The stereos on modern cars are now a far cry from those just five years ago.
Modern cars can connect to your phone in a variety of ways: through Bluetooth, via a cable or even proprietary screen-mirroring technology.
You can bring your entire library of songs with you in the car via apps like Apple Music, Spotify or Tidal (if you prefer lossless audio).
Additionally, you now can even mirror your phone’s apps to your car through one of two systems.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are two of the biggest ways you can connect your mobile device to your car and get navigation or messaging apps displayed in your infotainment system.
What is Apple CarPlay?
Only available on the iPhone, Apple CarPlay is a system which lets you mirror your iPhone’s content onto your car’s head unit.
It needs a cable to work, but automakers are increasingly supporting wireless CarPlay support.
Through Apple CarPlay, you can text via voice and it can read messages out loud to you too.
Apple’s voice assistant Siri works on Apple CarPlay too, so you can perform queries just using your voice.
Not all apps on your phone are supported on Apple CarPlay, but important ones like Spotify, Whatsapp, Google Maps and Apple Maps are.
You can use your steering wheel controls to navigate Apple CarPlay’s interface, which is simple, straightforward and easy to use on the go.
Some automakers natively support Apple CarPlay, whereas in others require swapping out your head unit to an aftermarket one.
What is Android Auto?
Similar to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto lets you mirror some of your Android phone’s functionality onto your car’s infotainment screen.
Some phones come with native Android Auto functionality built in, which you activate by simply plugging your phone into your car with a USB cable.
On other older phones, you can download the Android Auto app from the Play Store , which puts the Android Auto interface in your phone.
It’s not quite the same experience as using Android Auto natively through your car’s interface, but it’s easier and safer than fiddling with your phone on the go.
Android Auto lets you mirror a far larger selection of apps to your car. In addition to Google Maps and Whatsapp, you can also mirror Waze, Hangouts and even video player VLC.
You can also summon Google Assistant to perform tasks for you while driving, like launching different apps or message dictation.
Is one better than the other?
As mentioned, Android Auto offers a far larger selection of apps than Apple CarPlay.
In addition, you could simply download the app to your Android phone to enjoy Android Auto functionality, whereas you need to be running an iPhone 5 or later to enjoy CarPlay.
However, Apple CarPlay’s interface most closely resembles a phone’s, which makes it slightly easier for drivers to navigate on the move.
But Android Auto isn’t too far off – its simple tiled interface is uncluttered and straightforward, essential for on-the-move navigation.
Also, the good thing is that most head units – factory or aftermarket – offer compatibility for both, giving you the flexibility to use either system should you not want to use your car’s own interface.
Both systems also let you charge your phone while using them, a great benefit if your car doesn’t have many USB ports.