We’ve already extolled our excitement over CarPlay changes coming in iOS 13. But now that the beta season is well underway, we’ve had the chance to go fully hands on.
After taking it on a road trip, using it while commuting, and exploring the new features, this is our hands-on look at CarPlay in iOS 13.
In iOS 13, the basics seem mostly unchanged. There’s a new light mode, which looks nice. There’s also the addition of the Calendar app to CarPlay, which might seem strange at first, but does have some nice benefits.
CarPlay’s new(ish) look
The most obvious change is the new dashboard screen. It offers quick, glanceable access to a few key features. On one side of the new dashboard you will see a map, providing limited detail for mapping without taking up the full screen.
On the other side of the dashboard, you can see a small widget showing suggested destinations. (CarPlay pulls these from frequently visited locations, recent Maps searches or Calendar items.) A Now Playing widget gives you quick access to play/pause your current music, podcast or audiobook. A third widget lets you see a list of upcoming appointments — if they include location information.
The new Calendar app powers the upcoming appointment widget, making it super-fast and easy to get directions to your next appointment, meeting or scheduled event. Best of all, if you don’t have anything upcoming, the Calendar widget doesn’t appear on the dashboard.
Small, but worthwhile, updates
The Music app received minor visual updates, making it a little more polished and bubbly than in previous years. The new design now shows more album art, reducing the number of taps required to start listening to recently added and recently played music by making that album art a touch target to jump in.
App interactions in CarPlay also brings some small changes. Apps are less quick to jump to Siri-powered interactions. Instead, opening an app like Messages or Phone will take you straight to your recently or frequently contacted contacts. This means you spend less time telling Siri who to call or text, and can take action more quickly.
In CarPlay for iOS 13, you can now invoke Siri by voice — on compatible vehicles — using “Hey Siri.” This allows you to quickly summon the assistant without the need to press a physical or virtual button. Using Siri is also visually improved, with the Siri animation only taking up a small space at the bottom of the screen.
Maps also received some minor updates in iOS 13, like a feature that lets you send your ETA to contacts based on navigation information. There’s also now a keyboard for easier address searching. Finally, visual changes to lane guidance and junction view make it easier to navigate as you head down the highway.
Another new feature of CarPlay in iOS 13 is the way it works while interacting with apps on the connected device.
Prior to iOS 13, the app running on CarPlay also ran in the foreground of the connected iPhone. This meant actions on the connected iPhone also happened on the CarPlay interface.
In iOS 13, the link between the app running on CarPlay and the app running on the iPhone is split. This means that if you set maps as the main app in CarPlay, someone opening another app on the connected iPhone won’t jump you out of Maps.
All in all, the changes to CarPlay aren’t groundbreaking, but they are nice updates and refinements. They make CarPlay more useful and functional. They’re especially great for commuting or traveling. Best of all, CarPlay keeps your car’s infotainment system looking and feeling fresh and new. That’s a lot more than can be said about the stock radio system in most cars these days.