, etc.
Ensure your car receiver is compatible – CarPlay requires a compatible car infotainment system. Many US manufacturers have added CarPlay to their 2016 models, with more slated each year. if your car does not have a CarPlay-compatible infotainment system, you can get a third-party receiver installed at most car stereo stores.
Ensure your iPhone is compatible – CarPlay requires an iPhone be connected in order to work, and the iPhone must connect with a Lightning cable. This means you’ll need an iPhone 5 or newer, as older iPhones have a 30-pin connector instead of a Lightning connector.
Connect the iPhone to the USB port on your receiver using a Lightning cable – Use the cable that came with your iPhone or another Lightning-to-USB cable to connect the iPhone to your car’s receiver. CarPlay currently only works if the iPhone is plugged in.
Start the CarPlay program on your receiver. The process for this will vary depending on your car’s built-in infotainment system. Generally there will be a CarPlay button on the main menu, or it may have a physical button. Sometimes CarPlay will start automatically when the iPhone is connected.
- Once CarPlay has launched, your iPhone screen will be locked. You may be prompted to unlock it to start CarPlay, after which it will be locked again. This is to prevent distractions while driving.
Touch the buttons to open CarPlay-approved apps. There will be several system apps provided by Apple, and you can swipe the screen to view third-party apps that Apple has approved for CarPlay (if you have them installed on your iPhone already). Some of these apps include Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming radio services.
Use built-in knobs and other physical controls. If your infotainment system uses knobs or other physical control methods, these will work with CarPlay as well. Twist the knob to cycle through the CarPlay options and press the button to select it.
Use Siri to control CarPlay hands-free. Siri is arguably the most effective way to control CarPlay, since you don’t need to look at the screen while you’re driving. You can activate Siri by pressing and holding the Voice button on your steering wheel. If you don’t have a Voice button on your steering wheel, you can press and hold the simulated Home button on the CarPlay screen.
- With Siri, you can perform virtually any command that CarPlay supports. For example, you could start Siri and say “Call Bob” and Siri will place the call for you. The call will then play through the car speakers. See each of the sections below for details on using Siri with various CarPlay features.
Make a call using Siri. The quickest and safest way to make a phone call with CarPlay is to use Siri.
- You can also make a call by tapping the Phone button on the CarPlay display, but this is not recommended while driving.
Launch Siri. Press and hold the Voice button on your steering wheel or the Home button on the CarPlay screen to launch Siri.
Say “Call Name” or “Call Phone Number” and wait for Siri to dial. If there are multiple people with that name in your contacts, you’ll be prompted to clarify who you want to call.
Complete your call using your car stereo. The call will play through your car stereo speakers.
Press the Hang Up button on your steering wheel or CarPlay screen to end the call. This will hang up and return CarPlay to whatever you were doing before the call.
Getting Navigation Directions
Start Siri. Siri can find locations for you and provide you with driving instructions automatically, all with just a couple of commands. You won’t need to take your eyes off of the road.
- Start Siri by pressing and holding the Voice button on your steering wheel, or by pressing and holding the Home button on the CarPlay screen.
- You can tap the Maps app on your screen and use that instead, but this is not recommended while you’re driving.
Say “Give me directions to Location.“ You can say a street address, a town or city, or a landmark. If Siri isn’t sure what you said, you’ll be asked to clarify.
Wait for navigation to begin. This may take a moment. After asking for directions to a location, Siri will automatically launch Maps and begin turn-by-turn navigation to your location.
Use Siri to find something nearby. iOS 9 introduced the “Nearby” feature in Maps. This allows you to find nearby locations like gas stations or restaurants.
- Start Siri and say “Find a nearby gas station.” Siri will display several close gas stations on the CarPlay screen.
- Tap the gas station that you want to navigate to. Your directions will change and you’ll be taken to the location you specified.
Ensure you have music or streaming services on your iPhone. Since CarPlay is just a display for your iPhone, you’ll need to either have the music you want to listen to on your iPhone, or be an Apple Music subscriber with a streaming music plan. You can also use certain music streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora if you have the app installed on your iPhone. Streaming music will count against your mobile data.
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- When playing music in Apple Music, your iPhone will play the downloaded track if you have it on your iPhone, or will stream it if it is not downloaded.
Launch Siri. You can use Siri to take complete control of your music, keeping your hands and eyes free for driving.
- You can start Siri by pressing and holding the Voice button on your steering wheel, or by pressing and holding the Home button on the CarPlay display.
Tell Siri what you want to listen to. Siri recognizes a whole bunch of different commands related to music, so you can pretty much ask to play anything. For example, you could say “Play songs by Artist,” and Siri will start a playlist of songs by that artist. You could say “Play the newest album from Artist,” and Siri will start playing that album.
- If you have playlists, you can tell Siri to play the playlist by saying its name.
Use Siri to control playback. Once songs are playing, you can use Siri commands to adjust playback. For example, you can say “Turn shuffle on” to shuffle your current playlist. You can say “Pause” or “Stop” to stop music from playing, and “Play” to resume.
Try Siri with other music apps. Siri works well with Apple Music, but can be hit or miss with other music apps like Spotify and Pandora. Try different commands to see what works.