It’s no secret that both Google and Apple are interested in the automotive industry. Both silicon valley giants have big ideas for the future of mobility – and in particular self-driving cars – but before AI drivers are fully realised, Apple and Google have been developing their native apps for enhancing your current infotainment systems. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay offer features for improving navigation, entertainment and voice commands when you’re behind the wheel. But which is best for your car-sharing journeys? And how easy is it to use these apps for your SHARE NOW trips? Here’s our complete guide.
Android Auto has come a long way since its launch in 2015. Google has been constantly improving its native driving platform, optimising and integrating ‘apps’ for Android Auto for products such as Google Maps and Google Assistant. Today, you can use voice commands to find routes, play your favourite songs or podcasts through Spotify and even check the weather. Android Auto will even read your WhatsApp messages to you while on the road. Once paired via USB or wirelessly, Android Auto replaces your in-car infotainment system with a much more personalised version. It works with a huge range of compatible cars or aftermarket stereos.
CarPlay is the iOS version of Android Auto. Apple’s driving app actually predates Google’s, originally launching in 2014. Since then, it’s grown into a valuable co-pilot for iPhone owners. The features-set is similar to Android Auto, with navigation, entertainment and communication all taken care of by your iPhone, with voice commands via Siri. The Messages app can handle reading and writing, allowing you to dictate responses whilst driving. There’s also Spotify and Tidal support. For private car owners, Apple CarPlay’s car keys feature lets you unlock and start your car with your iPhone.
The biggest and most obvious difference between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is the operating system they run on. Both are no-brainers for drivers, it just depends on whether you use an Android phone, such as those from Samsung, or an iPhone. In terms of performance, both are huge upgrades on the infotainment systems delivered by car manufacturers in our opinion. One area that Apple CarPlay does outshine Android Auto, however, is the UI. Unlike Android Auto, Apple CarPlay’s UI allows for multitasking with more of a dashboard approach compared to Android Auto’s single-app screens.
Android Auto must be turned on in your car's settings. A list of compatible car models can be found here. At SHARE NOW, that currently means BMW 2 Series cars, the Citroën C3, plus all smart, Peugeot and Fiat models. You’ll also need a mobile data connection. Plug a USB cable into your Android phone and connect it to your car via the vehicle’s USB port. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup. On your car display, select Android Auto to launch the app. For a wireless connection, you’ll need to pair your phone and car via Bluetooth first.
To get set up with Apple CarPlay in your car-sharing car, make sure you’ve got Siri activated on your iPhone. Next, connect your iPhone to your car’s USB port with a Lightning to USB cable, the one from your charger is fine. If your car supports wireless connectivity, you'll receive an alert on your iPhone prompting you through the steps required to pair it. Some cars only support wireless connectivity. If this is the case, go to Settings > General > CarPlay and select your car on your iPhone. Apple CarPlay is available on all current SHARE NOW car models. The full list of supported vehicles can be found here.
Android Auto works as a platform to replace your existing infotainment system, rather than an app in the traditional sense. This means that you can add or remove ‘apps’ for Android Auto to create a customised experience. It’s worth going through the list of Android Auto-compatible apps and choosing what will show up on your car dashboard. You can also set up shortcuts to your most-used apps to make accessing the tools you need even easier whilst behind the wheel. By adding a shortcut to the launcher, you can quickly access apps with voice commands via Google Assistant.
One of the biggest advantages Apple CarPlay has over Android Auto is the ability to multitask. Thanks to CarPlay’s Dashboard, multiple apps can be open at once on your car’s infotainment screen, splitting the screen between two or three apps. If you need to view an app in full-screen mode, simply tap it to expand the widget. This only works on iOS 13 or higher though, so make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of the iPhone operating system. Your passenger can also open any app on your phone, and the dashboard view remains the same.
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay offer huge benefits for drivers of car-sharing vehicles. The biggest advantage of getting to grips with these apps is that they retain all of your preferences and personalisation. No matter what car you jump into, your dashboard remains familiar. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will also automatically carry over your smartphone’s language settings too. If you’re driving in a country where you don’t speak the language, or the car-sharer before you has changed the infotainment system’s language settings, it’s of no inconvenience to you. You can download Android Auto from the Google Play Store and Apple CarPlay from the Apple App Store. Give them a try - it might just change your car-sharing experience for the better!
Sr. Editorial Content Strategist
"Own less, share more."
David is on a mission to improve the quality of life in cities through modern mobility solutions.