Apple has two big CarPlay problems

Posted:
in iOS
Apple's CarPlay has relatively quickly become a must-have feature for any iPhone user getting a new vehicle, but the technology has some issues that need addressing.

Apple's CarPlay interface
Apple's CarPlay interface


Apple first released CarPlay in 2014 and auto manufacturers started building it into their systems shortly after.

As CarPlay isn't much more than mirroring your iPhone's display to your vehicle's dash, the technical requirements weren't incredibly high. Your iPhone still did the heavy lifting.





Once Apple began iterating on CarPlay, cracks started to appear. Today, there are two primary problems plaguing CarPlay and Apple has thus far failed to address them.

A disinterest in adopting CarPlay's features

While most vehicles now support CarPlay, auto manufacturers have a penchant for neglecting new features.

Take wireless CarPlay for example, Apple introduced this feature in 2016, yet most vehicles sold today still require a wired connection. It was only in the last year or so -- five years after release -- that many mainstream vehicles started adopting this feature.

Apple also allows CarPlay to display information and navigation information on the vehicle's instrument cluster. It too is woefully under-supported.

There are various reasons why automakers have neglected these features. One, if not all, of them, could be to blame.

Automakers prefer their own infotainment operating systems to ones controlled by Apple or Google. That way they have a tight grip on the user experience and can upsell additional services, such as navigation.

There's also seemingly little push from Apple in having these features adopted. Users don't necessarily know to request these either, allowing automakers to continue to avoid them and do the bare minimum.

Apple's overhauled CarPlay experience is promised for late 2023, nine years after release. But, history has given us little comfort that anything but the most expensive vehicles will deliver support.

Poor app quality

The second pain point for CarPlay is the quality of its apps. This isn't just on Apple, but it also applies to most third-party developers.

Many apps are overly simplified, parred-down experiences that don't deliver the compelling design that their iOS companion apps do.

Sure, for use in a vehicle the UI needs to be streamlined and easy to use while on road. The apps can't distract the driver and should be safe.

CarPlay charging
CarPlay charging


But they can also do more than they are doing now. Take the Sirius XM app for example. Its CarPlay experience is pitiful, making it a pain to discover content with boring list view after boring list view.

And those list views? They aren't even current with what's playing, making it even harder to find out what's playing.

The most recent update did force an update from time to time, but it's not what you'd call often. Nor accurate.

Another new "improvement" is the "go live" button. In theory, this is supposed to bring you to what's playing now on the channel, versus what may be playing from 20 or 25 minutes ago because of various factors.

But, it seems to do nothing.

Making that worse, the in-dash XM receivers have the same list view -- but more features. The in-dash stereos have the discovery licked. You can set a favorite artist or song, and every time that the artist or song comes up on one of the channels, it will pop up a giant dialog box telling you so, with a large touch target.

The Uconnect 5 system in our Jeep and a Dodge-specific model in a van one staffer owns, also designed for safe use on the road, both have a far more user-friendly experience, quick access to favorites, and verbose search tools. It's a night and day difference.

CarPlay came to the market to save users from the subpar interfaces automakers put forth, making the current low-quality CarPlay apps entirely unacceptable. In many ways, stock systems now offer better experiences.

We could go on and on with examples like this. But we do know that in most cases, this is less on third-party devs putting little effort into these apps.

It is more about Apple. It needs to update its UI guidelines and resources for CarPlay apps.

Apple has done very little to enhance CarPlay apps over the years, instead slowly adding new device categories such as fueling apps or getting emergency auto support with iOS 16.

A change needs to happen

At this point, there's plenty of blame to go around. Devs need to work on their apps, automakers need to support new features, Apple needs to push automakers to adopt new features and to educate users, and users need to make sure they're vocal in wanting these features.

Without pressure, Apple and automakers are likely to continue the status quo with users ultimately paying the price.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 76
    JP234JP234 Posts: 827member
    We just bought our first CarPlay enabled car, a 2022 Volvo XC40. Yeah, CarPlay requires a wire, but there's a wireless charging tray in a cubbyhole in the front of the console, with a USB port right above it. We got a"shorty" cable (just under 12"), and there's no issues with dangling wires. It fits perfectly (and of course, there's never a charging issue). And it's sure convenient to just say, "Hey Siri, navigate to the Golden Spike Best Western in Hill City South Dakota," and get turn by turn directions from our home in Chicago.

    As for the Sirius issue, all new cars come with Sirius natively enabled, and most offer a free 90 day trial. We just use the car's radio controls, which are simple.

    In short, even an imperfect implemenation of Apple CarPlay is better than no CarPlay!
    robin huberdarbus69starof80ravnorodomFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 76
    Seems like the author is just ranting more than anything here? Wireless Carplay is actually gaining wider adoption by the automakers, as the piece rightly notes. Apple does not author the SiriusXM app, so it's not their problem to solve? Why not post some side-by-side pics of the Jeep's UX vs CarPlay to demonstrate how the former is better? Automakers not integrating CarPlay into auxiliary displays? so what? I am not sure how any of this is truly a problem for Apple.
    mike1n2itivguylkrupptdknoxstarof80williamlondonravnorodomdewmeroundaboutnowFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 76
    I really like using wireless Car Play in my BM, especially Maps which is always more up to date than BM OEM navigation.  But there seems to be a volume level issue with Car Play and I do not like the cartoonist/Disney-like icons/colors displayed when Car Play is in use.  Wish I had more options to change icon sizes, colors and background display.  Guess Apply wants Car Play images to really stand out just like their refrigerator white-only Airpods.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 76
    Thanks for this. I, too, am frustrated by the useless Sirius XM app on CarPlay. Fortunately the in-dash system in our 22 Chevy Bolt EV has an acceptable app and switching back and forth between CarPlay and it is not too difficult. Agree, wish automakers would go all-in on turning UI over to experts. Perhaps EV makers (other than Tesla) will drive this change going forward. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 76
    maltzmaltz Posts: 360member
    jamnap said:
    But there seems to be a volume level issue with Car Play

    Volume issues are a pain when using things like CarPlay and Bluetooth.  Adjusting the volume using the car's volume knob has worked in both my Hyundai and Jeep, but the trick is that you have to do it WHILE the specific audio you want to adjust is playing.  Different types of audio can have different volume settings - music, Siri/Google/etc, ringtones, phone call audio, etc.  In the case of brief snippets of audio like map directions, Siri responses, etc, timing that can be tricky, especially while driving.
    twokatmewravnorodomappleinsideruserwatto_cobrakiehtanjamnapramanpfaff
  • Reply 6 of 76
    I think BMW did it pretty well right now. My new i4 integrates CarPlay wireless, there is wireless charging, maps appears in dashboard as well as heads-up display and what I really like, the individual iOS apps like music, podcast or whatever runs in CarPlay appear as individual apps in the BMW UI and can be selected directly there. So I think BMW found a good compromise, integrating it without giving up their own UI.
    mike1gregoriusmroundaboutnowwatto_cobrajamnapappleuseryeah
  • Reply 7 of 76
    Automakers do not want to relinquish their control over their audio systems. They now put car specific controls in them and route certain computer signals thru them that renders the car un-driveable if the deck is removed. Third party companies have made adapters to reroute the signals in order to replace the head units. There is now way in hell they are going to give that up now. 

    CarPlay sucks when compared to an iPhone, but it’s way better than anything most car manufacturers make. They use an android backend because it’s free. Ironically the android auto software can let you surf the web whereas stock CarPlay will not. You can’t ask Siri questions that would relate to a web query, just specific questions like weather and directions. 
    danoxravnorodomFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrajamnap
  • Reply 8 of 76
    twokatmewtwokatmew Posts: 43unconfirmed, member
    maltz said:
    jamnap said:
    But there seems to be a volume level issue with Car Play

    Volume issues are a pain when using things like CarPlay and Bluetooth.  Adjusting the volume using the car's volume knob has worked in both my Hyundai and Jeep, but the trick is that you have to do it WHILE the specific audio you want to adjust is playing.  Different types of audio can have different volume settings - music, Siri/Google/etc, ringtones, phone call audio, etc.  In the case of brief snippets of audio like map directions, Siri responses, etc, timing that can be tricky, especially while driving.
    I finally turned spoken navigation off for Google and Apple Maps. CarPlay in my 2020 Subaru Forester doesn’t always respect volume settings for each source. Music is set at 17, navigation volume at 8. When navigation suddenly blares at 17, I nearly jump out of my seat. 🙄
    gregoriusmFileMakerFellerwatto_cobrakiehtanjamnap
  • Reply 9 of 76
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,136member

    Take wireless CarPlay for example, Apple introduced this feature in 2016, yet most vehicles sold today still require a wired connection. It was only in the last year or so -- five years after release -- that many mainstream vehicles started adopting this feature.


    Looks like the author has no idea how long the development process is for new cars and the resultant materials contracts.
    Depending on where in the cycle a particular model is, Wireless CarPlay hitting a lot of cars in the last year makes perfect sense.
    danoxdewmeFileMakerFellerwatto_cobraurahara
  • Reply 10 of 76
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,511member
    So… the biggest problem with CarPlay is apparently that a third-party developer made a sub-par app.

    This is apparently Apple’s fault because they haven’t somehow forced the third-party developer to make improvements to its app. 

    The other problems noted are that car manufacturers have been slow to adopt CarPlay features like wireless control, and multi-screen displays. 

    This is apparently Apple’s fault because they haven’t somehow forced the third-party Car makers to adopt these features. 

    All this from a staff writer for an Apple-centric site. 

    If nothing else, this serves as a great example why Apple tightly controls most of what it produces. Whenever they venture into an area where someone else controls the quality of the user’s experience, people will nonetheless blame Apple for the others’ failures and shortcomings, even when they’re in a professional position to know the difference between what Apple controls and does not control. 
    danoxgregoriusmroundaboutnowmike1lkruppkingofsomewherehotwilliamlondonn2itivguydewmecjcoops
  • Reply 11 of 76
    I suspect that most car manufacturers know that the average consumer is too dumb to know the difference between original CarPlay and the latest CarPlay updates. But once consumers learn the difference, car manufacturers will update their products.

    The current situation may also be partly exacerbated by the worldwide chip shortage. Newer products probably require newer chips.

    I eagerly look forward to buying an Apple Car, largely to stick it to the current car manufacturers who refuse to give me what I want. But it's looking more and more like I won't live to see it.
    edited December 2022 robin huberwatto_cobrajamnap
  • Reply 12 of 76
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,564member
    AppleZulu said:
    So… the biggest problem with CarPlay is apparently that a third-party developer made a sub-par app.

    This is apparently Apple’s fault because they haven’t somehow forced the third-party developer to make improvements to its app. 

    The other problems noted are that car manufacturers have been slow to adopt CarPlay features like wireless control, and multi-screen displays. 

    This is apparently Apple’s fault because they haven’t somehow forced the third-party Car makers to adopt these features. 

    All this from a staff writer for an Apple-centric site. 

    If nothing else, this serves as a great example why Apple tightly controls most of what it produces. Whenever they venture into an area where someone else controls the quality of the user’s experience, people will nonetheless blame Apple for the others’ failures and shortcomings, even when they’re in a professional position to know the difference between what Apple controls and does not control. 

    You are so right, CarPlay is an add on to someone else’s ecosystem and will always be second best, unless Apple builds its own car (hope not they don’t need to).

    Wireless connections why? I don’t need another security hole on a car that be anywhere, if I have a choice I don’t want to broadcast anything more than I have to in short a phone signal. A hardened system, (wired) in a car is the best and will work unless you crash your car. The car manufacturer's put in wired inputs/outputs because they are more reliable.  

    Audio signal/internet connection problem anywhere car, home, work get a wired connection (input/output). 
    edited December 2022 FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 76
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,588member
    LOL my old car doesn’t even have a USB port, or BT, let alone CarPlay.
    neoncatFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 76
    I also have a gripe which should be a third "pain point" in this article.  Issue is with people who bought first gen carplay vehicles when the technology was introduced.  I have a Honda Accord 2016 and carplay was fine for the first few years.... My car has had ZERO software updates from Honda.  I've been through a few iPhones and several iOS updates since owning the car.  In the last 3-4 years I've had nothing but problems.  Android OS crashes, carplay freezing, carplay disconnecting, etc.  I've opened cases with Honda (while under warranty), and the issues can't be duplicated at the dealership.  I've provided screenshots and videos from my experience.  Honda blames Apple, Apple blames Honda.  There are literally hundreds of forum posts about this and in the end, the customer loses out.  Overall, its been a very underwhelming experience.  Sometimes when carplay freezes it messes up my entire infotainment system.  I have to pull over and turn off car and turn back on. 

    edited December 2022 gregoriusmwilliamlondondewmewatto_cobraurahara
  • Reply 15 of 76
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,136member
    jamnap said:
    I really like using wireless Car Play in my BM, especially Maps which is always more up to date than BM OEM navigation.  But there seems to be a volume level issue with Car Play and I do not like the cartoonist/Disney-like icons/colors displayed when Car Play is in use.  Wish I had more options to change icon sizes, colors and background display.  Guess Apply wants Car Play images to really stand out just like their refrigerator white-only Airpods.

    Where do you drive where you can notice that Apple's maps are "always more up to date than BMW OEM navigation"?! BMW updates the navigation at least quarterly.
    williamlondonjamnap
  • Reply 16 of 76
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,588member
    I also have a gripe which should be a third "pain point" in this article.  Issue is with people who bought first gen carplay vehicles when the technology was introduced.  I have a Honda Accord 2016 and carplay was fine for the first few years.... My car has had ZERO software updates from Honda.  I've been through a few iPhones and several iOS updates since owning the car.  In the last 3-4 years I've had nothing but problems.  Android OS crashes, carplay freezing, carplay disconnecting, etc.  I've opened cases with Honda (while under warranty), and the issues can't be duplicated at the dealership.  I've provided screenshots and videos from my experience.  Honda blames Apple, Apple blames Honda.  There are literally hundreds of forum posts about this and in the end, the customer loses out.  Overall, its been a very underwhelming experience.  Sometimes when carplay freezes it messes up my entire infotainment system.  I have to pull over and turn off car and turn back on. 

    I know this is a huge PTA, and something that Apple/Honda should be fixing. I understand that and completely sympathize.
    But TBH as a former IT Tech the fact that you have to fix the issue by “turning it off and turning it back on again”, I find rather amusing. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 76
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,136member
    I also have a gripe which should be a third "pain point" in this article.  Issue is with people who bought first gen carplay vehicles when the technology was introduced.  I have a Honda Accord 2016 and carplay was fine for the first few years.... My car has had ZERO software updates from Honda.  I've been through a few iPhones and several iOS updates since owning the car.  In the last 3-4 years I've had nothing but problems.  Android OS crashes, carplay freezing, carplay disconnecting, etc.  I've opened cases with Honda (while under warranty), and the issues can't be duplicated at the dealership.  I've provided screenshots and videos from my experience.  Honda blames Apple, Apple blames Honda.  There are literally hundreds of forum posts about this and in the end, the customer loses out.  Overall, its been a very underwhelming experience.  Sometimes when carplay freezes it messes up my entire infotainment system.  I have to pull over and turn off car and turn back on. 

    That is 100% a Honda problem. Their infotainment systems have sucked since the introduction of Bluetooth. As you mentioned, no updates because the hardware doesn't allow it, combined with complete ignorance from Honda and the dealers. When you buy the car, you are getting something that works at that point in time (maybe).

    watto_cobrakiehtan
  • Reply 18 of 76
    You can also add a wireless CarPlay adapter to many cars.  I use one in my Expedition all the time.  My biggest complaint, and this is probably more of a Ford issue than Apple, although Apple could fix it too, is how many button pushes it takes to get back to the Ford screen and the fact that there isn't any weather info available on the CarPlay screen.

    Ford should put the outside temp on the instrument cluster but didn't.  Apple should integrate weather into CarPlay but hasn't.
    kingofsomewherehotnubuswatto_cobraentropyskiehtanuraharaappleuseryeah
  • Reply 19 of 76
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,410member
    The third party apps are all garbage and limited.  I think they try to limit interaction because one can’t be reaching for the screen while driving.   And touch screens on every vehicle vary.  Mine has no pinch-to-zoom.   Any mapping app use, including Apple’s, is clumsy and slow.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 76
    AppleZulu said:
    So… the biggest problem with CarPlay is apparently that a third-party developer made a sub-par app.

    This is apparently Apple’s fault because they haven’t somehow forced the third-party developer to make improvements to its app. 
    This is an app that is advertised and distributed by Apple. Apple's claim against third party app stores is that they are somehow protecting us from poor quality apps. They aren't. The apps in the official App Store mostly suck.
    neoncat
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