By Dan Moren
September 23, 2019 5:25 AM PT
13 Features of iOS 13: CarPlay improvements
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
If you want to know how sold I was on CarPlay, you needn’t look any further than my experiences installing a new head unit in my car in order to get it. A few months later, this has proved to be an altogether excellent choice, with no real downsides.
But within a few days of using and loving CarPlay, I’d already run into a handful of things that could be made even better with a little adjustment. And the good news is that, as of iOS 13, Apple mostly delivers on a couple of the most significant ones.
There are, of course, the little tweaks in iOS 13: I prefer the new interface for sending and receiving text messages, which uses big round icons instead of text-based buttons. I love the integration with the Share ETA features in Maps. And the Now Playing screenÂ for Music and Podcasts has added album art, which looks great.
But there are two features in iOS 13 that are huge improvements to CarPlay, although one of them is slightly more of a mixed bag.
First up is the new dashboard screen, accessible by swiping right from the home screen or tapping the button in the bottom left. It addresses the frustration of only being able to see a single app on the car’s display at a time. So if, for example, you’re navigating with a mapping app and you want to pause your music, you have to switch apps, potentially risking missing your next turn.
That the new dashboard view offers separate tiles for apps is great, but there are a couple limitations, first and foremost, which apps can actually appear there.
For example, the biggest pane displays a map—makes perfect senses, since navigation is often the most important thing you’re doing in the car. But that pane appears to be locked to Apple Maps, even if you start navigation with another CarPlay-compatible app, like Google Maps or Waze. That’s frustrating, especially since—as far as I can tell—the Apple Maps pane doesn’t even show traffic when you’re in the dashboard, making it a waste of space if you’re not using it for navigation.
My second frustration with the dashboard view is the lack of customization. Want to resize the panes, making one smaller and another larger? Tough luck. Want to put another app in that favorite places/Siri Suggestions pane or remove it all together? Sorry, no. The dashboard is a good first step, but it hasn’t proved to be quite as useful as I’d initially hoped.
The other major improvement, however, is unequivocally a positive. In earlier versions of CarPlay, the car display was essentially serving as a mirrored version of whatever was on the phone. (Not unlike when you AirPlay your phone’s screen to an Apple TV.) That meant that whatever app was running on the phone was running on the car display, and vice versa.1 So if you’re checking your map and your co-pilot decides they want to look something up in Safari, it’s bye-bye map. This was no small source of frustration in my road trips.
The good news is that in iOS 13, these two views are totally independent. What your co-pilot does with your phone will not in the slightest affect what you see on the car display.2
There are a few other small improvements in iOS 13: a Settings app that lets you adjust a few minor details about CarPlay3; a Calendar app that will show you today’s—and only today’s—events; and an improved Siri display that won’t take over the whole screen when you summon the virtual assistant.
In short: CarPlay was already good, but now it’s definitely better, and here’s hoping that Apple stays on track and continues the course in iOS 14.
- Even worse, if there was no CarPlay version of that app, you just get kicked back to the home screen on the car display. ↩
- We can all breathe a sigh of relief for my marriage now. ↩
- One of them is a toggle to show Siri Suggestions in the dashboard view, but they rarely seem to show up for me anyway, so in general usage this apparently has no effect? ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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