As the years have gone by, we’ve all become accustomed to the various smartphone applications on offer. They’ve replaced notepads and maps that we once carried around with us and even the friend that we could always rely on for recommending the best places to eat.

What’s happening?

When you buy a new vehicle, many manufacturers now offer two options within infotainment systems – Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Most infotainment systems will include only one option, which is why it’s important to discuss your mobile device requirements before you buy a car. However, some vehicles do offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay making them compatible with either phones.

It’s a great way of extending the applications on your phone onto your infotainment system, which can enhance your driving experience in so many ways.

How it works

Rather than running its own interface the infotainment system enters a different mode in which you have a different display based around the apps you have installed on your phone, not all the apps will be available but the ones which support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay will be displayed. This kind of connection needs to be done with a USB data cable from your smart phone, android phones may also require a simultaneous Bluetooth connection.

The brains behind the navigation

On some vehicles, the GPS may only be available with a smart phone connection, which will usually use either Apple or Google maps. These are automatically updated on a regular basis to ensure information is kept up-to-date and so by utilising your phone’s maps instead of your vehicle’s navigation software, you can avoid waiting for potential costly updates.

You also have the ability to search your phone’s navigation by voice and are able to go into detail about what you want, not just the street address. For example, you can do searches like “find me a good Cantonese restaurant in my area”. Your phone may read out the restaurants review, before setting it as a destination. For safety reasons, the interfaces of many navigation devices are restricted whilst a vehicle is in motion. Having a voice activated system allows addresses to be entered safely while both hands can remain on the steering wheel.

Music to your ears

The great thing about being able to connect your phone with your car is the array of music applications that you have access to like Spotify and Pandora. Say goodbye to the stash of CDs clogging up your glove box, as you can now find all your favourite songs instantly and can stream them through your device. If you want to avoid using lots of data on your phone, you can also access all of your stored music on your device.

Things to come

In the UK, Jaguar and Shell have introduced an application that works with the navigation system in your vehicle, which guides you to your nearest petrol station. It also allows the user to refuel without having to fumble around for their wallets as payments are made via PayPal or Apple Pay. A great benefit for drivers with young children as you can avoid leaving them unattended in the car.

This technology could be a taste of things to come for Kiwis. BP already has a similar system, but is not yet connected via vehicles infotainment systems using either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

All these additional benefits come at an extra cost and if you don’t have big data plan, be careful as running these apps will use a lot of your mobile data. For some drivers in the market for a new vehicle, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto might not be high on the list of priorities, but they’re worth taking a look at as you may be surprised by the enjoyment and practicality that they offer. In essence, they’re really designed to make your car journeys easier and more comfortable.

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