5 mistakes everyone makes with Apple CarPlay
I’m a huge fan of Apple CarPlay. So much so that whenever I review a car for work, the very first thing I do is connect my iPhone and make sure Apple’s infotainment system is available.
It’s so much better than anything made by the automakers themselves – and don’t take my word for it, as many other automotive journalists agree.
But, while the system is very much a plug-and-play affair, I’ve identified five pitfalls to avoid if you want to get the most out of Apple CarPlay.
Sometimes that means going against the grain and passing up the opportunity for wireless convenience, while other tips will help you focus on the road and spend less time digging through menus to find your favorite apps.
1. Not plugging in your iPhone
As I said in the introduction, wireless CarPlay isn’t always the way to go. It’s certainly nice to have your iPhone paired the moment you turn on the car, but it’s a surefire battery killer. For anything other than the shortest trips, you should always plug your iPhone into a USB port.
Also, don’t be swayed by the combination of wireless CarPlay and a wireless charger, as the extra heat these two create can cause your iPhone to stop charging, or even shut down by a particularly hot day.
2. Forgetting to Arrange Your Home Screen Apps in Advance
You can change the layout of apps on the CarPlay home screen, but not from the touchscreen in the vehicle itself. Instead, it must be done in advance, by opening the iPhone’s Settings app and navigating to General > CarPlay.
Here, you’ll see all the cars your iPhone has used CarPlay with, and you can adjust the order in which your apps appear on each vehicle’s screens.
For example, you can bring Google Maps and BBC Sounds to the top of the stack, meaning they’ll appear on the first CarPlay home screen, and you won’t have to swipe through different screens to find them.
This can be especially troublesome in a car that disables its touchscreen while in motion (I’m looking at you, Mazda).
3. Leaving your iPhone in direct sunlight
I mentioned temperature issues earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again, because even when using wired CarPlay, an iPhone can overheat. This shouldn’t happen when your iPhone is tucked away in a cubbyhole, plugged into a USB port, and out of sight (and sunlight).
But some cars don’t offer enough storage for today’s iPhones, and I recently discovered that, with the top down, in direct sunlight, and with Google Maps and BBC Sounds running via CarPlay, my iPhone threw in the towel and overheated. A message confirming this appeared on the car screen and I was left without navigation until the phone cooled down in the shade.
4. Forgetting to use Siri for voice control
Don’t worry, I’m guilty of this one too. Although iOS is right in front of me, I kind of forget that Siri is listening and ready to help with any commands or questions I might have. Just say “Hey Siri” in the usual way, and CarPlay will pause your music and indicate on the dashboard screen that Siri is listening.
You can then ask to change the music, send a message, have unread messages read to you (as they can’t be viewed via CarPlay, to avoid distraction), or make a phone call. Simple stuff, but far better than any voice control system made by the automakers themselves – powered by Google Notwithstanding Android Automotivesure.
Added to iPhones with iOS 15 in 2021, Driving Focus is part of the phone’s Do Not Disturb system, but a bit smarter. Driving Focus can be customized to only show notifications from certain contacts and then show all other contacts, via a status in the Apple Messages app, that your notifications are silent.
You can also set your iPhone to automatically send a pre-written reply when someone texts you while Driving Focus is on. Contacts can then reply “urgent” if necessary, and the notification will reach you normally.
Once configured (via the Settings app then Focus-> Driving), you can have your iPhone automatically turn on Driving Focus when CarPlay is in use or when connected to a car via Bluetooth.