- CarPlay is an Apple standard that gives you a simplified interface on your car’s head unit to interact with your iPhone.
- It’s available on a few built-in iPhone apps as well as some third-party ones.
- Listed below are some of the best CarPlays apps you can use to safely and effectively navigate, communicate, and keep yourself entertained while you’re at the wheel.
CarPlay is an Apple standard that gives you a simplified interface on your car’s head unit to interact with your iPhone. It does this by transforming your car’s infotainment system into an external display for your iPhone with large app icons and Siri that makes it easier for you to interact with your device while driving without requiring you to take your eyes off the road. It competes directly with Google’s Android Auto platform.
Apple CarPlay works on select car models and is available on a few built-in iPhone apps, such as Music, Maps, etc. Additionally, several third-party apps are also compatible with CarPlay. Using these apps, you can listen to music/podcasts, get the latest notification, find directions to your destination, and much more while you’re at the wheel.
So if you’ve just got a brand new car that supports CarPlay, or you’ve been using CarPlay for a while but want to get more out of it, we’ve curated a list of some of the best CarPlay apps for iPhone that can help you out.
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A Few Points to Note About Apple Car Play Apps
Before we jump in and explore the best Apple CarPlay apps, there are a few things about CarPlay that you must know.
- Not all built-in or third-party iPhone apps support CarPlay, so you can’t use your car’s infotainment system to play games or watch Netflix or YouTube videos. As a matter of fact, this would be contrary to the whole point of CarPlay.
- Installing CarPlay apps is as simple as downloading any other iPhone app from the App Store—you don’t need to install anything extra. Once you install an app on your iPhone, if it supports CarPlay, you’ll see it in the app list on your car’s screen when you connect your iPhone to the car.
- Besides the apps you see in the app list on your car’s screen, CarPlay also offers a bunch of other functionality, like a built-in clock, reminders, etc. All of these can be accessed through Siri using voice commands, similar to how you access them with Siri on your iPhone. This also means you can have your incoming notifications read out and compose replies for the same using Siri.
Best Third-Party Apple CarPlay Apps for iPhone
The following is a list of some of the best CarPlay apps that give you a smarter and safer way of using your iPhone in your car for entertainment, communication, and navigation.
Google Maps is one of the most used apps for navigation. It’s accurate, offers all the essential navigation features, and is available in most regions, including those where other services (like Apple Maps or Waze) don’t work.
Maps has a pretty easy-to-navigate interface in CarPlay. You can easily add destinations, find turn-by-turn directions to different places, and locate nearby gas stations, restaurants, and cafes on it. And, thanks to the built-in voice assistant, you find destinations using your voice.
Waze is another popular CarPlay navigation app. What separates it from Google or Apple’s map service is that it uses crowdsourced information, which allows it to give some really useful features, like real-time traffic updates, alternate routes, and many more.
Although Waze got acquired by Google in 2013, it’s still relevant and popular among many users for its unique interface and feature set. Information like speed tracks, road closures, and accidents/hazards, combined with a customizable interface, give Waze a great deal of appeal. If you already use Waze or live in a region that gives you access to all Waze features, it’s a great navigation app to use with CarPlay.
Spotify is a popular music streaming platform with millions of songs from various artists across different genres. A while back, Spotify also entered the podcast space and, since then, has attracted a large audience.
If you, too, prefer Spotify over Apple Music (or any other music or podcast service), then you’d be glad to know that Spotify also supports CarPlay. So you can start using it in CarPlay mode to listen to your favorite tracks or podcasts while driving.
Spotify has a nice and clean interface, which is easy to use. Plus, you can also summon Siri and ask her to play your favorite music.
Listening to podcasts is another way to keep yourself entertained and pick up a thing or two while you’re on your way to work or wherever you’re headed. Pocket Casts is an excellent podcast app with a broad catalog of podcasts. It’s also your best option if you don’t like having your music and podcasts mingled.
Pocket Casts gives you a pretty straightforward interface in CarPlay. And you also get the option to either stream a podcast episode or play the ones you already downloaded on your iPhone.
If you like spending your commute time listening to books, then you’d probably be aware of the Audible app or use it on your iPhone. And if so, you’d be pleased to know that Audible supports CarPlay too. So now, you can use it to listen to the books you’ve been reading/listening to lately and catch up while you’re on the road.
Related: Best Audible Alternatives
NPR One is an app that gives you access to hundreds of local public radio stations in the US. These radio stations provide the latest updates in politics, science, business, culture, etc., in addition to a decent selection of podcasts.
If you prefer consuming news on the go, then NPR One has you covered with CarPlay support. This means you can now listen to the latest updates worldwide and locally or enjoy your favorite daily talk show while you’re at the wheel.
WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app worldwide. It’s probably your go-to medium of communication with friends and family members who don’t use an iPhone.
WhatsApp’s CarPlay app is pretty sleek. It gives you the option to either hear unread messages or compose replies/send new messages using voice dictation. Plus, you can even make and receive calls with your WhatsApp contacts. And the best part is all of this works with Siri, just like the Messages and the Phone apps.
Similar to WhatsApp, Telegram is another popular messaging service. Suppose it’s your preferred mode of communication (over Messages or WhatsApp) with your peers, friends, and family. In that case, you can use Telegram with CarPlay to receive/make calls and receive/send messages using Siri without losing your focus on the road.
Best Built-In CarPlay Apps for iPhone
In addition to the third-party apps listed above, there are several built-in Apple apps that also support CarPlay and, as such, can be equally useful in an everyday scenario.
Here are some built-in CarPlay apps you must check out.
Apple Maps has evolved over the years and introduced new features to improve navigation. If you live in a location where Apple gives you access to all Maps features, and you’ve been using it for all your navigation needs all this time, then the Apple Maps app is the perfect companion for finding directions to places in your vehicle.
The Phone app is, undoubtedly, an essential one with CarPlay. It lets you receive incoming calls and make calls to people in your Recents, Favorites, and Contacts. Additionally, if required, you can even dial a new number through your car’s screen; needless to say, there’s also an option to invoke Siri and make phone calls, just like you do on your iPhone.
Much like the Phone app, Messages is another built-in iPhone app that can come in handy for you if you use it to communicate with your friends and family. Not only does it allow you to receive important texts from your contacts safely while you’re driving, but it also lets you respond to incoming messages, thanks to Siri integration.
If you prefer listening to music on Apple Music and also have its subscription, then you must use the Music app in CarPlay to enjoy music when you’re on the go. It even lets you listen to your favorite radio stations if you prefer that.
Navigating the app is quite easy, thanks to the quick access tabs at the top of the CarPlay interface. Plus, you can also ask Siri to play tracks for you.
If you use Apple Podcasts to listen to your favorite podcasts or discover new ones, then it also has a CarPlay app for listening to podcasts on the go. It’s got a simple UI with intuitive controls to interact with the playback. And you can even ask Siri to control the playback.
Get More Out of Your Car With These Best CarPlay Apps
CarPlay makes it easier and safer to use your iPhone in your car while driving. Just connect your iPhone using a USB cable to your car, and it should automatically go into CarPlay mode and give you all your CarPlay apps on the car’s head unit.
Subsequently, you should be able to access these apps to perform their designated operations or invoke Siri to perform trivial tasks. As you install supported CarPlay apps on your iPhone, you’ll accrue a bunch of them. But you can always head into CarPlay settings inside the iPhone Settings app to choose which apps appear on your car’s display unit and also arrange their order of appearance.
FAQs About Apple CarPlay Apps
No. Apple doesn't support video functionality in CarPlay, so you can't use Netflix or any other video-streaming app in CarPlay mode for obvious safety reasons. However, people with jailbroken phones have managed to install Netflix on CarPlay, but we definitely don't recommend this.
Most of the time, when you download an iPhone app that supports CarPlay from the App Store, it will automatically appear in the list of apps under CarPlay. However, if it doesn't, you can manually include it by going into Settings > General > CarPlay and tapping on the green plus button next to the app. To remove an app, press the minus button. And to rearrange the order of appearance, tap and drag the slider next to the app.
The following radio apps are known to work well with CarPlay:
- TuneIn Radio
- Dash Radio
- Sirius XM
Apple allows some level of dashboard customization in CarPlay. Here's what you can do and how to do it:
- Change the appearance: By default, CarPlay is set to a dark theme, as is the case with most vehicle interfaces. However, if you wish to change this to a dynamic setting (i.e. light during the day and dark at night), you can change it by opening CarPlay Settings in your car > Appearance > Always Dark.
- Change the wallpaper: Apple offers a bunch of built-in wallpapers for CarPlay. To change it, open Settings, select Wallpaper, and tap on a wallpaper to set it.
- Hide/Show suggestions: Similar to the iPhone, Apple also gives Siri suggestions in CarPlay. These are essentially app suggestions that Siri thinks you may need next. However, if you don't wish to see these on your dashboard, you can hide them. Go to Settings and turn off Suggestions.
Apple offers two ways to mirror iPhone to CarPlay: wired and wireless. With the wired approach, you need to connect your iPhone to your car using a USB cable, after which the car will automatically detect CarPlay mode, and you'll see it on your car's head unit/display.
On the other hand, if you own a car that supports wireless CarPlay, you can go with the wireless method instead. For this, make sure Hey Siri is enabled on your iPhone. After this, press the voice control button on your car's stereo or steering wheel to bring up CarPlay. Now, turn on Bluetooth and pair your device with your car. Head over to Settings > General > CarPlay and select your car to mirror your iPhone's screen onto it.
For obvious safety reasons, Apple doesn't support watching TV or any video streaming service on CarPlay, but one can use third-party tools like The Magic Box to use the CarPlay dashboard screen to watch live TV. You just plug in this tool to the USB port of your car, and the regular CarPlay screen will be replaced with this interface which supports live tv and video streaming services like Netflix and YouTube.
On CarPlay, you can use
- Navigation apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, TomTom, etc.,
- Music apps like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, iHeartRadio, etc.
- News & entertainment apps like NPR One, Audible, Podcasts, etc.
- Messenger apps like Messages, WhatsApp, Telegram
- Food ordering apps like Dunkin
- Shopping apps like Amazon
- Meeting apps like Zoom
Not at all. YouTube or any other video-streaming app cannot be used in CarPlay mode because Apple doesn't support video functionality. Although jailbroken phones can install YouTube on CarPlay, we do not recommend this.